Paying Attention: The America COMPETES Act

By May 3, 2007Innovation

The dean of Washington columnists, David Broder, uses the example of Senate passage of the “America COMPETES Act” to argue the merits of bipartisanship in his op-ed today, Thankless Bipartisanship. We normally nod off before getting to the second goo of these “goo goo” entreaties, but stayed awake because of the legislation Broder addressed.

S. 761, The America COMPETES Act — America Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education, and Science Act — passed the Senate last week on an 88-8 vote. As this very useful summary from states, the bill is a legislative response to recommendations contained in the National Academies’ “Rising Above the Gathering Storm” report and the Council on Competitiveness’ “Innovate America” report. As Broder reports, it would double spending for physical sciences research, recruit 10,000 new math and science teachers, retraining 250,000 more, provide grants to researchers and invest more in high-risk, high-payoff research.

The NAM issued a news release before its consideration, with NAM President John Engler supporting legislative action to address the nation’s educational and innovation shortcomings.

As he promotes bipartisanship, Broder does a real service in drawing the public’s attention to the issues of innovation and competitiveness, citing Senator Lamar Alexander’s arguments along the way.

Alexander has a gentle reminder for the press that our mind-set means that “unfortunately, bipartisan success, even on the biggest, most complex issues, has an excellent chance of remaining a secret.

“Despite the size of the accomplishment, the passage of the 208-page America Competes Act was barely noticed by the major media. This is not a complaint, merely an observation. More than ever, the media, outside interest groups and party structures reward conflict and the taking of irreconcilable positions. There is little reward for reconciling principled positions into legislation.”

Point taken. And, well, count this as at least one very little reward: Good job, Senators.