Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Immigration, Science, and Your Economy

...three topics that I wish Americans understood how closely they were linked. Here we have foreign students in science research leaving the U.S. because of visa issues. It's baffling that our own economic self-interest isn't front-and-center when the immigration debate comes up. We're not running a charity. We should make it easiest for wealth-creating science and engineering and business people to enter the country; instead we have certain industries that want cheap labor, and so whenever the GOP tries to stop illegal immigration, it's silenced by special interests.

Meanwhile America's top universities are, losing graduates overseas faster than ever before - especially back to China.

The blunt way to put it is this. Twenty-first century economies rely either on scientists and engineers - or selling charming ethnic trinkets to tourists from countries with scientists and engineers. I don't relish the thought of my children selling Oakland Raiders T-shirts to Chinese college kids on spring break. Apparently our politicians don't agree: here we have state legislatures actually introducing legislation to lower science standards. Are conservatives paying attention? Is anybody? We're not on the ball, and in some cutting-edge industries, there's already been noticeable ground lost.

Pretty soon we'll be right up there with those scientific and economic powerhouses like Malaysia and the Middle East (except without even the oil money). If we want to be the dominant world economy in the twenty-first century, we have to encourage the right immigration and support the right economic activity - which means solid education, and attracting the best and brightest, as we have until now. Politicians that talk about long-term economic growth without backing up their words with these values are doing worse than lip service to America's future.

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