Recharging Our Commitment To Innovation To Build One America
"Americans have always taken impossible tasks and turned them into reality. Whether we are the country of the 21st century depends on what all of us do today." - John Edwards
From the moving assembly line to the space race, America led the world in innovation in the 20th century. But now we find ourselves challenged by other countries that have invested aggressively in education, engineering and infrastructure, giving them an edge in the global economy. Building One Americawhere every person has a chance to succeedmeans confronting the competitive challenges of the new century.
* Falling Behind in Science Education: American 9th-graders are 18th in the world in science education. Our children have not been given the tools they need to succeed. [UNICEF, 2002]
* Lagging Investment in Research: The key to our future success lies in our nation's labs and testing rooms, but federal funding for physical science research as a share of GDP has been on a 30 year decline. The NIH used to fund four out of 10 grant applications; now it funds less than two out of 10. [Task Force on the Future of American Innovation, 2006; NIH, 2007]
* A Growing Digital Divide: The country that developed the internet now lags behind European and Asian countries in high-speed access. The U.S. is now 24th in the world in broadband penetration per household, trailing Estonia. Our internet access is also slower -- a child in Japan can get high speed internet that is 33 times faster at 1/20th the cost per megabit than a child in the United States using DSL. While half of urban and suburban households have broadband, less than a third of rural homes do. African Americans are 25 percent less likely to have internet access at home than whites. [Newsweek, 7/9/07; CWA, 2006; Pew, 2007]
* Ideology Prevailing Over Science: George W. Bush has presided over the most anti-science administration in American history, censoring research and slanting policy on climate change, on air pollution, on stem cell research to advance a narrow political agenda.
The question is not whether we can meet these challenges but whether we choose to meet them. John Edwards has a six-point plan to recharge America's competitiveness through improvements in infrastructure today and investments in research and education that will pay off tomorrow.
An Agenda To Promote Innovation
1. Supporting American Ingenuity: The most important factor for America's future prosperity is investment in education, science, technology and innovation. As president, Edwards will make the Research and Experimentation tax credit permanent. The credit has expired or nearly expired 11 times in the last 25 years, discouraging companies from making long-term commitments to research. Ideological debates at NIH about things like stem cell technology have drained resources from promising research. Edwards will increase spending on basic research at the National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health and lift stifling research restrictions. He will also modernize our patent laws which haven't been updated in 50 years to provide incentives for research.
2. Building the New Energy Economy and 1 Million New Jobs: New energy technology holds great potential to unleash innovation and reshape our economy. "Clean tech" is the hottest new area of venture capital funding, and American entrepreneurs, farmers and manufacturers can lead the world in technology to generate clean, reliable energy and use it more efficiently. Edwards will create the New Energy Economy Fund to invest in clean, renewable energies like wind, solar, and biofuels, develop a new generation of efficient cars and trucks, and put new energy-saving technologies to work in buildings, transportation and industry. The result will be more than 1 million new jobs, renewed life for family farms and rural communities, new markets for American manufacturers, and a wave of innovation and productivity gains. [Newsweek, 6/21/2006].
3. Restoring America's Leadership in Science and Math Education: We all pay a price when young people who could someday find the cure for AIDS or make a fuel cell work end up sitting on a stoop because they didn't get the education they need. If we do not invest in science and math education now, the United States risks becoming a technology follower, rather than a leader. Edwards will ensure that American children are prepared to build on our current technology successes:
* Improving Our Schools: Ninety-five percent of urban high schools report problems getting qualified science teachers. As president, Edwards will invest more in teacher pay and training to attract good teachers in the schools and subjects we need them most, expand preschool programs, math and science education, and after-school programs, and strengthen high school curricula. [National Commission on Mathematics and Science Teaching for the 21st Century, 2000]
* Expanding College Opportunity: Two years ago, Edwards helped start a College for Everyone program in Greene County, North Carolina that has helped increase the college-going rate from 54 percent to 74 percent. As president, Edwards will create a similar national plan to pay one year of public-college tuition, fees and books for more than 2 million students. In return, students will be required to work part-time in college, take a college-prep curriculum in high school and stay out of trouble.
4. Building a Universal, Affordable Internet: The country that developed the internet is now 16th in the world in broadband penetration. While half of urban and suburban households have broadband, less than a third of rural homes do. John Edwards will set a national broadband policy to help make the Internet more affordable and accessible to all Americans, regardless of where they live or how much money they have. Universal broadband would stimulate job creation and result in up to $500 billion in economic benefits. The starting place is setting a goal of giving all U.S. homes and businesses access to real high-speed internet by 2010. Edwards will establish a national broadband map to identify gaps in availability, price, and speed; create public-private partnerships to promote deployment; require providers not to discriminate against rural and low-income areas and to improve accessibility for people with disabilities; support and expand the e-rate program; encourage local service providers and municipal wireless projects, and use the newly available 700 megahertz spectrum and broadcast television white space to support wireless networks that can connect with all digital devices. [Newsweek, 7/9/07; CWA, 2006; Pew, 2007]
5. Guaranteeing True Universal Health Care: Skyrocketing health care costs are a heavy burden on our manufacturing companies and other businesses. Edwards has offered a specific plan to guarantee true universal health care for every man, woman and child in America. He has also proposed an ambitious initiative to make health care more cost-effective through preventive and chronic care, information technology, and better research into proven tests and treatments. These and other steps will save an average family $2,000 to $2,500 a year and eliminate at least $130 billion a year in wasteful health care spending. [WHO, 2006]
6. Respecting Science: John Edwards believes that policy should be science driven, and that science shouldn't be politics driven. He will make sure that government professionals charged with the collection and analysis of scientific data from medical research to mercury emissions are insulated from political influence. As president, he will:
* Eliminate political litmus tests for government scientists.
* Protect the integrity of government science by prohibiting political appointees from overriding agencies' scientific findings unless the chief White House science advisor concludes they are erroneous.
* Reverse the demotion of the head of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, and restore the office to a central role as an assistant to the president, a rank held in previous administrations.