The problem is compounded by the drive to reduce health care costs, including via the Affordable Care Act, that are curtailing federal and state money going to teaching hospitals, which are the incubators for much medical research. Combined with the intense pressures on universities to curtail burgeoning college and graduate school tuition, this will reduce the numbers of medical researchers, and debase the opportunities for those who enter the field.
Now throw in the perverse American policies toward immigration, which has taken generations of scientists and engineers from places including India and China and made it difficult for many to come to the United States to study or to stay to hold jobs. Some who are here find that they cannot go back home for weddings or funerals without risking being blocked from re-entering the country.
Countries such as Singapore, Taiwan and China have noticed the changes in the United States and are seizing the opportunity — offering rich incentives, including state-of-the-art labs, generous research grants and major support to our top scientists and biomedical researchers to relocate there — and are moving to fill the void created by our visa roadblocks. Universities in places such as Australia and Germany have moved aggressively to recruit top students from Asia and elsewhere who used to turn only to Harvard, MIT, Yale and Stanford for higher education.
American culture and our emphasis on freedom and creativity remain a huge advantage for us in global competition. But that advantage is not guaranteed in perpetuity. Policies matter. If our tribal politics that is driving penny-wise, pound-foolish is not countered by more sensible allocation of resources with a special and generous focus on investing in the future, we will pay a heavy price.
Norman Ornstein is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.