At Budget Committee Hearing Senator Baldwin Focuses on Importance of Investing in Research, Science and Innovation to Strengthen Wisconsin’s Economy

Washington D.C. -- U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin, a member of the Senate Budget Committee, participated in today’s Committee hearing on the effects of austerity on the economy, jobs, and long-term growth. The hearing focused on the need to strengthen our economic recovery and create jobs through targeted investments necessary to maintain America’s competitiveness in a global economy while also putting the nation on a long-term sustainable fiscal path. Last week, Baldwin visited the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center at the Wisconsin Energy Institute and met with researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Baldwin discussed with researchers the impact that the sequester is having on research, students and America’s future competitiveness.

“Our country faces twin challenges – stabilizing our debt and deficit without shortchanging our future, and continuing to move our economic recovery forward,” said Baldwin. “While I think this a something that all of us here can agree on, there is a real disagreement over how we tackle these challenges. In my view, I don’t believe this can be an either or proposition – we can’t have all stimulus or all austerity – we need a balanced approach. However, right now we are seeing the effects of sequestration and it is anything but balanced. We are cutting away at the things like education, scientific research and innovation, which have previously provided a strong foundation for future economic growth and global competitiveness.”

Audio and video of Senator Baldwin’s hearing statement here.

During her visit to UW-Madison, Baldwin discussed with researchers the impact that the sequester is having on research, students and America’s future competitiveness. The researchers shared their concern for a “missing generation” of scientists due to a decrease of funds and an increase in competition for resources.

“Over the past half century, more than half of the growth in our nation's GDP has been rooted in scientific discoveries. This is the kind of fundamental, mission-driven research that is done at places like the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center where I visited this past week. The Center is a Department of Energy funded consortium of over 400 researchers and innovators researching advanced biofuel technologies that will help support an economy built to last. In addition, I had the chance to sit down and talk to researchers from across the university who rely on federal investments, especially research grants from the NIH and NSF. The entire group spoke about their worries about an entire “missing generation” of scientists. They explained that diminishing grant opportunities and intense competition are putting the brakes on innovation at a time when we need to be stepping on the accelerator.”

Majority witnesses at the hearing discussed the need to invest in short-term economic growth—in addition to laying a foundation for long-term, broad-based growth and prosperity. They included former Treasury Secretary and NEC Director Larry Summers, now Charles Eliot Professor at Harvard University, and Simon Johnson, Ronald A Kurtz Professor of Entrepreneurship at MIT Sloan School of Management, a Senior Fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

Larry Summers testified that further austerity measures are not the right choice for the United States at this time: “First, it would not be desirable to undertake further measures to rapidly reduce deficits in the short run. Excessively rapid fiscal consolidation in an economy that is still constrained by lack of demand, and where space for monetary policy action is limited, risks slowing economic expansion at best and halting recovery at worst.”

He also highlighted the importance of making targeted investments that will lay the foundation for future growth: “It is important to recognize that just as increasing debt burdens future generations, so also does a failure to repair decaying infrastructure, or to invest adequately in funding pensions, or in educating the next generation burdens future generations.”

Simon Johnson agreed that “a sudden move towards further tightening fiscal policy in the U.S. would undermine our economic recovery and has the potential to destabilize financial markets.  We are currently moving in a precipitate manner towards an excessive and inappropriate degree of immediate austerity” and “It is far more important to get the economy back onto a sustainable growth path.”

“Even as the national economy is rebounding, businesses and middle-class families in my state remain stuck in neutral,” said Baldwin. “We can change that, but we must make smart investment in our future and grow a “Made in Wisconsin” economy that’s built to last. We can do that by investing in science, technology, engineering and math studies, institutions of higher education, and regional hubs of collaborative research and development.”

Recently, Baldwin gave her first Senate floor speechand highlighted the work at the GLBRC and her commitment to investing in research, science, and innovation in order to build a “Made in Wisconsin” economy and create jobs.