Posted by: Ben Bell | May 16, 2010

GOP vs. American Innovation

The Republican Party claims to be a friend to “small business,” which is one my favorite meaningless terms.  Where is the line between “small” business and “big” business?  And why even make such a distinction?

That is perhaps the subject of another post.  The point I am making here is that the Republican Party currently has a reputation for being the champions of industry, while Democrats are widely seen as the party that does all the things businesses detest (more regulation, higher taxes, and so on).  But then I see an article like this:

GOP Kills Science Jobs Bill By Forcing Dems To Vote For Porn | TPMDC.

Here we have the classic trick of sandbagging a bill by adding a completely unrelated provision that ensures no one will vote for it:

In this case, Republicans included a provision that would bar the federal government from paying the salaries of employees who’ve been disciplined for viewing pornography at work.

I’m not going to waste time decrying the unfairness of such a trick.  It’s been around for a long time and will continue to be so. The real tragedy here is that government-funded science research plays a vital role in advancing industry (e.g.- the internet) and helping us maintain a competitive edge in the global market.  Currently we are losing that edge to countries that are more committed to advancing science and graduating more engineers.  And yet here we have a party taking very deliberate steps to hinder it.  What gives?

Is this a budget issue?  That’s doubtful considering science research spending is only a minuscule percentage of our budget.  We could double science spending and it wouldn’t make a dent in our debt-to-GDP ratio.  Another alternative is that the GOP is simply pulling a pre-election season ploy to make Democrats look weak and ineffective or alternatively pro-employee porn watching.  If that’s the case then I would say “Mission Accomplished.”  You have gained a petty political victory at the expense of future American innovation.  But one also can’t rule out plain anti-science sentiment.  Efforts to discredit scientific consensus around evolution and climate change has also fomented a general distrust of science amongst conservatives (although it is certainly present among liberals as well).

Regardless of the motivation, it is distressing that a party that works so hard for the “pro-business” moniker is taking an active role in stunting our progress as innovators.

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