Today is a day of pomp and circumstance as the new 114th Congress convenes to be sworn into office. As these members from different regions and political persuasions attempt to make good on their campaign pledges to grow our economy, we remind them that when it comes to growing the economy and creating jobs, tech’s agenda is really America’s agenda for success.
The tech industry is one of our nation’s largest and fastest-growing employers, contributing $650 billion to the economy. Even during the worst months of the recession that began in 2008, the tech sector grew U.S. job creation by 6.8 percent.
The technology we use to live, work, and play is a big part of our economic rejuvenation and is also changing the world for good—in every meaning of that word. As Congress begins to pursue what we all hope will be an energetic legislative agenda in its first 100 days, there are three achievable initiatives within reach that have already been crafted, debated, and enjoy bipartisan and broad public support:
1. Cracking Down on Patent Trolls: Out-of-control lawsuits now in the tens of billions of dollars by ‘patent trolls’ are a serious drain on innovation and drive up the costs for consumers. A strong bill to put the brakes on patent trolls made its way through the House last year with robust bipartisan support and appeared poised to pass the Senate with similar backing. A similar bipartisan bill could easily be revived for a speedy vote in this Congress—and that would be a win for small and large businesses alike.
2. Turbo-Charging U.S. Trade: U.S. trade supports an astounding 11.3 million jobs, with 1.6 million new jobs created since 2009, but a number of trade initiatives that could help open new markets to sell our goods overseas have been stuck on Congress’ “to-do list.” The 2014 elections saw both the president and incoming congressional leaders identify Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) as fertile common ground on which to work together and we encourage lawmakers to seize this opportunity to pass TPA to help American businesses sell their goods overseas and create new jobs here at home.
3. Rebuilding Trust through Surveillance Reform: The Senate’s decision not to vote on key surveillance reforms was really an act in ‘kicking the can down the road’ because many of the Patriot Act provisions that authorize controversial surveillance programs are set to expire this year. The USA Freedom Act can restore the public's trust in online services and ensure the open and borderless Internet on which our innovation economy depends. Without it, the tech sector will continue to feel significant economic impacts with commercial losses in the billions that equate to lost American jobs.
By building on the groundwork laid last year, we have the opportunity to build momentum in new areas that will also boost the economy. For example, in the upcoming transportation bill, Congress has an opportunity to go beyond just rehashing old policies from the last few decades by crafting legislation that lays out an intelligent transportation vision for the 21st century. (More on intelligent transportation later.)
With this new Congress comes a new window of opportunity: to pivot from stagnation and conflict to innovation and jobs by halting patent trolls, boosting trade, and renewing the public’s trust in online services. For now, we will wait to see if lawmakers go three for three on America’s agenda for success.