Fletcher in the News

A Dozen Budget Wishes for Congress: Dean Chakravorti Weighs In

Bhaskar Chakravorti is a Senior Associate Dean at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University.

This week saw the start of budget negotiations between the House of Representatives and Senate. But as Republicans and Democrats sit down together less than a month after a government shutdown, will the two sides be able to find common ground? Global Public Square asked 12 commentators, analysts and policy makers for their take on what Congress should be discussing – and what an agreement should include. All views expressed are the writers’ own.

Invest in basic research – Bhaskar Chakravorti, Fletcher School, Tufts University

Hooray!  It’s time for budget negotiations. Again.

My plea to our lawmakers is: please read the Science Coalition’s timely report that illustrates how federal investment in basic research “sparks” economic growth. It’s time to reverse the March sequester, which will cut federal spending on R&D by $95 billion by 2021. About 10 percent of the sequester cut for this year will cut R&D in essential areas: defense, energy, agriculture, homeland security and health, affecting key entities such as the National Institutes for Health and the National Science Foundation. Military research budgets will have to be cut almost 10 percent.

I know these statistics have a hard time competing against the electoral calculus. It takes bold leadership for Congress to take the long view. Historically, such leadership has happened when there has been a clear and present danger to the nation. Post-Cold War threats – terrorists, Wall Street bankers, Angela Merkel, apparently – do not hand us the galvanizing “Sputnik moment.”

While I hate framing arguments in terms of U.S. competitiveness, it is time we take note of China’s R&D ascendance, which will cause re-location of talent, capital and business away from the U.S. over time. China was expected to achieve R&D-spending parity with the United States in 2027. Recently, that forecast was brought forward to 2022. At this rate, the country’s real innovativeness will catch up as well. And if China’s rise is not enough of a threat, how about cancer? We haven’t beaten that one either.

So, can we please talk about sequestering the sequester?

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