This blog is not intended to air my political opinions, so I won’t get into the merits or not of the current bailout legislation being prepared for senate vote. I am however, a technology executive that would like to see America continue to lead the world in the tech arena. As such, this recent Newsweek article caught my eye.
Daniel Lyons, the author postulates that unless we boost government spending on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), countries like China and India will eclipse the US (so did Tom Friedman in his book The World is Flat). Companies like Apple, HP, Cisco and others will end up like Ford, Chrysler and GM.
While an extreme argument, this made me think that perhaps we are fighting to protect things that shouldn’t be protected at the expense of things that require focused attention to develop our future.
As the US doesn’t actually have this bailout money, we will be financing this spending with debt. One of my personal mantras on debt is – if it’s an investment – something that is going to grow over time – that’s a good use of debt. If it’s to pay for consumables – well, that’s a foolish use of debt.
As we look at the line items of the bailout, it seems to me that while we need to protect jobs, and bolster the economy, it would make sense to actually invest some of the nearly $1 trillion dollars in our future – so that we can see a return on the investment and be able to pay the debt as we profit from the investment. I’d like to see further tax credits for R&D, government funds available for basic research, and a re-vamping of the curriculum of our schools toward the future. This will also require funding for teachers qualified to teach these subjects. In 2008, according to the TAG Education Collaborative, the Georgia Department of Education certified over 4,000 teachers to teach grades K-12. Of those, only 8 were certified chemistry instructors and 3 received their certification in physics. So, perhaps we need to use some of the bailout money for a buildout. And not of roads and highways, but of our educational system, our technology infrastructure and our incentives for basic R&D.
That seems to be what the competition is doing.