Allen: I-Squared is common sense immigration reform, meets nation’s needs

The Hill
April 11, 2013

Ever since the Virginia Company was founded in Jamestown in 1607, America has been the land of opportunity for generations of immigrants, who often risked everything to strive for their American Dream. America must continue to be a magnet for the best minds in the world to come here for the freedom to compete, innovate and grow our economy.

A recent survey of over 1,100 manufacturing executives by the National Association of Manufacturers’ Manufacturing Institute and Deloitte shows that 67 percent of manufacturing companies face a “moderate to severe” shortage of qualified workers. Four major high-tech companies – IBM, Intel, Microsoft and Oracle – say they have a combined 10,000 job openings in the United States alone. In Congressional testimony, Rick Stephens, senior vice president at Boeing, related that fewer than 5 percent of graduates from American colleges and universities attain engineering degrees, compared with about 20 percent in Asia.

This decade, there is a need in the United States to fill 1.2 million jobs in computing professions that require a bachelor’s degree. But at the current pace American colleges will not matriculate even half the number of American graduates needed to fill those positions. Unfortunately, this skills gap is making it hard for American companies to hire the employees they need to keep innovating, creating more jobs, and growing their businesses in the U.S.

Skilled, foreign professionals are net job creators for the United States. Immigrants with employment-based green cards and H-1B visas in the STEM fields – science, technology, engineering, and applied mathematics disciplines – are not taking jobs from Americans. There are tens of thousands of unfilled jobs in STEM sectors, even while our unemployment numbers are high.

According to the Washington-based American Enterprise Institute, each U.S.-educated advanced degree green card holder creates 2.6 American jobs, and each H-1B visa holder helps create 1.8 American jobs. In places like Silicon Valley and Northern Virginia, Indian and Chinese entrepreneurs account for a disproportionately large share of start-ups and technology-related job creation. By some estimates, about 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies had at least one immigrant founder.

There is a bipartisan solution that is worthy of support. Many tech industry leaders are putting their support behind The Immigration Innovation Act of 2013 (I-Squared), which aims to keep America globally competitive, and a leader in technology and innovation.

According to a report in the San Francisco Chronicle, industry leaders including Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman, venture capitalist John Doerr, Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt, Cisco CEO John Chambers, Intel CEO Paul Otellini and Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer are among many others supporting I-Squared. In a joint letter they wrote to President Obama and leaders in Congress they noted that every tech job has the potential to create many other American jobs.

I-Squared would sustain and accelerate the growth of America’s tech industry in a two-pronged fashion. First, it would expand access to H1-B visas for foreign talent. Second, it would increase funding for American students studying for STEM careers. In many places, local schools and students are lagging in STEM achievement and employers are sounding the alarm.

To pay for focused, local STEM education improvements, I-Squared sets aside fees that will be paid by companies that need additional H-1B visas and green cards – without raising taxes. The legislation also includes a mechanism that adjusts the visa cap as economic demands change.

Existing H-1B training and scholarship fees will be increased and dedicated to state-level funding for improved STEM education. That’s good news for innovative enterprises, which will have a larger pool of talented potential employees. Small businesses with fewer than 25 employees will be allowed to pay an H-1B fee at half the level of larger employers.

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Allen: EPA’s greenhouse gas power grab will damage economy

May 29, 2013

The U.S. Supreme Court will soon have the chance to improve opportunities for Americans and protect our representative democracy when it decides a case involving the gargantuan power grab by the federal bureaucracy. America’s new competitive manufacturing advantage, utilizing our plentiful natural gas, coal and oil, will be negated by onerous regulations that drive up costs for minuscule, theoretical benefits, if the high court turns a blind eye.

Ronald Reagan’s words in 1980 still ring true: “We will not permit the safety of our people or our environmental heritage to be jeopardized, but we are going to reaffirm that the economic prosperity of our people is a fundamental part of our environment.”

Manufacturers, other business groups and states including Virginia are asking the court to consider the Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to embark down a dangerous path. If the EPA goes forward with its plans to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, the unelected bureaucrats at the agency could ultimately extend their reach into nearly all sectors of our economy. If not enjoined, the EPA will remake the U.S. economy, all without the consent of the men and women Americans sent to Congress to make national policy.

The EPA began its regulatory expansion into our homes and entrepreneurial livelihoods in 2009 by asserting that greenhouse gas emissions pose a threat to public health. Congress has never explicitly given the EPA the authority to regulate greenhouse gases — the agency interprets its power based on an expansive reading of the Clean Air Act.

The Clean Air Act, however, was not meant to regulate greenhouse gases, a fact that has become readily apparent as the EPA has taken up the rulemaking process. The cascading effect of the EPA ruling that CO2 and other greenhouse gases are pollutants would cause America’s economy to grind to a halt. Almost any new construction, from power plants to apartment buildings — 6 million new facilities in all — would be subject to EPA permitting requirements and the costs and delays that go with them.

