To date, much of the focus has centered around green tech, which many believe has the potential to bring systemic growth similar to the Internet boom of the 1990s. This is indisputable. But a dividend government requires us to look at the issue in a slightly different manner, by considering what sector (or field) has the most potential to generate the jobs, growth and innovation necessary to compete and succeed over the next 25-50 years.

Nowhere is there a better value proposition for America than the biosciences.

All politics aside, health care is one of our nation’s fastest growing sectors and is expected to generate 3 million new jobs between 2006 and 2016 (more than any other sector). The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that four of the top 10 job categories projected to have the largest growth in the next decade are in health care. States such as California, Indiana, Michigan and North Carolina are making great strides in this arena.

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Yet, troubling signs lie ahead.  According to a 2006 analysis by the Association of American Universities, 15 percent of U.S. undergraduates pursue a degree in science or engineering, while the figure stands at 50 percent in China. A National Center for Education Statistics scorecard recently found that the average science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education assessment score for U.S. eighth graders is 520, compared with 530 in Russia, 553 in England and 561 in Japan.

Both Congress and the President must move forward by pursuing three equally important – and bipartisan – measures:

First, appreciate and embrace medical innovation as a double win.  It is a job creator – ranging from those in hard hats to lab coats and it can increase the precision of medical treatments thereby lowering cost. The most effective way to do this in the near-term is through a coordinated effort at the federal level that combines the best thinking of government, academic and business leaders. Jobs in health care and the biosciences, health and medicine, especially the skilled trades, provide critical support functions. Recent data also indicates that biopharmaceutical workers, in particular, contribute money to the overall GDP at a higher rate than the average worker. 

Second, view every policy decision through a lens of value and competitiveness. Historically-proven pro-growth policies like investment in STEM education at all levels is critical from both an economic and competitiveness perspective. With governors and mayors competing with foreign counterparts for manufacturing facilities and investment dollars, it’s essential that we do everything possible to attract and sustain innovative companies.

Third, expand public and private investments and collaborative partnerships in biomedical research and development. Eight of the 10 American recipients of the 2009 Nobel Prizes in Economic Sciences, Chemistry, Physics, and Physiology or Medicine, accomplished their achievement with the help of federal grants. Investments in basic research at the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation and other federal agencies are key. All stakeholders, especially private sector leaders and the patients who depend on life-saving treatments and therapies, have a critical role to play in this process.

For more than a century, the United States has been synonymous with medical discovery and achievement. Let’s have a new conversation that leads to job creation, lower health care costs, life-saving research and a competitive economy where America has the most to gain.  As a result, we can turn a divided government into a dividend government benefiting all Americans today and into the future.

Dick Gephardt, a Democrat and former Member of Congress from Missouri, served as U.S. House Majority Leader. Mike Leavitt, a Republican and former Governor of Utah served as Secretary of Health and Human Services during the second Bush administration. Both co-chair the Council for American Medical Innovation (CAMI).