Our Nation’s Keys to Success
Politics is not a subject I love to debate, but unfortunately politics has a significant impact on economics, which I do care about dearly. I’m no expert on the politics of New York City’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg, but in reflecting on the past decade he highlights a few key areas of focus needed to advance our great nation:
“There are two things that we did not work on and, in fact, have gone the wrong direction during the last decade, which will dictate the economy for the next decade, and that’s immigration and education.”
I couldn’t agree more. With regard to the country’s stimulus program, we hear so much about shovel-ready projects and infrastructure spending. Rather than centering on the immediate gratification of low-paying job creation and building bridges to nowhere, more resources should be invested in education and recruitment of leading edge human capital. Without a competitive and educated workforce, high-paying 21st Century jobs of the future will be lost and outsourced to global challengers.
Bloomberg emphasizes this point by stating:
“Unless we give our young people the kind of education to compete in the global world, we cannot survive.”
Sure, education is a longer-term investment with no immediate pay-off, but in order to become (remain) competitive with other hungry nations, we need to improve our high school education system, which Microsoft Founder and Chairman Bill Gates calls “obsolete”.
I agree with Mayor Bloomberg that the isolationist immigration pendulum has swung too far in the paranoid direction. The recent airline bombing attempt by Yemeni Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab only fans the flames of fear more intensely. However, in order to attract the best and brightest, we need to relax immigration policies – at least loosen policies as they pertain to educated, law-abiding citizens who can assist our dynamic growing economy. I have no problems with “cherry-picking” immigrants. The foundation of capitalism is based on attracting and retaining the best cherries. Bloomberg notes the following:
“And immigration, we’re committing what I call national suicide. Somehow or other, after 9/11 we went from reaching out and trying to get the best and the brightest to come here, to trying to keep them out. In fact, we do the stupidest thing, we give them educations and then don’t give them green cards.”
If fear of job loss is scaring us from letting foreigners in our country, then we need ask ourselves who will pay for our massive debts, deficits and entitlements (i.e., Social Security and Medicare)? Aging demographics is a huge headwind we face (see demographics article) and a quick glance across the Pacific Ocean to our Japanese allies is proof enough of how destructive the graying of society can become.
Also, many ask the question, “Why should we give American jobs to foreigners?” The reality of the situation is we need a competitve work-force to create a competitive country, which can create more sustainable jobs. How many jobs (and tax-dollars) do you think Google co-founder Sergey Brin (Russian-born) has created for American workers? Or Intel’s former CEO Andy Grove (Hungarian-born); Yahoo’s co-founder Jerry Yang (Taiwanese-born); and Sun Microsystem’s co-founders Vinod Khosla (Indian-born) and Andreas von Bechtolsheim (German-born)? More than a few.
In his Meet the Press Interview, Bloomberg weaves in another issue dragging down the economy – our dependence on foreign oil. Importing more than 2/3 of our oil from foreign nations, many of which harbor or sponsor U.S.-hating terrorists, is not a prudent long-term strategy when it involves such a critical and strategic resource.
“We’ve got to get, somehow or other, energy independence. And so regardless of whether you’re a greenie or not, the bottom line is we cannot keep funding our enemies,” Bloomberg adds.
As the saying goes, the three most important political issues for re-election are: 1) the economy; 2) the economy; and 3) the economy. Unfortunately, short-term sugar-high stimulus spending may help the economy in the short-run but can wear off quickly if not implemented properly. On the other hand, three key strategic areas of investment will lead to sustainable economic expansion, including education, immigration, and energy independence. With new bitter mid-term Congressional elections waiting for us in 2010, let’s hope the candidates take a lead from Mayor Michael Bloomberg by building on his ideas for a firmer economic foundation in the decade to come.
Wade W. Slome, CFA, CFP®
Plan. Invest. Prosper.
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