Economics, Pethokoukis, U.S. Economy

Should the sequester spare science?

Image Credit: Shutterstock

Image Credit: Shutterstock

Current MIT boss Rafael Reif and former Intel boss Craig Barrett make the case in the FT today that the sequester’s across-the-board cuts to federal research spending would be a “mistake” and “further weaken the most powerful stimulant of economic growth ever devised.”

Reif and Barrett cite a number of data points to make their case:

  • From 1989 through 2009, federal R&D grew at 1.3% a year vs. 2.4% for GDP.
  • Sequestration would immediately cut R&D by 5% to 7% with “stagnation” afterward.
  • The US ranks 8th among OECD economies in government R&D spending.
  • A report by the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation finds a decade of sequester cuts to research spending would “reduce GDP by $200bn – and that estimate compares sequestration to a scenario where R&D merely remains at the 2011 rate. If in those nine years the US instead kept R&D spending constant as a proportion of output, the economy would be $565bn bigger. And if it invested in R&D at the same rate as China, that gap would grow to $860bn.”

After the sequester kicks in, I would certainly recommend restoring and even greatly expanding federal science spending, though no blank checks. Emphasis should be given to basic research in hard science of the sort Reif and Barrett emphasize rather than the social sciences. I would also like to see an expansion of science and innovation prizes, which seem to be an effective way of leveraging the capabilities and BS detection systems of the private sector.

4 thoughts on “Should the sequester spare science?

  1. After the sequester kicks in, I would certainly recommend restoring and even greatly expanding federal science spending, though no blank checks….

    Why? Science should be funded privately.

  2. The sequester should be put to death,it doesent even hit the main long term driver of our debt.Healthcare spending takes forty cents out of every dollar spent by US government.

    • The sequester should be put to death,it doesent even hit the main long term driver of our debt. Healthcare spending takes forty cents out of every dollar spent by US government.

      Why should health care be the business of government? We need food but do fine with private companies producing and delivering it to consumers without the help of government. The big problem with the sequester is that it is not enough. What you need is a true cut in spending and the first step should be a reduction by 50% or more that is accompanies by a similar reduction in taxes.

  3. Scientific Research is a low priority, since 54% of voters are women, and women don’t really understand why scientific research is important. Research funding is not received directly by women, so they don’t want it funded.

    Any mature democracy becomes a society where the primary role of government is to transfer wealth from men to women. SS, Medicare, and most other types of govt. spending are 70-80% transfers from men to women. The push to insert women into the military (regardless of the effect on defense) is to attach one of the last parts of spending that does not directly go to women.

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