In effect, EPA bureaucrats, by regulatory fiat, are dictating the nation’s energy mix. The regulators are deciding which energy sources are allowed and which are off-limits. With the proposed rules on new power plants, the EPA is clearly putting coal in the latter category. The regulations would effectively ban the construction of new, efficient coal-fired power plants. In fact, the new coal power plants can beneficially remove 99 percent of sulfur dioxide (which causes acid rain), over 99 percent of nitrogen oxide (which causes smog) and 99 percent of particulate matter. This cleaner generation of electricity is due to great technological advancements. These improvements make sense and are part of the expressed intent of the Clean Air Act.

However, there are no available technologies to remove odorless, colorless carbon dioxide. Naturally occurring CO2 in our atmosphere has been determined to be an endangering pollutant by the EPA bureaucracy. And when the EPA proposes rules on existing power facilities — as it surely will — coal will be out of business in the United States for providing us with affordable, reliable electricity.

The impact of these restrictive policies is being felt, halting manufacturers’ efforts to grow and expand. Since the EPA undertook its greenhouse gas regulations, permits for new facilities have dropped dramatically. American jobs and growth are on hold. According to the American Council for Capital Formation, the uncertainty created by the EPA’s greenhouse gas regulations will cause investment to decline by 5 to 15 percent in industries that face a direct impact, like manufacturing. Overall, the rules could result in as many as 1.4 million fewer jobs.

These assaults by the EPA will most likely drive up the costs of residential heating and power bills. The folks hurt worst by these regressive energy policies that cause us to pay higher prices for electricity are lower- and middle-income working families struggling to make ends meet.

Coal, however, will not be the only target. For manufacturers, the lesson from the EPA’s aggressive agenda is clear: Regulations on new power plants are only the beginning. Your enterprise could be next.

Left unchecked, the EPA will continue marching toward regulating nearly the entire economy: first power plants, then refineries, energy development, mining, paper manufacturing, heavy manufacturing, small manufacturers, even commercial kitchens. Ultimately, the EPA can wield its power over all but the smallest sources of greenhouse gas emissions.

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Allen: Charity should be the American way

The Daily Caller
February 6, 2013

“Wouldn’t it be better for the human spirit and for the soul of this nation to encourage people to accept more responsibility to care for one another, rather than leaving those tasks to paid bureaucrats?”

Ronald Reagan astutely posed this rhetorical question in 1982.

Sadly, Washington today is on a path contrary to President Reagan’s wisdom, moving in the opposite direction with tax policies whose consequences threaten to diminish charitable contributions in order to fatten the federal purse.

The first errant step has already been taken. The “fiscal cliff” deal rushed through at the beginning of the year includes a provision known as the Pease limitation, which diminishes the total value of itemized deductions a taxpayer can claim. Included within the Pease limitation is the deduction for charitable contributions. Further efforts to cap or otherwise limit deductions — and even to eliminate the charitable deduction altogether — are being discussed.

There is no question that taxes affect behavior. Witness golfer Phil Mickelson’s public musings about moving from high-tax California to a lower-tax place. Mickelson is not alone. Tiger Woods understandably moved from California to Florida years ago. It is well known that many people choose to move and retire to Florida or Texas precisely because they have no state income taxes. A good number of music artists prefer living in Tennessee or Nevada to living in California, since these states do not impose an income tax.

The latest census revealed that California, for the first time since it joined the Union in 1850, is not growing faster than the rest of the United States. The fast-growing states today are generally in the South and Mountain West. People are moving to these states because they are finding more job opportunities. To be successful, big and small enterprises decide to locate, invest or expand in business-friendly locations where the cost of operation is competitively lower. Tax burdens, energy costs, right-to-work laws, and a skilled workforce matter in business decisions and thus affect job and population growth.

The logical lesson is: tax policy promotes or inhibits both behavior and movement of capital. That is what makes recent and threatened tax-law changes that diminish the deductibility of charitable contributions so unsettling. Many charities rely on major donors, the very people who have the means to contribute $50,000 to $100,000 or more for cancer research, a world-class laboratory for university students, or a new interpretive center for the home of our nation’s first president. Yet in their zeal to “tax the rich,” Washington politicians are threatening to starve the charities that help our neediest citizens and enrich our lives and culture.

Americans are a generous people, contributing over $300 billion annually to charitable causes — over 75 percent from individuals. The charitable deduction in the tax code has encouraged Americans of financial means to help their fellow citizens and support nonprofit philanthropic efforts in higher education, medicine, religious-based rehab centers, the arts, and even the historic preservation of treasured presidential homes and historic sites.

