In accepting his “Spirit of Enterprise” award from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, our congressman, Rep. Tom Reed, bragged that he is pro-growth, pro-jobs, and a supporter of innovation. These are odd words coming from a congressperson who voted to prolong the government shutdown and favored a default on the U.S. debt. A prolonged shutdown and a default would have been disastrous for the economy, destroying hopes for growth and job increases.
As for innovation, let’s remember that Reed has always been an advocate for cutting the federal budget and reducing the size of government. These are favored positions of the Tea Party and the Republican Party, and their control of the House of Representatives has enabled them to hobble federal spending on innovation. As Teresa Tritch, economics writer for the New York Times, noted recently:
“After rising steadily for decades, federal financing for research and development peaked in 2009, at $165.5 billion, bolstered by that year’s stimulus spending. It has since sunk to levels last seen almost a decade ago, falling to $133.7 billion this fiscal year.
That roughly $32 billion drop is even greater when adjusted for inflation, and it encompasses both defense- and nondefense fields, including health, energy, the environment, climate, technology and electronics. One key area, basic science, received about $40 billion in the peak year 2009. Since then, it has fallen, to $30 billion last year, one of the sharpest declines ever.”
This matters because the federal government has been a tremendous force for innovation, starting as early as 1832, when Congress made a $30,000 grant to young artist and tinkerer named Samuel F.B. Morse. Since then, as the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers points out, federal spending has been vital to a host of innovations, including radio, modern aircraft, radar, the nuclear industry, computers and semiconductors, space exploration and the space industry, GPS, and the lithium-ion battery. Modern advances in pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, and nanotechnology would have been impossible without a major government role. Nor would the Internet exist.
Budget cutters like Rep. Reed are undercutting the federal government’s ability to promote innovation. Fewer jobs are going to be created as a result, and we will have slower growth. Voters in New York’s 23rd who support innovation, job creation, and growth would be well-advised to vote for Martha Robertson in November rather than Tom Reed.