President Obama’s economic agenda has been controversial, to put it mildly. Tea Partiers are marching on Washington to demand reduced government spending while meek and mile-mannered Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman criticizes the administrations stimulus as too small. Nobody seems to agree on what will create jobs and get the economy back on track.
Fortunately, the President has put forward an economic proposal that the whole country should be able to get behind. Its core component is expanding the research and development tax credit.
This move builds on the legacy of Ronald Reagan, who introduced the tax credit in 1982. However, the credit has always been temporary, requiring Congressional reauthorization roughly every two years since.
Obama’s proposal would allow companies to take a 17 percent deduction above 50 percent of R&D costs. That’s a significant increase over the previous 14 percent rate. And the credit would be made permanent, allowing businesses to make better long-term plans and invest in new research with confidence.
More to the point, the Obama tax credit addresses an urgent economic need. Today, the size of Americas Research and Development Tax Credit now ranks 17th among the 30 nations measured by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. A decade ago, our credit was the biggest in the world. Even France now has an R&D credit four times larger than ours.
We cant afford to lose our advantage in innovation. We must never allow the pundits to cry, "Who lost innovation?" Research and development are at the heart of Americas most vibrant industries. Case in point: The biopharmaceutical sector.
Biopharma innovation is usually noteworthy for saving lives. Three years after introducing the first antiretroviral treatments, AIDS deaths dropped 70 percent, and new pharmaceuticals are largely responsible for cutting cancer death rates in half .
Less well known are the tremendous economic benefits of the industry. Biopharma directly employs some 700,000 Americans and indirectly supports 3.2 million more jobs. The average biopharma salary in 2008 was $77,595. That’s $32,000 more than the average private-sector job.
From 1996 to 2006, the rate of job growth in biopharma was twice the national average. Even through the first year of the current recession, when overall private sector unemployment fell, the biopharmaceutical sector grew by 1.4 percent.
Globally, America dominates this rapidly-expanding, high-wage industry. In 2007, America had 2,700 new drugs under development,