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“Our practical choice is not between a tax-cut deficit and budgetary surplus. It is between two kinds of deficits: a chronic deficit of inertia, as the unwanted result of inadequate revenues and a restricted economy; or a temporary deficit of transition, resulting from a tax cut designed to boost the economy, increase tax revenues, and achieve . . . a budget surplus.” John F. Kennedy

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Jul 2 2010

Investments, education, and government policy

C.M. Phippen

A lot of exciting things are going on in my personal life right now, from a son not yet old enough to drive being accepted into college, to major overseas business opportunities which could significantly impact our family. I’ve been off the radar lately as I spend more time diverted by such matters, but I’ve noticed how one issue after another intersects pointedly with public policy.

Through our son, we’ve seen first-hand the benefits to the community when public university and school funds are used in ways that encourage greater educational attainment (as opposed to teaching to the mean), business development, and scientific research and achievement. After many years in private school, our son was able to attend a public charter school that was allowed to innovate and develop a nationally renowned science and engineering program which partners with a public research university. This university has also been blessed with state legislators and a former governor who were willing to use funds in a way that encouraged the proliferation of new high-tech industry in a state desperately in need of such. As a result, this university rivals MIT in business startups. Not bad for a public university, which just recently accepted my 14-year-old son as a full-time student.

As the financial industry my husband has been involved in for over fifteen years has faced more and more government hostility and constantly evolving regulation that repeatedly fails to address the issues that could actually solve some real problems, we’ve been forced to look outside our traditional avenues of income for some sense of economic stability. Our desire to invest resources overseas is encouraged by the fact that we’ve watched the Chinese begin shifting much of their capital from the US to some of the same developing nations and industries we’re investigating; nations whose governments are interested in encouraging economic growth throughout all strata of society and who have learned through hard experience the dangers of attempting to turn classes against each other in order to increase their own power. These lessons will serve them well in the coming years if they can remember them better than we have.

Government has a place. When our resources, those that belong to us the taxpayers but which have been entrusted to a government charged with serving all of society, are used to encourage job creation, innovation, and education we will all be better for it. In a country where “73% of the political class say the country is heading in the right direction, but 84% of mainstream voters say it’s going in the wrong direction,” we’d all better hope our politicians figure it out before too many more American businesses and workers simply give up and decide our best days are behind us – and take their dollars and education somewhere else, where government appreciates and encourages their contributions.


Feb 4 2010

Foreigners and Innovation

C.M. Phippen

Foreigners receiving PhDs have, in recent years, constituted nearly half of all such degrees awarded in science and engineering in the United States. In 1997, the percentage was fewer than one-third.

Because the majority of these students choose to stay in the US after receiving their education, this is a boon to our economy and enables us to continue to lead the way in the world in innovation, despite the state of our public schools in the arena of math and science. In 2000 these highly educated individuals made up 37.3% of our work force in their particular fields, a number that rose slightly over the first half of the decade.

Since the start of the recession in 2007, there are concerns that fewer students will be willing or able to stay after graduating. Of 1,203 skilled Indians and Chinese who had returned home after receiving their PhD in the US, 70% of the Chinese and 61% of the Indians said their opportunities for advancement were better in their home country. US companies are now increasingly outsourcing their sophisticated research and development, with over half having already incorporated initiatives to do so, up from 22% in 2005.

With rising taxes, fears of a double-dip recession, and ever-increasing burdens placed on businesses, the opportunities for these highly-educated foreigners become more and more bleak in the US. China and India are the two countries that not only supply us with our greatest numbers of these workers, but 92% of Chinese stay at least 5 years, as do 81% of Indians. As these countries continue to grow at a rapid pace, there becomes more of an incentive for natives to return home and a new type of brain drain could occur here.

Those workers we most need to move us forward as a society, the innovators, may choose to take advantage of our incredible educational opportunities and then, in greater numbers, take their skills back to their home countries. A new way forward or the end of an era for the United States of America?