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Issue Position: Science and Technology

Issue Position

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Issue Position: Science and Technology

There is no issue more fundamental to creating the good jobs of the future, curing disease, making America independent of Mideast oil, and educating the next generation of scientists than our investments in science and innovation. Washington must again make science and technology a priority.

For 225 years, America has been defined by our sense of limitless possibility. We've always approached the future with imagination and dreams. What other nation could dream of flight - and have two bicycle mechanics from Ohio make it happen? What other nation could set out to learn more about disease and illness - and then lead an international coalition to map every single gene in the human body.

But we haven't just created inventions that changed the world. In the process, we have created millions of well-paying jobs for middle class families across America. The money we have spent at the federal level on research and development since World War II - working hand in hand with private investment - has been the best jobs program America has ever had.

This hasn't just been a story of scientific imagination, but political imagination - from leaders at every step along the way who recognized that America's leadership in science and technology has given America a competitive edge in the world.

John Kennedy was one of those leaders. He challenged America to lead the world in science and innovation. The Soviet Union had just become the first country in the world to launch a man into space.

Standing on the capitol steps, he said, "We cannot be satisfied as Americans to have the Soviet Union producing twice as many scientists and engineers as we are." To those who thought America could afford to wait, he said, "this country cannot settle for being first, if; first, but; first, when; or first, maybe. We need to be first on the far side of the moon and here in this country, and that is the issue."

When President Kennedy spoke those words, America was falling behind in science and technology. Because of his vision, America was number one for decades. Now we are challenged not just by the successes of other countries, but by the failures of Washington political leadership.

Washington has turned its back on the spirit of exploration and discovery.

Washington has caved into an extreme political agenda that slows instead of advances science.

It is wrong to take hope away from people. Hope is what gave us the polio vaccine and other breakthroughs in medicine. It is wrong to tell scientists that they can't cross the frontiers of new knowledge. It is wrong morally and it is wrong economically. We should be leading the world in stem cell research and leading the world in scientific discovery.

From nanotechnology to artificial intelligence, we know where the next generation of high-paying jobs will come from: jobs that pay, on average, 70 percent more than other jobs. But our investments in creating those jobs are dying on the vine.

We've seen Washington budgets that proposed cutting the National Science Foundation budget for research and development, cutting the EPA research budget, and cutting the Veteran's Affairs research budget. We've seen short-sighted budgets that proposed cutting by 90% the Manufacturing Extension Program that business uses to develop new processes.

America has fallen to 13th in the world in broadband coverage. Broadband is critical to our long-term growth, but Washington has proposed cutting the Agriculture Department's Rural Broadband budget, which brings the internet to America's small towns and rural communities.

In the last years, America has been losing its lead in science. Our share of industrial patents is down, our share of Nobel prizes is down, our published research is down, and the number of new doctorates in the sciences is down.

The rest of the world isn't waiting for us to catch back up. In fact, this year, China and India will graduate 10 times as many engineers as we will have here in the U.S.

There is absolutely no reason why America should fall behind China on anything when it comes to innovation. If Asia can produce more research scientists, so can we. If Tsinghua University can develop the jobs of the future, so can our universities. If Bangalore can be completely wired for broadband, then so can our cities.

We need to make sure that America is once again at the forefront of scientific discovery.

Here's what we should be fighting for:

Firstly, we are going to create the well-paying jobs of the future by investing more in areas of research that are likely to create the industries that produce those jobs. We've lost more than 800,000 technology jobs, many to China and India. To keep and create good jobs here at home, we should close the tax loopholes that reward companies for shipping jobs overseas - and reward companies that create and keep good jobs here at home.

We should invest in areas like advanced manufacturing, biotechnology, and nanotechnology that have the potential to improve lives and save them. And because we do not know where the next great breakthroughs will come from, we should support curiosity-driven, high-risk research that has given us such "accidental" discoveries as the MRI.

Secondly, we should help cure disease by investing in science and new technologies. We should lift the ban on federal funding for stem cell research. By blocking stem cell research, Washington has sacrificed science to ideology. I agree with leaders from both political parties that stem cell research represents some of the best hopes of humanity. We should make funding for this research a priority. And we will uphold the highest ethical standards in the process.

Thirdly, we should make America independent of Mideast oil by investing in the energy technology of the future - in innovations that will create good jobs across America. America once led the world in the production of clean energy products and the payrolls that go with them. We have to do it again - whether it's in wind, solar, ethanol, or clean coal. We should give automakers tax credits to retool their plants so they can build the fuel-efficient cars of the future, and make sure that alternative energy sources will account for 20 percent of our fuel and 20 percent of our electricity by 2020. We should invest in energy-saving technologies so our homes, businesses, and factories are more efficient.

Fourthly, we should create the workforce of the future by making college more affordable and preparing our workers for tomorrow's economy. To close the growing skills gap on math and engineering between America and the rest of the world, we should support all-girls math and science schools and special after- school and summer programs that aim to get more girls and minorities engaged in math and science at an early age. We should give colleges new financial incentives to increase the number of science, technology and math majors they graduate, and double the National Science Foundation's graduate scholarships in these fields.


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