Letter: Fiscal cliff would be harmful

cUT

Recently, the Bipartisan Policy Center held its annual summit at Tulane University. The summit is an opportunity to advance bipartisan solutions to the issues facing our country.

However, I couldn’t help but wonder if such bipartisan cooperation, at least at the federal level, was a bygone practice doomed to the dustbin of history.

Innovation, technological advancements, unparalleled competitiveness and the resulting economic prosperity were essential to making the United States the country it is today. But partisan politics in Washington, D.C., weakens our ability to retain these characteristics and threatens the future for generations to come. At the heart of this impasse is the inability of our leaders to agree on ways to reduce the federal deficit and manage our debt.

Failure to avert the pending fiscal cliff by Jan. 2, could start us down a potentially disastrous economic road. Instead of a judicious program of cutbacks, sequestration would force automatic, drastic reductions in discretionary spending across the federal government. These cuts would be counterproductive to our short- and long-term interests, thwarting our safety and security, our innovation and growth — the goals the United States must achieve to remain strong and competitive.

Since World War II, approximately half of the economic growth in the United States is attributed to innovation born out of scientific and technological discovery, much of which is done on university campuses. Reductions in federally funded research programs and financial aid will adversely impact the creation of new knowledge and the development of human capital.

At Tulane University, one of the largest private employers in Louisiana, our scientists and engineers have worked to develop treatments for cancer, diabetes, infertility and autoimmune disorders. We have developed materials used to clean up contaminated ground water, and have designed improved, environmentally safe dispersants to be used in the event of major oil spills anywhere in the world.

These projects, along with others at universities in Louisiana and across the country, have a profound impact on our country’s competitiveness and the quality of our lives. A continuing budget impasse jeopardizes this work and puts America’s entire future at risk.

Likewise, federal aid for students must remain a top priority for Congress and the president. All Americans, regardless of income, deserve the opportunity to attend college, to develop the skills necessary to succeed and to find meaningful and stable jobs.

While our nation’s long-term fiscal challenges require decisive action, such action cannot be at the expense of the innovation that has driven our nation’s economic success for generations.

Hopefully, Congress and the president will find balanced, bipartisan solutions to avoid the fiscal cliff. Adopting the collaborative approach advocated by the Bipartisan Policy Center would be a laudable and welcome start.

Scott S. Cowen,

president,

Tulane University

New Orleans