Out of this came the Internet, new materials technologies, and solar cells that helped propel the United States into space – and, not incidentally, seeded the commercial solar industry.
America’s high-tech companies have continued to depend on government indirectly – feeding off breakthroughs from America’s research universities, along with the engineers and scientists those universities train (think of Stanford and Silicon Valley). Much of this research and training is financed by the U.S. government.
Trump’s original budget would have slashed funding of the National Science Foundation and related research by nearly 30 percent. Fortunately, Congress didn’t go along.
Meanwhile, federal, state, and local governments in the United States spend over $2 trillion a year on goods and services, making them together the biggest purchasers in the world. Due to “buy American” laws, about 60 percent of the content they purchase must be made in America.
As Steven Greenhouse points out in April’s American Prospect, a few state and local governments are taking a page out of China’s book – luring foreign firms to the United States to make high-tech products that are good for the environment and good for American workers.
As one example, Los Angeles has contracted with BYD, a Chinese company that’s the world’s leading producer of zero-emissions electric buses, to make its buses in California.
BYD’s huge factory north of Los Angeles has already created six hundred well-paid unionized jobs and two hundred white collar jobs.
America has always had an industrial policy. The real question is whether it’s forward-looking (the Internet, solar, zero-emissions buses) or backwards (coal).
Trump wants a backwards industrial policy. That’s not surprising, given that everything else he and his administration are doing is designed to take us backwards.