Morning Edition Spreads Nonsense on Investment and Innovation

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Wednesday, 13 July 2011 04:15

Morning Edition spread a bit of nonsense this morning in a segment on innovation. It told listeners that firms are not investing much right now, which it attributed to uncertainty. It's not clear what metric it is using, but investment in equipment and software as a share of GDP is almost back to its pre-recession peak. Given that many sectors on the economy are still operating far below full capacity, this is a fairly high level of investment.

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Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis.

The segment also included the unsupported assertion that Americans used to be the most innovative people in the world, but this is no longer true. It does not give its measure of innovation. The United States trailed most other wealthy countries in productivity growth in the years prior to 1995. Since then, productivity growth has been somewhat more rapid in the U.S. than in other countries, but this reverses the pattern identified in the story. Other countries have more small businesses and self-employed people relative to the size of their workforce, at least in part because they have national health insurance. (Entrepreneurs know that they will still have health care even if their business fails.) It is not clear what measure produces the pattern of innovation described in the segment.