Tim Watkin thinks so (italics mine):
In the half-century following the second world war US universities were magnets for students and academics from around the world. Crucially, many foreign graduate students studying the physical sciences, biological sciences, IT and engineering stayed after graduation. As the Gathering Storm report notes: “Government spending on R&D soared after World War II, and … as a percentage of the gross domestic product (GDP) reached a peak of 1.9% in 1964.” In the last six or seven years, however, that tide has turned. Overseas institutions and companies are increasingly competitive, and federal and state funding for science and engineering has fallen significantly, to just 0.8% of GDP. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are sucking up federal money, with President Bush last week asking Congress to raise the war budget for 2008 to $196bn. That’s quite an opportunity cost….
By one estimate, America produces roughly 75,000 engineers per year. China graduates ten times that number, and India, close to a million. The Gathering Storm report states: ” In South Korea, 38% of all undergraduates receive their degrees in natural science or engineering. In France, the figure is 47%, in China, 50%, and in Singapore, 67%. In the United States, the corresponding figure is 15%.”
If the implications of that aren’t clear enough, I’ll let Intel Corporation spokesman Howard High spell it out for you: “We go where the smart people are. Now our business operations are two-thirds in the US and one-third overseas. But that ratio will flip over the next ten years.”
If that’s not depressing enough, here’s what we still do well:
Where America remains dominant is in venture capital. No one else comes close. But money alone can’t slow successful start-ups in Bangalore or stop South Korea’s broadband penetration leaving American for dead. “We’ve got five years,” Chambers said. Professor Laura Tyson, from UC Berkeley’s Haas Business and Public Policy Group, nodded repeatedly as he spoke. She said America urgently needs to improve the quality of math and science teaching in its public schools and invest more in R&D.
Oh, and we do this well too (italics mine):
….the US is still responsible for 34% of the world’s total R&D spending by both government and industry. That’s the good news for Americans. But for most of the 1990s it was 40%. China and Japan now account for 13% and growing. Kei Koizumi, who watches America’s R&D budgets for the AAAS, told me the 2008 budget, which still needs to be passed by Congress, continues that worrying trend, leaving the federal research portfolio 7.4% below the 2004 level. That’s quite a second term, Mr President. China and South Korea, by contrast, are increasing government research by 10% or more each year.
One interesting note from the AAAS data: the only reason the decline isn’t steeper is America’s increasing support for weapon systems development.
Decades from now our children and grandchildren are going to despise us for our stupidity. And I wouldn’t blame them.