With President Barack Obama wrapping up the Democratic National Convention, it’s appropriate to look back on his first 3+ years in the White House and examine his record on those tech issues we have identified as vital to creating jobs in the tech sector. At first glance, the Administration’s work has been admirable and should be recognized for taking many steps in the right direction.
In just over three years, he finalized trade agreements with South Korea, Panama, and Colombia, and expects to sign into law soon legislation that will establish permanent normal trade relations with Russia. These important initiatives will provide American exporters increased access to important foreign markets. He has sought to combat and reduce the skills gap in our science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) workforce through initiatives like Educate to Innovate and Change the Equation. He’s invested in smart grid technologies, and funded the Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy to help create energy jobs and energy security. He’s also affirmed his commitment to an open and free Internet, allowing people all over the world to benefit from continued access to life’s most transformative product.
Unfortunately, there are still many “incompletes,” leaving many job creators in the sector pressing for more action.
The wheels of change are slow, and for myriad reasons, the Administration has been unable to reach a consensus with Congress on other workforce challenges. Too often, we educate foreign-born students at some of the world’s best, most innovative universities right here in the United States, only to force them to leave the country because of outdated barriers in our immigration system. We need to keep these bright, job creating minds here. By not making the policy changes needed to encourage these young, aspiring innovators and entrepreneurs to remain in the U.S., we’re literally subsidizing the development of a skilled workforce for our foreign competitors. Steve Case, AOL’s founder, correctly pointed out that our government “doesn’t train Chinese military and send them home, it shouldn’t train PhDs and send them home.”
Similarly, the Administration should look for common ground on the President’s call for a Master Teacher Corps. Unveiled earlier this summer, the initiative faces an uphill climb in Congress, thanks in large part to its price tag, but that doesn’t mean the President and Congressional leaders should avoid seeking a bipartisan solution.
To no one’s surprise, the issue of taxes, like immigration, draws the ire of just about everyone across the country. Yet, there are areas of tax reform that have bipartisan support. As such, the Administration should continue to look for a consensus with Congress on tax reform that will drive U.S.-based innovation. We’ve been clear in calling for simple fixes, like lowering the corporate tax rate, making the research and development (R&D) tax credit permanent, and shifting to a market-based competitive tax system. These steps would provide certainty for innovators and companies, allowing them to further their research, and in the instance of the market-based tax system, allow them to bring their foreign-earned revenues back to the United States to reinvest. The Administration has been on record in support of a reduced corporate tax rate and a permanent R&D tax credit, but has been at best ambivalent to a market-based competitive tax system. We believe these three components are the foundation of a more competitive tax system that will spur global investment in the U.S. economy.
Finally, the Administration and Congress need to find a cybersecurity solution. In 2012, the Internet is everything. It’s an infrastructure that acts as the country’s virtual information arteries; it’s how we shop, how we socialize, and how we remain on the cutting edge of innovation and productivity. In failing to modernize the nation’s cybersecurity defenses, we’re leaving the door open for bad actors to virtually walk into our companies and living rooms, and do as they please.
To be sure, President Obama’s achievements are very real and have helped to advance innovation. Innovation is the lifeblood of the 21st century global marketplace. It is a job creator and grows the economy. But make no mistake, there are additional accomplishments to be made that can cement a robust innovative and competitive spirit in the United States.