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A future for the U.S. economy

To the Editors:

We’re nearly three years into the recession – and our economy still shows few signs of life. The Department of Labor just announced that the country shed 131,000 jobs in July. Unemployment now stands at 9.5 percent.

It’s not surprising that Democrats and Republicans agree that something must be done – soon – to stem the loss of jobs. Neither side, though, has offered a creative or comprehensive jobs strategy to turn the economy around. There is one strategy that could create jobs and generate support from both sides of the aisle: biotech innovation.

“Over the long run, few issues are as important to a nation’s long-term economic security and global standing as being a leader in moving life sciences forward,” says Lawrence Summers, director of the White House’s National Economic Council.

He’s right. Innovation in biotechnology is the engine that could get our economy back on track. Yet neither party has forcefully championed this idea, even though it’s one of the few ideas that would elicit bipartisan support.

Enacting policies that will help this industry thrive is a painless way to create the jobs Americans desperately need. It’s also a strategy on which lawmakers on both sides of the aisle can cooperate.

Biotechnology is racing along while the rest of the economy sputters. During the first year of the current recession, private-sector employment decreased by 0.7 percent. Employment in the biosciences, however, increased by 1.4 percent.

It’s not just PhDs who are finding jobs in the industry. Research, testing and medicals labs employed 2.1 percent more people in that time. The medical devices and equipment sector increased its workforce by 2.4 percent. The area of agricultural feedstock and chemicals did even better – employment increased there by 4.6 percent from 2007-08.

All told, the biotechnology industry employs more than 700,000 Americans. These aren’t just scientists – the industry depends on administrative assistants, business managers, computer professionals, groundskeepers and engineers. Even better, the industry creates a powerful ripple effect. Biotech firms utilize construction workers, accountants, IT workers, day-care operators and others.

These people are transforming the world. The cutting-edge medicines that the sector develops are making our lives better and longer – pharmaceuticals have reduced heart attack mortality by more than half. Agricultural biotech is increasing crop yields, bringing down food costs and reducing disease. These technologies help millions across the world.

So what can lawmakers do to foster innovation?

First, Congress could make the R&D tax credit permanent. This provision was included in the President’s budget last year but didn’t make it through. This is something on which Democrats and Republicans see eye-to-eye – politicians from both parties have voted regularly to extend the temporary tax. Making it permanent would provide a long-term incentive for investors to put more money into the sector. An already-growing industry could explode.

Lawmakers should also enact a payroll tax holiday. This would encourage private-sector employers in the biotech community to make new hires and retain current employees.

Long term, we must ensure the industry can fill the jobs thus created. We need to foster the next generation of scientific researchers – perhaps the ones who will discover a cure for cancer – by improving math and science education in our nation’s schools.

The National Center for Education Statistics compared 15-year-olds around the world last year and discovered that American students were below average in math and science. Students in other countries are improving their performance in these crucial subjects, while ours simply stay steady. American high school students are in the bottom quarter in math, trailing the rising Chinese.

In future years, our country’s thriving industry of innovation could find itself increasingly competing for investment dollars headed to Asia. Between 1986-2003, the U.S. share of global R&D investment declined from 46 percent to 37 percent. Even more striking, our share of scientific researchers fell from 41 percent to just 29 percent. We must stay competitive in the arena we’ve dominated up to now.

Biotechnology is the future of the American economy. Other industries are innovating, too, of course. But biotech is a rare bright spot in this gloomy recession. Passing consensus-driven, bipartisan policies to boost what might be our fastest growing sector will create jobs and save lives.  

– Douglas E. Schoen, via e-mail

A visit to Lake Switchorse

Dear Editors,

I was so excited when the new County Road 210 (replacement for CR 211 ) was opened last Thursday. My daughter and I drove it on our way to the goings-on at the motorcycle rally in Ignacio. Anna said, “Wow Dad, that is so beautiful,” and I said “Yeah, it really is beautiful.” She asked what is the name of that lake again? (Anna lives in California.) I told her it is Switchhorse Lake or Lake Switchhorse.

