Global Politics

Author argues politicians have wrong focus; America needs to cultivate, retain talent

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Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney shakes hands with President Barack Obama as mediator Jim Lahrer gets up at the end of the first 2012 U.S. presidential debate in Denver on Oct. 3, 2012. (Photo by Michael Reynolds/Reuters.)

During the presidential debates both President Barack Obama and Republican candidate Mitt Romney have spoken about global competitiveness and America's resurgence in producing goods.

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But Vivek Wadhwa says it will take more than manufacturing jobs to keep pace with China — and that the candidates' political focus is misplaced.

Wadhwa, the author of "The Immigrant Exodus: Why America is Losing the Global Race to Capture Entrepreneurial Talent," says instead of simply developing our industries, the U.S. should be developing its people by providing more opportunities for education. And by encouraging would-be immigrants who want to innovate to bring their ideas to the U.S.

"What people don't realize is that we're on the verge of a major technological era of breakthroughs," Wadha said, referencing advancements in robotics and artificial intelligence. "It's very conceivable that by the end of this decade, manufacturing will come back to the U.S. like never before, because it's cheaper to manufacture here."

The problem is, we need the best and brightest people in order to accomplish this. And Wadha says, we're educating them, and sending them away. 

"We bring them here, to our best universities," he said. "And then we say, look, sorry, we don't have enough visas for you. Go back and compete with us."

Though both presidential candidates have alluded to this issue during their campaigns, talking about the problems is not the same as solving them.

"They both agree on the need for skilled immigrants, they say exactly the same things, but when it comes time to agreeing and passing legislation, they start fighting like spoiled brats," Wadha said. "We could be using this force to improve our innovation, to improve our economy, to start tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of new companies here — which would now change the face of America again."

The first step, he says, is simply to expand the number of visas that are available — to at least double or triple the number that are currently issued.

"The problem fixes itself. Right now, people want to come to America," he said. "(Entrepreneurs) want to come here, we're just not letting them. It's that simple."

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