Thomas Friedman of the New York Times has written a provocative opinion piece on how the United States should be using the current economic downturn to build the foundation for the next great wave of innovation and prosperity. Key to Friedman’s argument is more funding for basic research, the importance of research universities such as the UW, and using this time to attract highly skilled foreign workers. Here’s an excerpt (note that the “Barrett” he refers to is former Intel CEO Craig Barrett):
We should be taking advantage. Now is when we should be stapling a green card to the diploma of any foreign student who earns an advanced degree at any U.S. university, and we should be ending all H-1B visa restrictions on knowledge workers who want to come here. They would invent many more jobs than they would supplant. The world’s best brains are on sale. Let’s buy more!
Barrett argues that we should also use this crisis to: 1) require every state to benchmark their education standards against the best in the world, not the state next door; 2) double the budgets for basic scientific research at the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy and the National Institute of Standards and Technology; 3) lower the corporate tax rate; 4) revamp Sarbanes-Oxley so that it is easier to start a small business; 5) find a cost-effective way to extend health care to every American.
We need to do all we can now to get more brains connected to more capital to spawn more new companies faster. As Jeff Immelt, the chief of General Electric, put it in a speech on Friday, this moment is “an opportunity to turn financial adversity into national advantage, to launch innovations of lasting value to our country
Also, last session lawmakers passed a bill allowing foreign professional workers in the state on the H-1B visa mentioned in Friedman’s article to receive in-state tuition rates.
Expect this discussion to become even more prominent in coming months.