Congress can ensure U.S. remains world’s most entrepreneurial nation

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In late January, President Obama unveiled the Startup America Legislative Agenda - a proposal detailing plans outlined by the President back in September, along with many of the components introduced Tuesday such as lowering taxes on investors who make long-term investments in small businesses, eliminating the per-country caps on green cards so that the most highly-skilled immigrants in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math can stay here and start companies here, and expanding the Small Business Investment Company.  The package unveiled by the White House builds on the work of the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, a bipartisan group that presented a series of recommendations to improve the environment for entrepreneurs in the United States.

In December, Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), and Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), teamed up to introduce the Startup Act. A few weeks earlier, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), and Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), teamed up to introduce the AGREE Act. Both bills can help entrepreneurs by cutting taxes for start-ups and investors, amending Sarbanes-Oxley to encourage more IPOs, and addressing our high-skilled immigration system, among other reforms.

So why, as the 2012 election cycle kicks into gear and the political atmosphere intensifies, are President Obama, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, many other Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate, and entrepreneurs from across the country, all coalescing around pro-entrepreneurship proposals? 

Because the message is spreading and Washington is starting to listen: start-ups have created 40 million American jobs in the past three decades – all the net-new jobs produced during that time period. When it comes to innovating, pioneering new industries, competing in an interdependent economy, and creating economic opportunity, we rely disproportionately not on large Fortune 500 corporations or small businesses on Main Street, but on young, fast-growing entrepreneurial businesses like Facebook, Chipotle and UnderArmour.

Unfortunately, startups have declined 23 percent since 2007, costing our economy an estimated 2 million jobs. IPOs from fast growing companies have declined as well; now just 20 percent of IPOs are $50 million or less, versus 80 percent in the 1990s. And we’re starting to lose the global battle for talent. The immigrant entrepreneurs and engineers that have been responsible for nearly half of U.S. startups are now starting companies in other countries – in part because our antiquated immigration policy doesn’t enable them to stay and start companies here.  

Perhaps most troubling, other countries have figured out that entrepreneurship has been the “secret sauce” driving America’s innovation economy, and they are are rapidly improving their own entrepreneurial ecosystems. This, in turn, has attracted talent and capital – indeed some venture capitalists that a decade ago limited their investments to the United States now have more resources devoted to other countries. The genie may be out of the bottle on much of our manufacturing base losing ground due to globalization, but there’s still time to act to ensure that the same downturn is not replicated in our entrepreneurial sector.

The window to pass policy reforms and reverse these troubling trends is closing fast. If we take advantage of this rare bipartisan moment to bring Republicans and Democrats in the Senate, House and White House together, we can pass pro-entrepreneurship legislation this spring – and ensure America remains the world’s most entrepreneurial nation.  Improving the environment for entrepreneurs is the surest way to boost job creation and strengthen our global competitiveness.   

So let’s seize this rare bipartisan moment, and act.

Case is the chairman and chief executive of Revolution LLC, the co-founder of America Online, and a member of President Obama’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness.