We must recognize:
1. Innovation is the Key to Economic Growth
2. Strategic Investments Can Promote Innovation
3. Today’s Education Will Shape the Future
Innovation is the Key to Economic Growth
I was born and raised in New Jersey, home to many of the nation’s most innovative institutions and companies. I live in a region known as the “Medicine Chest.” My state’s technology, pharmacology, biotechnology, and manufacturing industries are leaders in their fields. I have seen how companies can thrive in an ever-changing world, simultaneously improving our quality of life while adapting to new markets.
As a technophile and science nerd I may be biased, but I believe America’s economic stability depends on how seriously we respond to the challenges presented by an increasingly technological global economy. I majored in Chemistry at Rutgers University, taught science in a local high school, and worked as an Einstein Fellow in Washington, D.C. for Congressman Mike Honda (D-Silicon Valley). These experiences, as well as my passion for science and technology, have enabled me to discover how targeted government policies can spur innovation, promote competition, and ensure that U.S. companies are able to remain internationally competitive.
The innovative spirit in the U.S. has never been stronger. Unfortunately too many of our recent innovations have been detrimental to many Americans and utterly devastating to the economy. Motivated by unreasonably large short-term rewards, financial companies created riskier ways to securitize debt and maximize leverage to the point that they put all of our finances at risk. We need innovation, but we also need to focus on those best positioned to bring about long-term economic growth and stability.
There is no doubt businesses today operate in an increasingly competitive environment. Relaxed import and export policies and the growth of the internet have led companies to expand rapidly to deliver goods and services worldwide. While we might still have our favorite ice cream shop when on vacation, many businesses operate virtually or across vast distances.
Some wax nostalgic about the simplicity of America’s past; the old West, one-room schoolhouses, steam engines, and doctors that make house calls. These thoughts fill us with a sense of security and comfort. But this is not our future. Industries and energy sources upon which we have long relied are on the decline. New technologies are completely eclipsing their predecessors. We need to look at emerging fields and emerging markets, and lead the way.
Strategic Investments Can Promote Innovation
Freedom of thought, a commitment to progress, a highly skilled workforce, and capital for research and development are the keys to success in high tech fields, and for our nation’s economic recovery.
The Wright Brothers built the first Airplanes with their own hands in a bicycle shop with minimal resources. Conversely, the first functional nuclear reactors were developed over decades with millions of dollars of public investment and a concerted national effort. We may still see inventions emerging from garages in the suburbs, but it is more likely that the solutions to energy independence, and other future technological advances will require exotic materials, complex supply chains, and sophisticated research and development.
An important role the federal government can play in stimulating innovation is increasing opportunities for businesses to partner with the government to solve challenges. Our current energy crisis provides a prime opportunity for companies to come together with government agencies such as NASA and the Department of Energy in public-private partnerships to pool resources and data, thereby accelerating the discovery process. The human genome project and the internet are prime examples of how the government can stimulate innovation and partner with industry to solve a question or problem, while bringing about a social benefit and creating brand new economic opportunities.
Today’s Education Will Shape the Future
More aggressive steps need to be taken to ensure America comes out on top; chief among them is improving our K-12 education and investing in the creation of new knowledge.
Keeping America competitive will require a significant commitment from our leaders in Washington and in our statehouses, to ensure we cultivate and support our innovators each step of the way from pre-kindergarten to post-doc and unleash their entrepreneurial spirit.
It is critical we inspire our students currently in our classrooms to become our future innovators, especially in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Sadly, U.S. students rank twenty-first in science and twenty-fifth in math, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). This is not acceptable-- we must not settle for mediocre, we need to ensure America moves to the top of the list.
Too many students are being lost in our K-12 system, either dropping out or becoming disinterested in science and mathematics. Among those who pursue further studies in STEM we see an underrepresentation of women and minorities graduating college with STEM degrees. The next generation of scientists, mathematicians, and engineers are lost right from under our noses.
Education is the key to our future. We need to address our ailing school system to ensure each child receives a world-class education, regardless of his or her zip code. Steps we can take right now to improve education include providing qualified teachers in every classroom, supporting struggling schools, rewarding schools for improving, holding schools accountable with measures aligned with what we value as a nation such as critical thinking and problem solving, and evaluating student growth over time.
Our current economic conditions offer a unique opportunity to produce new and innovative technologies, create jobs, and create new markets. Producing clean energy, enhancing our national security, improving health care, and protecting our environment provide vast opportunities to strengthen America's position as the leader in technological innovation and scientific discovery.
Making innovation a top priority for our nation will ensure America’s economic stability. Strategic investments to spur innovation coupled with significant education reform are the key to making sure America can lead in the twenty-first-century global economy.
I entered teaching to help my students learn the tools they need to have a successful future. Today, I am running for Congress to deliver on that same commitment to ensure America’s economic future is stable and prosperous.
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