Opinion

The ‘Endless Frontier Act’ Is Not Merely a Wasteful Boondoggle, It Will Likely Slow High Tech Innovation

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Posted: Jun 17, 2021 12:01 AM
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The ‘Endless Frontier Act’ Is Not Merely a Wasteful Boondoggle, It Will Likely Slow High Tech Innovation

Source: Yao Dawei/Xinhua via AP

The advertised purpose of the “Endless Frontier Act” is to increase high tech competition with China.  This, of course, is a goal that every American should be able to get behind.  However, the advertised purpose of the bill, as laudable as it may be, is not actually what the bill will do.  In other words, the "Endless Frontier Act" was sold under false pretenses and using fabricated promises. 

If the Senate were serious about helping America win the high tech competition with China, it would do a number of important things, including, but not limited to:  (1) protect our nation’s intellectual property from theft and abuse by the Chinese; (2) make our tax code more competitive; (3) allow research and development costs to be deducted more easily thus encouraging capital investment in high tech solutions; (4) review and reform our regulatory regime that in many cases is outdated and hindering the development of new technologies and making us less competitive. 

But the Senate isn’t considering any of that.  Instead, their so-called plan is to spend about $110 billion in taxpayer dollars via government grants to promote new technologies to be administered by the National Science Foundation.  In other words, a government agency with a horrific record of waste, fraud and abuse is going to decide what technologies look most promising and then hand out taxpayer dollars to give them a boost. This sounds like the Solyndra scandal on steroids. 

So in an era when our national debt has been rapidly increasing at unsustainable rates, we are going to borrow even more money from China and become even more indebted to China — all for the purpose of being more competitive with China. Let that sink in.

But the problem doesn’t end there. The truth is the National Science Foundation (NSF) has a horrible record of waste.  The NSF has funded a project to develop a robot that could fold a towel in 25 minutes. A child could fold a whole load of towels in 25 minutes, but for this stupidity you paid $1.5 million. They’ve funded studies of shrimp running on a miniature treadmill. That wasted $500,000 of your hard earned dollars.  They’ve spent millions studying what motivates individuals to make political donations.  They’ve spent millions studying if athlete’s perception that the basketball rim is as large as a hula-hoop, or that a baseball is as large as a grapefruit, or a golf hole appeared as big as a manhole cover impacts the athlete’s performance.

As Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) highlighted on the floor of the Senate,  the NSF spent $700,000 that had been allotted to study autism to listen to a tape of Neil Armstrong’s first moon walk. They wanted to determine if he said “one small step for man …” or “one small step for a man …” It took them a year and $700,000 of your money to determine that they couldn’t tell.  And that was money that was supposed to be spent on autism.  The NSF also spent half a million dollars developing a climate change themed video game to help children feel more alarmed. 

Government is inherently wasteful.  For example, our government spent over $40 million building a natural gas station to refuel cars that run on natural gas in Afghanistan to help them reduce their carbon footprint. Yet Afghanistan is a nation where the annual income is about $800 and often cook their food on open fires, and few drive any sort of car, much less a natural gas powered car.  Any high schooler could have told you that building a natural gas station in a nation that doesn’t have many cars is a dumb idea. 

Government has funded studying whether you and I are more or less likely to eat food that has been sneezed or coughed on by someone else. You and I could answer that question for free. We’d prefer food that hasn’t been sneezed on — even before the pandemic.  But government bureaucrats spent $2 million to get the same answer.  

So now we are going to rely on these same government bureaucrats to make sure we compete in the high tech arena with the Chinese and we will borrow the money that these bureaucrats decide to spend from the Chinese.  What could possibly go wrong?! 

I have grown to expect liberals to gladly fund such utter foolishness from our paychecks.  But it isn’t just them, there were 19 Republicans who voted for this insanity:  Blunt (MO), Capito (WV), Collins (ME), Cornyn (TX), Crapo (ID), Daines (MT), Graham (SC), Grassley (IA), McConnell (KY), Murkowski (AL), Portman (OH), Risch (ID), Romney (UT), Rounds (SD), Sasse (NE), Sullivan (AK), Tillis (NC), Wicker (MS), and Young (IN).

Those who voted for this bill will undoubtedly defend their vote telling you that they want America to compete and win against China in the high tech arena.  We all would like that!  But let’s try something novel. Let’s do things that would actually help our innovators innovate; and help our businesses and industries compete and win. Also let’s not put a wasteful and often silly government agency in charge of the program.  Instead, let’s unleash America’s entrepreneurial and innovative spirit. And let’s not borrow the money from the very nation we claim to be trying to out compete.