She said what a funny name, so I told her about the once dignified Democratic senator from Colorado who helped obtain funding for the lake above the protests of many of the good people living in La Plata County and SW Colorado. But she said, “You told me he was Ben Nighthorse Campbell.”

I said, “Yep, that’s what he calls himself, and he was proud to have the lake named after him.” But this once proud Democrat switched party affiliation a number of years back, and as far as I know he still calls himself a Republican.

Well us old Democrats were not happy with the U.S. senator we helped elect to his powerful office, and when he pulled the switcheroo – well, now you know why we call this beautiful lake Switchhorse Lake. She said, “Dad, you taught me to never trust anyone  over 30 and now I am over 30, who can you trust?”

I said, “Yourself darlin’ - trust yourself and a few close friends.”

– Mac Musick, Hesperus


Careless in the courtroom

Dear Editors,

This November, I urge all voters of the 6th Judicial District to vote against the retention of District Judge Jeff Wilson.

It is one thing to lose in court because the judge has ruled that the facts and law are not in your favor. It is an entirely different affair when the judge either ignores the law, doesn’t bother to read it, or makes it up as he goes. That is what appears to have happened with Judge Wilson in my case before him regarding the Colorado Open Meetings Law. Judge Wilson decided the case, in part, because “Durango is small in both area and population” and  “ … because of the small population of Durango, the number and complexity of public meetings is not the same as would be the case if Durango had a population similar to those cities on the Front Range (sic).”

The Colorado Open Meetings Law fails to distinguish between cities large and small. In fact, the only difference in the application of the law is between “State Public Bodies” and “Local Public Bodies.” The standard for all “Local Public Bodies” is the same regardless if they are the City of Denver or the smallest mosquito district in the state.

That is only the beginning of the errors he made in one single case. If you think this is simply sour grapes, I would draw your attention to another case Judge Wilson had that the Colorado Appeals Court had to clean up for him. In the case Thomson v Thorton, Judge Wilson granted “exemplary and emotional damages” in a breach-of-contract case. If you don’t know what that means, consult an attorney. Because that is a mistake no law student, let alone a judge, should ever make. Judge Wilson either did not know the law. Or worse, didn’t care.

Residents of our Judicial District should demand the highest standard of our judges. And Judge Jeffrey Wilson should not be retained because he fails to meet that standard.

– Michael Black, Durango


Better not to be free?

To the Editors,These asset price histories, “Real Homes, Real Dow” at http://homepage.mac.com/ttsmyf/RHandRD.html , are fairly said to be dominated by Serial Herd Behavior. But they are kept little apparent to the people, which in appearance I find absolutely unbelievable in our free press/free markets/free USA – except for the fact that it has happened. I ask if this brainwashed reality is significantly attributable to freedom – the perception of which makes us less watchful/suspicious, and more easily suckered/fooled on this massive scale.

– Ed Hamilton, Durango


Vote for a bridge-builder

To the Editors:

This year’s election is shaping up to be one of dramatic differences between candidates, and in the Colorado House of Representatives District 59 race, voters have two very different options. The best choice for Southwest Colorado – and the state as a whole – is Brian O’Donnell. From a common-sense, bridge-building perspective, O’Donnell recognizes both the challenges our region and state face as well as the realistic means by which to meet those challenges. He is committed to improving in and investing in education, ensuring proper and adequate health care for our rural communities, building the local economy by growing the job opportunities here, and protecting the air, water and lands that make our corner of the state such a great place to live and visit.

O’Donnell’s personal commitment to these issues comes from his love of our community. His efforts on our behalf will represent what we all care about in Southwest Colorado. Elect Brian O’Donnell to the State Legislature. The 59th District stands much to gain by doing so.

– Megan Graham, Durango



In this week's issue...

January 25, 2024
Bagging it

State plastic bag ban is in full effect, but enforcement varies

January 26, 2024
Paper chase

The Sneer is back – and no we’re not talking about Billy Idol’s comeback tour.

January 11, 2024
High and dry

New state climate report projects continued warming, declining streamflows