(Graph: Mike Mandel)

Daniel Altman thinks we need a new Sputnik moment:

Korea’s National Research Foundation spends $55 per person, compared with $22 for the U.S. National Science Foundation, even after recent budget increases. The U.S. economy produces fewer patents per dollar of GDP than Korea, Japan, and China. The unfortunate fact that millions of Americans — and even some top politicians — reject scientific evidence for evolution and global warming doesn’t help, either. Right now, federal funding for science as a share of the economy is back where it was in the 1950s. Another big boost would be a powerful signal of the economy’s potential for future growth.

Fred Kaplan, however, argues that the Sputnik mobilization “would be almost impossible to duplicate today.” The White House seems to agree. As the graph atop this post shows, though Obama’s State of the Union declared that “this is our generation’s Sputnik moment,” his budget request didn’t dare ask for funding on the scale of the original.