We are at a moment in our nation’s history where leadership, collaboration, and compromise are critical. The consequences of continued inaction and reliance on partisan rhetoric would carry lasting damage -- but also are entirely avoidable. The president and the congressional leadership understand it but have been slow to respond. Given the growing understanding that compromise is crucial to finding solutions, it is incumbent on the rest of us -- stakeholders and regular citizens alike -- to ensure that their actions are consistent with the awareness.
The tech sector is willing to do our part. Our companies are responsible for roughly $1 trillion in U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) each year and are driving innovations that are transforming society in previously unimaginable ways. We are ready to work with all sides to advance policy solutions in a more robust and strategic fashion than ever before.
We cannot predict the future, but our role as innovation leaders provides us with a unique window on the world and a sense of the policies that will turbocharge our economy. We believe that most of the solutions are within reach this year. They include:
Recognize that immigration is innovation. Our immigration system is outdated and stifles innovation and job creation. Employers in a range of industries face significant talent shortages. Forty percent of the companies in the Fortune 500 were founded by immigrants and their children, and generate combined revenues of $1.7 trillion -- which is greater than the GDP of every country in the world outside the U.S., except China and Japan. To continue this virtuous cycle of immigrants investing in America, thereby creating new jobs and life-changing innovations, Congress should pass broad reforms in our immigration system, including the Immigration Innovation Act (I-Squared) and the Start-up Visa Act 3.0.
Modernize our byzantine U.S. tax system. As the president’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness has noted, our tax code, last updated in 1986, “is an outdated and extremely inefficient system that creates economic distortions and puts U.S. businesses and workers at a disadvantage.” With 95 percent of the world’s consumers outside the U.S., and 61 million American jobs dependent on a global marketplace, we must develop a market-based, competitive tax system that eliminates the burden on global growth and enables capital to be put to work in the U.S. for the benefit of Americans.
Double down on trade. The third anniversary of President Obama’s National Export Initiative was followed closely by Japan’s announcement to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade talks. Add to that the tantalizingly close completion of talks in Geneva to expand the Information Technology Agreement expansion, and one understands how we are on track to meet or even surpass the president’s goal of doubling exports by the end of 2014. This is good news for all Americans. With exports come jobs and a more balanced economy based not only on domestic consumption but also on sales of products and services to customers outside U.S. shores.
As the most recent jobs report reaffirms, and as our sector can see from our global business activity, the U.S. economy is poised to propel forward. With commonsense, bipartisan leadership reaching for the right policy solutions, we can accelerate this progress. Our meetings in Washington last week suggest we may finally be turning towards the right trajectory. We all should do everything we can during the next few months to seize the narrow window of opportunity and move America forward together.
Garfield is president and CEO of the Information Technology Industry Council.