In this blog, Steve Norton says it is time to stop devising innovation based on bumper sticker phrases. What’s needed is Chinese menu approach. Take some ideas from Column A and some Ideas from column B and we can update tax, trade, regulatory and public R&D investments to line up with today’s realities. It took 30 years of well-intentioned but ultimately flawed policies from both Democrats and Republicans to get the U.S. into its current economic predicament. It is time to think anew and create a Column C – for cooperation and competitiveness.
One from Column A, B, and C: Finding a New Bipartisan Consensus on U.S. Competitiveness and Innovation Policy
A number of reports show that U.S. innovation-based competitiveness continues to slip against foreign competitors. Yet while both political parties and their ideologically affiliated special interest groups have offered their own sets of recommendations to restore competitiveness, the United States remains bogged down in partisan bickering, ideological rigidity, and an inability of each side to acknowledge the merits of the others’ proposals. But U.S. competitiveness can no longer be seen as a partisan issue. For the U.S. to restore its innovation-based competitiveness to a world-leading position, it will have to forge a new bipartisan consensus on U.S. competitiveness and innovation policies that blends the best ideas from left and right around four key policy areas: tax, trade, technology, and talent.
In essence, we need to choose the best policies from column “D” and column “R.” That is, selecting both from policies that Democrats would be more likely to favor and Republicans more likely to oppose, while also drawing from policy recommendations Republicans would be more likely to champion and Democrats more likely to resist. From the latter category, the United States must expand public investment in innovation, fully fund key innovation-supporting agencies (such as the PTO, FDA, and statistical agencies), fund STEM education, and support trade enforcement. But this is not sufficient, for the United States also needs to adopt more (traditionally conservative) policies from the latter category, including making the U.S. tax code much more efficient, harnessing the power of private enterprise rather than shackling it through excessive regulations, expanding trade agreements, and fostering high-skill immigration.