America losing its competitive edge

Commentator Robert Reich

TEXT OF COMMENTARY

SCOTT JAGOW: China and India produce more computer engineers and scientists than the US, and China's getting a lot of new research centers too. Commentator Robert Reich ponders the implications for the States.


ROBERT REICH: The question has to be asked: Why aren't American companies investing more in cutting-edge science and engineering? I mean, they have more profits than they know what to do with.

Well, it turns out American firms are investing lots in science and engineering. The problem is, they're doing less of that here and more elsewhere.

Dow Chemical is building a research center in Shanghai that will employ hundreds of Chinese chemical engineers.

Microsoft's research center in Beijing recently beat out MIT and Stanford with papers at a leading global software conference.

A few months ago IBM opened a software lab in Bangalore, India.

Last year, Microsoft announced a $1.7 billion investment in India over next four years, about half for an R&D center in Hyderabad.

Google's Indian lab spearheaded its new Google Finance software.

The list goes on.

Recently, the National Academies surveyed 200 US and European corporations and found over a third shifting more research and development work to China and India. And most are decreasing R&D in the US and Europe.

So when you hear America is in danger of losing its competitive edge, it's not that American companies are losing ground. It's that Americans are losing ground. And they're not the same thing.

US-based corporations are not putting much pressure on Congress or the administration to beef up American science and engineering, because they don't depend exclusively on American science and engineering.

Which means they aren't lobbying hard for better-funded graduate programs in science and engineering at American universities, more and better-paid teachers of science and math in American schools, or a requirement that the research-and-development tax credit be used only for research and development in the United States.

Yet without the concerted push from American business, it ain't gonna happen.

JAGOW: Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich now teaches public policy at the University of California at Berkeley. In Los Angeles, I'm Scott Jagow. Thanks for listening and have a great day.

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