Democrats Argue for Protecting Federal Investment in Science &

Share This

Publication date: 
10 November 1995


Republicans in the House and Senate are currently struggling to
come to agreement on the provisions of their budget-cutting
reconciliation bill, so they can send it to President Clinton
before Thanksgiving.  At the same time, the White House and
congressional Democrats are speaking out frequently and forcefully
on areas of federal funding they believe should be preserved.  One
of these areas is science and technology. 

Six Democratic senators held a news conference on November 8 to
raise concerns about future reductions to science and technology
spending under the Republican plan.  Attending the conference were
Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD), Jeff Bingaman (D-NM),
John Glenn (D-OH), Ernest Hollings (D-SC), Joseph Lieberman (D-CT),
and Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), as well as the President's Assistant
for Economic Policy, Laura D'Andrea Tyson, and Assistant for
Science Policy, John Gibbons.  Bingaman defended public-private
technology partnerships as "a way for the government to economize"
by encouraging private sector collaboration and cost-sharing on R&D
important to the nation.  "Some of my Republican colleagues think
they can cut [R&D]...because the private sector will pick up the
slack," Lieberman said.  But he cited historical evidence that when
the government cuts back on R&D funding, the private sector follows

Tyson and Gibbons reiterated the Administration's theme that
balancing the budget is counterproductive if it eliminates the
investments needed for future economic growth and job creation.
They cited an estimate, calculated by AAAS, that federal civilian
R&D funding would be cut by 30 percent between now and 2002 if the
Republican balanced-budget plan is fully enacted.  (Clinton's
revised plan to bring the budget into balance by 2004 does not go
into sufficient detail to directly compare, but it would cut
non-defense discretionary spending - within which civilian R&D is
supported - less deeply than Congress's plan.)

The news conference provided an opportunity to highlight two recent
Administration reports on the importance of technology to the
nation.  One, by the Council of Economic Advisors, is summarized in
FYI #157; the other is a 23-page White House paper entitled
"Technology and Economic Growth: Producing Real Results for the
American People."  The White House document repeats many of the
conclusions of the Council of Economic Advisors: since World War
II, technological innovation has been responsible for up to
one-half of the nation's economic growth, but many of the
investments that were of the greatest benefit to society were too
expensive, or their returns too broadly spread, for private
industry to support alone.  The paper lists some of the results of
technology investment by the government, often in partnership with
the private sector: lasers, computers, biomedical technologies,
teflon and other advanced materials, communications satellites,
microwave ovens, solar cells, modems, semiconductors, and insulin,
as well as advances in medicine, agriculture, transportation and
manufacturing.  "The government has supported - and must continue
to support - exploratory research, experimentation and innovation
that would be impossible for individual companies or even whole
industries to afford," it says. 

For a copy of the White House paper, fax your request to
202-456-6019 or send an email to rborchelt [at]

Explore FYI topics: