The Center for American Progress has looked at some of the results of successful investments by the federal government. It is truly astounding.
Department of Energy labs: 1943–present
The optical digital recording technology behind all
music, video, and data storage; fluorescent lights; communications and
observation satellites; advanced batteries now used in electric cars;
modern water-purification techniques that make drinking water safe for
millions; supercomputers used by government, industry, and consumers
every day; more resilient passenger jets; better cancer therapies; and
the confirmation that it was an asteroid that killed the dinosaurs 65
million years ago.
National Science Foundation: 1950–present
Google, which was started by a couple of students working on a research
project supported by the National Science Foundation, is today worth an
estimated $250 billion and employs 54,000 people. This alone would pay
for nearly all the program’s costs reaching back to its inception, but
funding has also been instrumental in the development of new
technologies and companies in nearly every major industry, including
advanced electronics, computing, digital communications, environmental
resource management, lasers, advanced manufacturing, clean energy,
nanotechnology, biotechnology, and higher education.
Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA: 1958–present
The team that would go on to pioneer technologies that brought us the Internet, the Global Positioning System, and Siri.
The Apollo Space Program: 1961–1969
Massive technological advancement and the start of huge opportunities
for technology transfer, leading to more than 1,500 successful spinoffs
related to areas as disparate as heart monitors, solar panels, and
cordless innovation. More recently, we’ve seen a fledgling
private-sector American space industry with real growth potential, which
in 2012 completed its first cargo delivery to the international space
Human Genome Project: 1988–2003
Critical tools to help identify, treat, and prevent causes of
disease—and huge opportunities for the high-growth American
biotechnology industry, which accounts for more than three-quarters of
$1 trillion in economic output, or 5.4 percent of GDP, in 2010, and now
depends heavily on these advances in genetics.