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February 27, 2014

World Class No More?


In a connected, competitive world, innovation can happen almost anywhere. The only question is will it happen here?
For the U.S. to continue to be globally competitive we need a globally competitive tax and trade system, and immigration policies. The U.S. deserves a comprehensive immigration process that makes clear that innovation and immigrants are welcome here, a process that welcomes those brimming with ideas and an entrepreneurial spirit.  
The U.S. was, at one time, the most attractive destination in the world for those ready to create, innovate and grow an economy. For too long that position has been slipping. To reverse that trend we need a generally welcoming immigration policy that makes clear that America is still the land of the immigrant.
The ethos of the United States used to be that we welcomed even the most humble, not just the “best and brightest,” from around the world, believing that American exceptionalism and opportunity would elevate them to heights not imagined in their native country. A mere few decades later some are afraid to allow much of anyone into the country, believing that no matter how great they are they only impose a burden on the U.S. system.
There are those who argue strenuously for a globally competitive tax system that will attract financial capital, or a globally competitive system of trade which will do the same. Yet, some of those same voices engage in histrionics when it comes to building a world class immigration system that attracts human and intellectual capital to our shores. We must ignore those who stoke fear by doubting our country’s role in the world, and support those who understand our country’s ability to provide opportunity to those who come here. As new arrivals create and innovate, they grow our economy, our abilities, and our globally competitive position.
We must come to understand and enact policies that reflect that we are in a global market—that our policies are judged in total, not just narrowly tailored and arbitrarily capped programs for the especially skilled, by the global community as individuals decide where to place their fortunes. The U.S. ought to have policies that include a set of work visas that meet the needs of the modern economy, an enforcement system that is practical and “humane,” and a clear, certain path for the undocumented community, whatever their final disposition. To do otherwise threatens our ability to remain a worldwide leader of innovation and technological advance.
A recent news report highlights the ease of intellectual and financial capital moving to more attractive locations, “Nearly 3,000 Americans gave up their citizenship or permanent residency last year - an increase of 221 percent from 2012.”  Speculation is that most are doing so just to flee to a world class tax system.
Sadly, we have come so far from opening our door to the “poor,” “homeless, “wretched” and the “huddled masses” that now we are left to wonder if we are even going to invite in genius, productivity, and the globally competitive thinking. As Forrest Gump might have said, “Exceptionalism is as exceptionalism does.”


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