Government and job creation

By
  • Rolf Westgard, guest lecturer on energy topics, University’s Lifelong Learning program
November 08, 2012

During the second presidential debate, Gov. Mitt Romney interrupted President Barack Obama to say, “Government does not create jobs.”

One response from Obama could have been, “But it does, Governor, millions of them, including the one you recently held in Massachusetts.” Almost everyone knows, or is related to, at least one of the more than 20 million Americans employed in public education, state and local government, federal agencies, etc. The multiplier effect as those employees buy things creates additional private sector jobs.

But perhaps more important than direct government employment is the role that government-funded research has played in supporting the growth of many of our major industries, including computers, aircraft, the Internet, nuclear power, nanotechnology, renewable energy, pharmaceuticals, etc. It was the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, not Al Gore, which spawned the Internet.

Much of that funded research occurs at universities, such as the University of Minnesota, where $51.3 million in state bonding funds are building a new physics and nanotechnology building. This will support $30 million annually that the University receives in federal research grants, which have the potential to create new businesses and jobs.

Government is not the problem that one former president suggested. It is an important partner to American industry as we compete in an increasingly high-technology world.

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