Just Like Sputnik

The United States needs more college graduates, President Obama emphasized Monday in a speech he gave at North Carolina’s Forsyth Technical Community College. That’s because the country is facing a “Sputnik moment,” Obama said:

Our generation’s Sputnik moment is back. This is our moment. If the recession has taught us anything, it’s that we cannot go back to an economy that’s driven by too much spending, too much borrowing, running up credit cards, taking out a lot of home equity loans, paper profits that are built on financial speculation. We’ve got to rebuild on a new and stronger foundation for economic growth.

Yea, about that strong foundation, how about some Sputnik-level money?

The launch of the Soviet satellite Sputnik on October 4, 1957 sacred Americans to devote vast resources to America’s public schools and colleges. Specifically, this led the country to increase funding for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) classes at colleges and universities, not to mention build all of those new public schools.

In his speech Obama did talk about how his ideas would require massive changes and “scour[ing] the budget for cuts and savings in the months ahead.” But that simply won’t provide the money for reforms equivalent those imposed in the aftermath of Sputnik.

In 1957 the top marginal tax rate was 91 percent. On Monday President Obama cut a deal with Congressional Republicans to extend the Bush tax cuts for another two years. This deal keeps the top marginal tax rate at 35 percent.

This is our moment?

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer