from Renewing America

Morning Brief: Understanding the Need for H1-B Visas

A new U.S. citizen holds an American flag during a naturalization ceremony (Mike Segar/Courtesy Reuters).

August 2, 2012

A new U.S. citizen holds an American flag during a naturalization ceremony (Mike Segar/Courtesy Reuters).
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Blog posts represent the views of CFR fellows and staff and not those of CFR, which takes no institutional positions.

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H1-B visas allow firms to sponsor qualified professionals to work in the United States on a temporary basis, but there is contentious debate over raising the cap on visas (WashPost). Detractors point to the high national unemployment rate, but a recent report by the Brookings Institution argues that the local unemployment rate for skilled professions is far lower in localities where H1-B visas are in greatest demand, the nation’s leading centers of innovation. The report concludes that restricting the supply of innovative workers and charging visa fees makes it difficult and more expensive for firms to invest in new ideas.

CFR’s 2009 Independent Task Force on U.S. Immigration Policy, chaired by Jeb Bush and Thomas F. McLarty III, recommends policies with three goals: reform of legal immigration to improve efficiency and U.S. competitiveness; effective enforcement of immigration laws; and a fair, humane, and orderly way to deal with migrants illegally living in the United States.

Debate Over Algebra

Earlier this week, political scientist Andrew Hacker argued in a New York Times op-ed that math curricula should drop Algebra. Hacker argues that current research does not provide a conclusive link between algebra and the quantitative skills necessary to succeed in a variety of careers, and that difficult math courses push some students to dropout. Cognitive scientist Daniel Willingham counters that mathematics does not contribute to dropouts any more than other subjects, and that higher math teaches abstract reasoning which allows students to apply their academic knowledge to real world situations (WashPost).

Education and human capital. Read more from experts discussing ways to improve U.S. education and immigration policies.


ASCE President Says U.S. Infrastructure Needs Money and Planning

Andrew Herrman, president of the American Society of Civil Engineers, said that crumbling infrastructure threatens the economy and requires national leadership and funding (Cleveland Plain-Dealer). Herrman cited a failure of national leadership and pointed out that no president since John F. Kennedy has provided a strategy for building and maintaining the U.S. transportation network. He also said Congress has shown a "lack of courage" and criticized the two-year length of the recently passed transportation bill.

The first Renewing America Progress Report and Infographic Scorecard, provides a critical assessment of federal transportation policy, including a description of major policy initiatives and important steps policy makers must take to revitalize critical infrastructure.

Infrastructure. Read more on how upgrading the nation’s aging network of roads, bridges, airports, railways, and water systems is essential to maintaining U.S. competitiveness.

International Trade and Investment

Worries About Inaction on Russia Trade Law

Business leaders are increasingly worried that Congress will leave for summer recess before granting Russia permanent normal trade relations (PNTR) (The Hill). With Russia's expected August ascension to the World Trade Organization, the lack of PNTR creates an opening for Russia to raise tariffs on U.S. goods. PNTR legislation has been approved by both chambers, but debate continues over the breadth of a human rights bill intended to revoke visas and sanction Russian officials involved in the murder of whistleblower Sergei Magnitsky.

CFR Senior Fellow and Renewing America Director Ted Alden discusses the general lack of trade protectionism in the wake of the Great Recession, and the likelihood that the WTO has restrained this political impulse.

International trade and investment. Read more from leading analysts on the debate over next steps in U.S. trade policy.


Booming VC Investment

The latest edition of the MoneyTree report indicates double digit increases in venture capital (VC) deals in the second quarter of 2012, with $7 billion invested in 898 deals. Investment was highest in IT start-ups, with relatively less money going to life science and clean technology. The president of the National Venture Capital Association said: “We hope to see this investment mix rebalance over time as the start-up ecosystem is better served with more diversity, not less.”

In the face of persistently high unemployment, policymakers and workers look to innovation and entrepreneurship, the primary engine of U.S. job growth over the past thirty years. This CFR Backgrounder by Steven J. Markovich discusses how entrepreneurs and VCs create and finance startups.

Innovation. Read more on how the U.S. capacity to innovate could play a chief role in economic growth.

The Morning Brief is compiled by Renewing America contributor Steven J. Markovich.

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