June 9, 2021

Is The Bi-Partisan 'Innovation and Competition Act' Realistic?

Legislators on Capitol Hill are busy congratulating one another on an actual bi-partisan piece of legislation that passed the Senate: the 'Innovation and Competition Act'. The bill is aimed at boosting America's technological "footprint" in its obvious battle for tech dominance with the People's Republic of China. That's all well and good—but will throwing billions of research dollars at artificial intelligence, computer chips and robotics really do any good if our kids are woefully underprepared in STEM education?

The most recent data isn't good. On the 2018 tests administered by the Program for International Student Assessment, U.S. 15-year-olds ranked 18th in the world in science and 37th in math. In 2016, 40% of China's college graduates completed a degree in a STEM subject—more than twice the share in American colleges. So, who will be carrying out this 'technological revolution' fueled by hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars? Nobody on the Hill seems to be addressing this conundrum—even as millions of other non-tech jobs in the post-pandemic economy remain unfilled. 

One "feel-good" piece of legislation is not going to materially advance our technological struggle with China unless it's backed up with a huge push for more STEM education. If we really want to dominate the future of technology, we'll need more than congressional back-slapping.