Obama: More Federal R&D Funding Needed to Ensure 'The Next Thomas Edison'

By Fred Lucas | June 14, 2012 | 5:32pm EDT

President Barack Obama. (AP Photo)

(CNSNews.com) – President Barack Obama told supporters at a campaign rally on Thursday that the federal government needs to fund more research to ensure “the next Thomas Edison, the next Wright brothers.”

"The private sector can’t do it alone, especially when it comes to basic research,” he added.

The campaign event was held at Cuyahoga Community College, in Cleveland, Ohio. The Buckeye state has been a major swing state in recent presidential elections and is expected to be critical in the race between Obama and his Republican opponent Mitt Romney, a former Massachusetts governor.

Romney is up by three points in the state, according to a poll by Purple Strategies, for the period that ended June 5. Romney also led Obama by two points in a Rasmussen poll, period ending May 29. Romney also campaigned in Ohio on Thursday.

Orville Wright flying a plane in 1908.

In Cleveland, Obama again vowed to revoke subsidies to oil companies and to “double down” on alternative energy subsidies. He also said the country must continue research and development funding to compete globally.

“With growing competition from countries like China and India, now is not the time for America to walk away from research and development,” Obama said. “Now is the time to invest, even more so, that the great innovations of this century take place in the United States of America -- so that the next Thomas Edison, the next Wright brothers, is happening here, in Ohio, or Michigan, or California.”

He said his plan would not just throw money at every project, but would selectively pick the best projects for government funding.

“My plan would make the R&D tax credit permanent, but the private sector can’t do it alone, especially when it comes to basic research,” Obama said. “It’s not always profitable in the short term. In the last century, research that we funded together, through our tax dollars, helped lay the foundation for the Internet, and GPS, and Google and the countless companies and jobs that followed. The private sector came in and created these incredible companies, but, we together, made the initial investment to make it possible.”

Still, Obama stressed during the speech that he did not believe government was the answer to everything, and that he supported a free enterprise system.

Thomas Edison. (Library of Congress.)

“Despite what you hear from my opponent, this has never been about a vision of how government creates jobs or has the answers to all our problems,” Obama said.

In August 2011, the conservative Heritage Foundation reported that Obama’s Energy Secretary Steven Chu said, “Of course, the Wright brothers invented [powered flight], but if it weren’t for military spending or allowing private companies to deliver the U.S. mail, no doubt airplanes would have faded away.”

The Heritage Foundation went on to point out, “There’s a curious fact of history that Chu leaves out. Harry P. Wolfe and John Semmens explain that before the Wright brothers’ famous flight (which they funded without government help), Dr. Samuel Langley of the Smithsonian Institution used a $70,000 U.S. government grant to create an airplane. What happened? It crashed into the Potomac River, the Wright brothers succeeded in their flight nine days later, and Langley laid much of the blame on ‘inadequate’ federal funding. So much for government’s ‘intimate role’ in technology.”

A May article in The Weekly Standard said, “Thomas Edison, on the other hand, gained his 1,000-plus patents without the help of a government bureaucracy. His first ‘patron,’ you might say, was the inventor Franklin Leonard Pope, who encouraged the young Edison and gave him a place to room and conduct research.”

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