Bye Bye Nerdy!

The Sacramento Union, June 18, 2008
San Francisco Business Times, June 13, 2008

Last week, the House Judiciary Committee considered a proposal by Silicon Valley Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, to end restrictions on the most critical resource driving technological innovation. This resource is human talent, and with the greatest public university system in the world, California should be fertile ground. Due to arbitrary and inflexible boundaries imposed by the federal government, however, California’s most innovative companies are forbidden from tapping into this abundant talent pool.

Despite a strong demand for skilled scientists and engineers in the technology sector, one out of three master’s recipients, and more than half of all Ph.D. students graduating from California’s research universities, cannot directly enter the workforce. Because these students come from abroad for a world-class education, federal authorities, not market conditions, dictate who can stay and who must return home. Through strict “talent caps” and a lottery process, Congress randomly sends away many of the state’s most highly-trained and valuable workers. Instead of trying to patch a flawed system, Zoe Lofgren’s bill eliminates “talent caps” altogether.

According to H.R. 6039, all master’s- and Ph.D.-level science and engineering graduates, regardless of nationality, will have an equal opportunity to enrich California’s economy based on the quality of their work. This bill will end the counterproductive process of training the world’s best and brightest students, only to encourage them to leave and compete against American interests. Such a scenario would be absurd for other resources.

As the budget deficit balloons past $17 billion, California cannot afford to risk losing nearly one million high-tech jobs generating more than $95 billion in taxable income. These jobs are created by entrepreneurs with the vision to turn new technologies into successful companies. Silicon Valley has thrived as a beacon of innovation attracting the world’s most talented visionaries.

By shutting the door on gifted young graduates, the federal government prevents them from training the next generation of technology leaders. If skilled students graduate with a diploma in one hand and a plane ticket in the other, America will forfeit its ability to create, invent, and compete on the global stage.

Daniel Ballon is a policy fellow in technology studies at the Pacific Research Institute.

Nothing contained in this blog is to be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of the Pacific Research Institute or as an attempt to thwart or aid the passage of any legislation.

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