Seeing the Round Corners

HEADS UP, the new day for Seeing the Round Corners “GOING LIVE” is Tuesday each week.

April 14, 2020

These are difficult times for not only Americans but for all the world. The recession America was experiencing when former President Obama took office was like none other since the great depression. Today’s column (and the next few) are from this writer’s archives, written several years ago, with present-day updating commentary..

NEVER LEARN FROM OUR MISTAKES          October 1, 2012

We Americans like to think of ourselves as hardy types rooted in our early heritage when settlers moved west, clearing the way with their bare hands, only to learn later it was not always in their best interest. Widespread clear cutting of trees led to catastrophic erosion that in turn clogged rivers, streams and lakes that provided water for both man and their animals.

In 2005, (updated in 2007) two congressional committees requested the National Academies (Science, Engineering) and the Institute of Medicine prepare a report to enable the United States to stay competitive with the rest of the world in the 21st Century. That study/report will be the subject of Seeing the Round Corners for the next few editions, but first, some poignant comments prompted by review of that study, and how things never seem to change from election to election.

The midterm election of 2010 found us one year into President Obama’s first term in office. At the end of former President George W. Bush’s administration, the country was deep into the “worst recession since the great depression.” Yet, Republicans running in the 2010 election had the audacity to portray the only way to save America from eminent demise was to return to policies that drove this country to near economic ruin.
How do clueless candidates spewing such rhetoric get elected to office? By voters who don’t pay attention, who don’t or aren’t willing to get involved, and who stay home at election time!

Here are just a few “jewels” gleaned from various campaign speeches and snip-its, etc., espoused during the 2010 election and this Presidential election:

  • financial regulation should be repealed because banks and Wall Street have shown they are so honorable and trustworthy, its just isn’t needed;
  • health care reform should be repealed and replaced by a system Republicans can’t even imagine, much less explain or provide specifics of;
  • tax cuts should be passed for the wealthy because, after all, the wealthy are the ONLY ones who create jobs; and
  • funding should be cut to the Environmental Protection Agency even more to allow unrestricted oil and gas drilling – after all, corporate responsibility is at such a high level and self regulation has served America so well, especially when looking back at previous decades of polluting and destruction to the environment (rivers, lakes and the land).

The National Academies created a response committee – the Committee on Prospering in the Global Economy of the 21st Century – to respond to the following questions posed by the two Congressional Committees:

    • What are the top ten actions, in priority order, that federal policymakers could take to enhance the science and technology enterprise so that the United States can successfully compete, prosper and be secure in the global community in the 21st century?
    • What strategy, with several concrete steps, could be used to implement each of those actions?


No small task as the Committee readily acknowledged, and as it reviewed trends here in the United States and abroad, concern quickly grew that “the scientific and technological building blocks critical to our economic leadership are eroding at a time when many other nations are gathering strength.”

The Committee also acknowledged the United States has always assumed it would always be a world leader in science and technology, but the future of prosperity in this country is not as certain as it once may have been. “Great minds and ideas exist throughout the world,” which could threaten the United States’ lead in science and technology.

The Committee compiled the following criteria that multinational companies use in determining where to locate their facilities and the jobs that result:

  • Cost of labor (professional and general workforce);
  • Availability and cost of capital;
  • Availability and quality of research and innovation talent;
  • Availability of qualified workforce;
  • Taxation environment;
  • Indirect costs (litigation, employee benefits such as healthcare, pensions, vacations);
  • Quality of research universities;
  • Convenience of transportation and communication (including language);
  • Fraction of national research and development supported by government;
  • Legal-judicial system (business, integrity, property rights, contract sanctity, patent protection);
  • Current and potential growth of domestic market;
  • Attractiveness as place to live for employees; and
  • Effectiveness of national economic system.


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