Sunday, March 14, 2010

Bring Back the Office of Technology Assessment!

Again from Fallows' article in The Atlantic:
In 1972, Congress created an Office of Technology Assessment as a source of nonpartisan expertise on scientific and technical questions, ranging from the utility of early anti‑ AIDS treatments to the practicality of alternative fuels for cars. The model was hailed and imitated internationally; here, it helped inspire the creation of the Congressional Budget Office two years later. The CBO remains, but in 1995 Newt Gingrich, in one of his early acts as speaker of the House, led a movement to abolish the OTA, as a symbolic strike against government waste. Its annual budget at the time was $22 million—less than a dime per U.S. citizen, or 20 minutes’ worth of financial-bailout spending early last year. “We are willfully making ourselves stupid,” Ralph Nader said about the absent OTA. He has urged the current Democratic congressional majority to reinstate it. But, he says, “they are so afraid of attacks for supporting ‘big government,’ they won’t dare.”
I actually participated in one of the assessments done by OTA before it was murdered by the Republican Congress and I can attest it did important work very efficiently. It is time to reestablish that function, and probably to do so in an advisory function to the legislative branch.

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