Why is math research important?

Cathy O’Neil:

As I’ve already described, I’m worried about the oncoming MOOC revolution and its effect on math research. To say it plainly, I think there will be major cuts in professional math jobs starting very soon, and I’ve even started to discourage young people from their plans to become math professors.
I’d like to start up a conversation – with the public, but starting in the mathematical community – about mathematics research funding and why it’s important.
I’d like to argue for math research as a public good which deserves to be publicly funded. But although I’m sure that we need to make that case, the more I think about it the less sure I am how to make that case. I’d like your help.
So remember, we’re making the case that continuing math research is a good idea for our society, and we should put up some money towards it, even though we have competing needs to fund other stuff too.
So it’s not enough to talk about how arithmetic helps people balance their checkbooks, say, since arithmetic is already widely known and not a topic of research.