Many Americans are unaware that some of the most significant presidential homes are conserved and preserved by private, charitable organizations that don’t receive a penny from government. In Virginia, George Washington’s beloved Mount Vernon and Thomas Jefferson’s cherished Monticello are privately supported, as is Rancho del Cielo in California, the Reagan Ranch where Ronald Reagan found peace and inspiration.

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It’s Time for Real Energy Action

The Daily Caller
October 27, 2011

Two months ago, President Obama announced his latest stimulus proposal, which is a continuation of the same failed policies we’ve seen over the last three years — higher taxes to fund more costly government spending programs.

Absent from the president’s rhetoric was any mention of unleashing America’s energy resources, a proven way to create more than a million new, good-paying jobs here in the USA.

Virginia and the nation deserve better. With 9.1 percent unemployment and more than 14 million Americans looking for work, it is time for this administration to start viewing America’s energy resources as a blessing, not a curse.

One of the major components of my comprehensive, pro-growth plan for jobs — “The Blueprint for America’s Comeback” — is the aggressive pursuit of energy freedom by opening up access to America’s plentiful energy resources and taking control of our own energy destiny.

Fortunately, an opportunity exists for the president to take real action right now to strengthen America’s energy security and create jobs.

Earlier this month, I joined Governor Bob McDonnell and leaders from across Virginia in urging the Obama administration to approve the construction of an advanced pipeline linking Canada and the United States.

The Keystone XL Project will bring more than 700,000 additional barrels of domestic and Canadian oil each day to refineries in Texas. Construction alone will mean jobs for as many as 20,000 Americans, and related economic activity is projected to bring around 100,000 additional hires. Property tax revenues in states through which the pipeline passes could exceed $5 billion, meaning more resources for schools, roads and public safety. And the energy flowing through the pipeline will be from our closest neighbor and ally, not from an unstable and unfriendly foreign regime.

With so much to gain, why is the White House delaying? The Obama administration has yet to approve the permit needed for construction to begin. Bureaucrats and politicians in Washington, D.C. are standing in the way of a project that would create thousands of new jobs, increase our long-term supply of affordable energy and generate revenues without raising taxes.

When it comes to energy, this is just the latest contradiction between the president’s words and his actions. Since 2008, President Obama has touted the job-creating promise of his energy agenda. Instead, we see misused taxpayer funds for unreliable, expensive energy schemes; higher fuel prices; blocked energy development of American coal, oil and natural gas resources; and continued high unemployment over 9 percent.

The good news is that America has the most plentiful energy resources of any country in the world. Our reserves and recoverable oil, natural gas and coal exceed the resources of such energy giants as Saudi Arabia, China and Russia.

Despite this bounty, our dependence on foreign oil is greater today than it was in the days of President Jimmy Carter’s gas lines. Federal bureaucrats continue to hold America’s energy resources “off limits,” and promising ventures like the Keystone pipeline are stopped at the Canadian border.

Advancing a new freedom-to-work agenda for America

The Washington Examiner
October 6, 2011

Our Right-to-Work law is one of Virginia’s foundational strengths and competitive advantages.  The laws that protect workplace Freedom have made Virginia one of the best places to start or grow a business, but not everyone sees things as we do.

This is especially true in Washington.  Rather than recognizing the fact that Right-to-Work laws are good for everyone, President Obama’s administration and his allies seem bent on destroying them.

As I travel around Virginia, I am constantly reminded of the importance of our freedom to work.  Virginians remind me about the companies that have relocated to or expanded in Virginia since we declared that “Virginia is Open for Business!” in 1994.

Others recall those 50,000 Virginians who have left the welfare rolls to find gainful employment.  I often wonder how successful our economic development and ground-breaking welfare reform efforts would have been in a less job-friendly state.

These are not abstract concepts.  These are real jobs created because Virginia respects and protects our Right to Work.

Through executive fiat and the intrusive action of the National Labor Relation Board (NLRB), the Obama administration and their congressional and big labor allies are waging war on private employers under the guise of protecting workers.

They believe that more regulation and government control will protect jobs, but this couldn’t be further from the truth.  Businesses create jobs when entrepreneurs believe that their anticipated return on investment outweighs the risks.

Over-regulation creates uncertainty and additional risk, which in turn stifles investment and diminishes job opportunities.

The threat to Virginia’s jobs from Washington is real, and it must be checked.  From the President’s job-killing monstrous health-care dictates to his gigantic $1.5 trillion tax increase proposal and Executive Orders, bureaucracy and lawsuits trying to tell Boeing where it can build a business, the opponents of our freedom to work are seriously threatening.

That is why I have created a three-part Freedom to Work agenda that will 1) help America’s businesses create jobs; 2) save taxpayers money; and 3) protect the liberty of working men and women.