By Josh Knauer
The Global Positioning System we access from our phones, computers and cars was developed and is still operated by the Department of Defense, which does not charge user fees.
My company, Rhiza Labs, was recently named one of Pittsburgh’s 10 fastest-growing tech companies. We make easy-to-use tools for collecting, analyzing and sharing data online. My business has directly benefited from the tax dollars that went into the research that created Internet technologies long before Rhiza was established. Like many businesses, we’ve had customers from both the public and private sector — from AT&T and Comcast to Pittsburgh Public Schools and the United Way.
We need to invest more in basic research to plant the seeds for the next inventions that will change our lives in ways we can’t presently imagine. We need to invest in science and math education so our children have the tools to become the engineers, entrepreneurs and job creators of the next generation. U.S. students used to lead the world in these important subjects, but continuing budget cutbacks and teacher layoffs have left us falling behind our international competitors.
Unfortunately, we’ve been laying off people in very important jobs such as public safety and education while letting our roads, bridges and schools fall apart to help pay for a decade’s worth of tax cuts for our nation’s most affluent households. To justify continuing this harmful policy, tax-cut defenders claim that letting the Bush-era tax cuts expire for those with incomes above $250,000 would hurt our nation’s small businesses. That’s ridiculous.
Contrary to what tax cut defenders claim, job creation is driven by customer demand, not taxes. Businesses don’t pay taxes on their total revenues; they pay taxes on their income after deducting expenses like the cost of hiring and paying employees.
My business is based in Pittsburgh, which would be in disastrous shape today if its leaders hadn’t responded to the decline of the steel industry with bold initiatives to reinvest tax dollars in the region. Pittsburgh is a success story in reinventing itself from a steel town to one that has successfully nurtured technology-based businesses, like mine. Moreover, technology, much of it rooted in taxpayer-financed research, has allowed Pittsburgh to enhance the life of its residents by reducing air and water pollution.
Josh Knauer is president and CEO of Rhiza Labs, a Pittsburgh-based software company (www.rhiza.com).