The High Return on Investment for Publicly Funded Research
Center for American Progress | Sean Pool and Jennifer Erickson
In order for the U.S. to maintain its role as an innovation-driven economy, “government must provide three key public-good inputs that allow innovation to blossom: investments in human capital, infrastructure, and research.” The authors cite and summarize the contributions of influential research funded by the U.S. Government through the Dept. of Energy Labs, The National Science Foundation, The Human Genome Project, The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the Apollo Space Program.
Imagine spending a day without the Internet and GPS
Continuing Innovation in Information Technology | National Research Council
The internet and GPS (a U.S.-owned utility) are among many innovations that have been funded by the U.S. Government. The authors of Continuing Innovation in Information Technology write, “fundamental research in IT, conducted in industry and universities, has led to the introduction of entirely new producer categories that ultimately became billion-dollar industries.” Underscoring the impact of government’s outsized role in creating the dominant technologies of the 21st century, the authors of this report ask readers to imagine a day without information technology. “This would be a day without the Internet and all that it enables … A day without digital media … A day during which aircraft could not fly, travelers had to navigate without benefit of the Global Positioning System (GPS), weather forecasters had no models, [and] banks and merchants could not transfer funds electronically”
Losing Our Libraries
Public Goods Post | September 2017
Public libraries are one of our most easily recognizable public goods. Most everyone knows that local public libraries are free to all, and most understand that this is because these libraries are supported collectively, by our taxes. But until citizens voted in the 1800’s in the U.S. to support the first public libraries, access to collections of books depended upon one’s wealth.
This Post is prompted by the potential loss or degradation of yet one more public library in the United States – in this case the one in Escondido, California, which may be privatized.
Privatizing public libraries does not mean that taxpayers stop paying the cost. No. What it means is that the operation of the library is contracted out to a private, for-profit corporation. Taxpayers keep paying — but in order to meet the profit requirements of the newly engaged private operator, one of two things must happen: either the cost to taxpayers must go up or the quality of services must go down. Read More …
What Happens When Government is Too Successful?
Public Goods Post | October 2017
Despite decades of efforts by anti-public forces to defund, outsource or dismantle government agencies and programs, most continue to churn out essential services, products and protections every day. They do this quietly and successfully, with little recognition.
Increasingly often, now, the result of such efficiency and effectiveness is an attempt to kill or gut the successful program or bureau.
One such agency is the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau whose mission is to protect American consumers from financial abuses and predatory practices. Its two call centers (one in Iowa and one in New Mexico) handle 25,000 calls monthly and 22,000 complaints each month. On behalf of 29,000,000 consumers it has extracted nearly $12 billion in refunds and canceled debts. Further, the CFPB has “curtailed abusive debt collection practices, reformed mortgage lending, publicized and investigated hundreds of thousands of complaints from aggrieved customers of financial institutions…”
The result is an all-out effort to eliminate the agency, or disable it if elimination fails. Read More …
The Quiet Revolution and a Submerged Para-state
Public Goods Post
Under normal circumstance, it would be safe to assume that “public goods” are delivered by public agencies. But current circumstances are far from normal. Over the last several decades, more and more public goods have been delivered by a para-state, a privatized government virtually hidden from view. We taxpayers still pay, but our money goes to a growing army of corporations on the public payroll.
Private corporations operate programs, deliver services and even manage other contractors. Some citizens receiving public services encounter only private contract workers, so are unaware that they are receiving a government service. While some forms of contract procurement have been in place since the nation’s birth, the very nature of contracting has changed as it has grown in scope. Basic governmental functions are now outsourced to for-profit corporations. Read more…
Broadband for All?
Public Goods Post
In December 2017 the Federal Communications Commission voted to repeal net neutrality rules which had ensured that the Internet belonged to the public and not to internet providers. While the regulatory news is bad, there is a way that people can take back the Internet. In a Guest Post, Donald Cohen tells us how local communities are moving to make Internet access a public good – providing accessible broadband for all. Read more …