China Moves Ahead as D.C. Politicians Engage in Budget Brinksmanship

Capital Times (Madison, WI): 04-06-11

Congress will decide this week whether the U.S. government will stay in business, when it votes Friday to keep the doors open or shutter them amid budget fights.

At issue are $33 billion in cuts, including $10 billion already passed, what would be the largest one-time budget reduction in U.S. history.

Republicans have called for more, passing a measure nearly double that. For some within their ranks, even that doesn’t go far enough: They’re willing to force a shutdown unless $100 billion is slashed this year.

By the time of the vote, the U.S. government will have operated without an actual budget for just fewer than 200 days. In its place have been stopgap measures simply keeping the lights on. Friday’s vote, long term by comparison, will take us only through September, the end of the fiscal year.

This isn’t leadership; what’s happening in Washington is dangerous brinksmanship that stands to set us back even further in the world economy — an area where we’ve already lost significant ground.

U.S. jobs have been moving overseas for more than two decades, but in recent years this has been less about trinkets than technology.

A report to Congress in March by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission shows, between 2000 and 2008, an 800 percent surge in exports of communications technologies and a 454 percent rise in computer equipment to the United States. By comparison, the fastest growing and now No. 1 U.S. export to China is “scrap and trash.”

China is preparing to further up the ante, as leaders there move into the 60th year of economic planning to expand that nation’s world exports. The 12th five-year economic plan, delivered March 6 to the National People’s Congress, calls for transforming coastal regions, already the world’s manufacturing base, into a hub for research and development.

To this point, U.S. investment in R&D largely went unchallenged by other nations and was recognized by the National Science Foundation in a 2008 report as essential to our long-term economic outlook.

Only about 12 percent of the federal budget is on the chopping block, so these billions in cuts would come mostly from programs that form the pillars of U.S. competitiveness — things like education, jobs creation, and, yes, research and development.

Such investments are demanded if the United States is to remain a force in the global economy. That can’t happen — and won’t — so long as Republicans play politics in Washington while the Chinese get serious about building the next generation of jobs in their economy.