Democratic senatorial candidate Brian Moss believes the United States must invest in education or lose its ability to compete in the international marketplace.

"Our failure to invest in education has turned our greatest allies into our greatest economic enemies," Moss said this week during a Coffee and Politics session at the University of Utah's Hinckley Institute of Politics. "While the United States has been pouring billions into defense, Japan and European countries have been out-investing us in education."The West Germans and Japanese are beating our pants off."

And Moss believes his opponent, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, has "failed to protect education in Utah" while pursing his own federal agenda.

He criticized the two-term senator for "attempting to dismantle the Department of Education and voting against funding of Pell Grants and other assistance for needy college students."

"If we fail to make a strong commitment to quality public schools and colleges and universities that are both accessible and excellent, the future of our nation will be in jeopardy," he stressed.

Because Moss believes that Utah's economy is especially tied to the success of its colleges and universities, he took an early strong stand against the tax initiatives. He believes the three initiatives pose a great threat to an already deteriorating educational system.

"Even without the tax initiatives we are threatened severely. I understand the taxpayers of Utah feel they are taxed enough," he said. "I, as a taxpayer, don't want to pay any more taxes. It's a difficult problem to deal with because of the number of students we have."

Moss said he believes Utah's economy is "caught in a stranglehold of poverty from which it won't escape without a quality education system to attract industry." He said Utah's loss of Kodak and U.S. West are two examples.

The candidate, who listed quality education as his No. 1 priority, said there has been relief in the past in the form of assistance from the federal government.

"We used to spend 9 percent of the federal budget on education. We now spend 6 percent," he said. "And we wonder why our economy is evaporating away from us."