The semiconductor industry's problem is entangled with a subject about which the loquacious presidential candidates are reluctant to talk -- immigration, specifically that of highly educated people. Concerning whom, U.S. policy should be: A nation cannot have too many such people, so send us your Ph.D.s yearning to be free.
Instead, U.S. policy is: As soon as U.S. institutions of higher education have awarded you a Ph.D., equipping you to add vast value to the economy, get out. Go home. Or to Europe, which is responding to America's folly with "blue cards" to expedite acceptance of the immigrants America is spurning.
Two-thirds of doctoral candidates in science and engineering in U.S. universities are foreign-born. But only 140,000 employment-based green cards are available annually, and 1 million educated professionals are waiting -- often five or more years -- for cards. Congress could quickly add a zero to the number available, thereby boosting the U.S. economy and complicating matters for America's competitors.
Suppose a foreign government had a policy of sending workers to America to be trained in a sophisticated and highly remunerative skill at American taxpayers' expense, and then forced these workers to go home and compete against American companies. That is what we are doing because we are too generic in defining the immigrant pool.
Barack Obama and other Democrats are theatrically indignant about U.S. companies that locate operations outside the country. But one reason Microsoft opened a software development center in Vancouver is that Canadian immigration laws allow Microsoft to recruit skilled persons it could not retain under U.S. immigration restrictions. Mr. Change We Can Believe In is not advocating the simple change -- that added zero -- and neither is Mr. Straight Talk.
John McCain's campaign Web site has a spare statement on "immigration reform" that says nothing about increasing America's intake of highly qualified immigrants. Obama's site says only: "Where we can bring in more foreign-born workers with the skills our economy needs, we should." "Where we can"? We can now.Solutions to some problems are complex; removing barriers to educated immigrants is not.