February 15, 2011
Newt Gingrich: Innovation Hawk?
Newt Gingrich has joined a growing group of innovation hawks in recognizing the importance of federal innovation investments in driving U.S. economic growth. Speaking at a Brookings Institution conference, the former Speaker of the House argued against making across-the-board cuts to government spending and acknowledged that we need to preserve key federal investments in science and technology research.
Here's The Wall Street Journal's David Wessel on Gingrich's Speech:
'One of them [the Republicans' ideas for addressing the deficit] is cutting investment in science and research,' Mr. Gingrich told a Brookings Institution conference. 'It's essentially like saying I want to save money on your car [so] we're not going to change the oil. And for about a year I can get away with it, then the engine will freeze, and we have to change the engine.'
In short, Mr. Gingrich argued: All government spending is not created equal. All government spending is not evil. And Washington's approach to budgets is imprudently starving the future.
In advocating for critical federal investments in innovation, Gingrich echoes the innovation-centered federal strategy outlined by President Obama is his State of the Union speech earlier this year.
Gingrich is strongly critical of the parts of his party's recently released 2012 budget proposal that would strip critical funding for innovation across the federal government.
As Wessel argues, this proposed budget would strip federal funding from innovation agencies whose budgets are already sparse as a result of the recent budget compromise and have been flat for quite some time:
But ponder these facts: Federal spending on payments for individuals (everything from housing subsidies to health care) has doubled over the past 30 years, as a share of the economy. Defense spending fell when the Cold War ended, but has been climbing for a decade.
Yet everything else--including all spending intended to pay off in the future--has been flat, setting aside the temporary Obama fiscal stimulus. Of the $3.5 trillion the federal government spent in 2010, only 1.6% went to non-defense physical capital, R&D, education and training, the White House budget office says. That's half the size of the share for this spending in the early 1970s.
With his remarks at Brookings, Gingrich has joined the innovation hawks from both political parties in recognizing that, in Wessel's words:
The debate over the balance between tax increases and spending cuts to reduce the deficit is loud. And it should be. But it threatens to distract us from something also important. What will matter to our children and grandchildren isn't only how much of our money the government spends, but on what it spends that money.