Massive stimulus spending in response to the COVID-19 pandemic over the past year-plus has already stretched America's coffers beyond its breaking point. In fact, according to the website justfacts.com, as of June 16, 2021, the US Treasury’s official figure for the debt of the federal government was exactly a whopping $28,311,074,615,443!
Although we've seen the big spending progressives on both sides of the aisle continually argue that somehow we can spend our way out of the COVID contraction, those strategies have only led us towards an inflation rate that has more than tripled from 2020 to 2021.
But these facts don't seem to be deterring determined liberals and a growing number of usually reliable Republicans who have unwisely thrown their support behind the Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) sponsored "Endless Frontier Act." The bill, which has additional bi-partisan sponsorship from Senator's Young, Hassan, Collins, Coons, Portman, Baldwin, Graham, Peters, Blunt, Daines, Van Hollen, Romney, and Kelly, will supposedly establish "a new Directorate for Technology and Innovation in the National Science Foundation [and] to establish a regional technology hub program."
What it will actually do if signed into law in its current form, is allow members of Congress to throw around a quarter of a Trillion Dollars in funding to "selected" businesses in STEM fields. What exact parameters will decide the qualifications needed to receive the funding is still not completely clear, but if it at all resembles the allocations of funds related to President Obama's stimulus plan, 2009's "American Recovery and Reinvestment Act," we can probably expect a more than a few Solyndra sized scandals related to the allocation of this funding.
It's certainly not that we don't need to step it up in the ongoing technology war with China, but the fact that $110 billion of the money in this bill would be distributed via the National Science Foundation (NSF) should certainly scare off supporters from wanting to take this route towards dominance in the global technology arena. This fact was pointed out by one of the Senate's most steadfast opponents of wasteful spending, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, in a speech on the Senate Floor in May.
Today I spoke on the floor AGAIN about government waste and urged the Senate to adopt my amendment that would ban the funding of gain-of-function research in China. You can watch it here: https://t.co/U7g3ElR5au
— Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) May 25, 2021
Paul's 32-minute speech warned that America's $28 trillion national debt and tradition of runaway spending was out of control and that borrowing more money from China was not the way to fund legislation.
"I don’t think this bill makes us stronger. In fact, I think the Chinese sit back … and laugh at America thinking we’re going to be stronger by borrowing more money from China,"
"So I just don't think it makes us any stronger at all. I think it makes us weaker. It would be one thing if it weren't being so horribly wasted."
-Senator Rand Paul During May 28th Speech to Senate Regarding the Endless Frontiers Act
Part of the reason for Senator Paul's opposition to the National Science Foundation's involvement is many of the questionable items that the entity has provided funding for. Lets examine some of the more ridiculous spending that the NSF has engaged in over the years:
- Walking lizards on a treadmill to see how their joints moved ($1,557,083): NSF Paid for researchers to walk 7 savannah lizards on a tiny treadmill and take X-rays and 3D images to determine how the joints moves. Researchers couldn’t figure it out.
- Studied how to make tomatoes taste better ($1,500,000): Researchers found that adding sugar would make tomatoes more appealing.
- Developed a community college curriculum of winemaking studies ($853,000): Paid for classes at community colleges in the State of Washington to develop winemaking Associate’s Degrees. NSF justified the work on a study saying there could be a labor shortage in the winemaking industry, but at most, 4% of workers needed Associate’s to fill the positions.
- Studied what makes the perfect first date ($2,500,000): Using speed dating as a point of reference, researchers learned men are pickier than men, and both parties view the date more favorably if the conversation focuses on the lady. But the woman doesn’t like answering lots of questions. Men don’t like it when women use words like “kinda, sorta, and probably” but they are attracted to women who speak quickly and with inflection.
Now although we can all agree that a perfect "first date" is important to the survival of the human species, having the already stretched out American taxpayer fund studies related to "speed dating" certainly qualifies as a frivolous expense!
The truth is, the formula to true sustainable innovation has been well defined in America for hundreds of years - Freedom! If America is to compete with China, we must continue in the tradition of many of the policies laid out by our last president and look first towards deregulatory measures that would even the playing field with our more aggressive competitors.
Additionally, instead of attempting to continue to "squeeze blood" from the stone that is the American taxpayer, targeted tax breaks in the STEM fields would go a lot further long term towards the effort to win the tech war with China. These are the policies that the Republicans backing the Endless Frontier Act should be looking to implement. After all, these ideas are the cornerstone of the party's values.
At this point, Republican voters should be asking these Senators supporting the EFA a question. In only a little more than 5 months after the Trump presidency ended, might they have already forgotten the values of the party and voters they purport to represent? Because support for the EFA strongly implies that they have.