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Leveraging America’s Competitive Advantage: People

Despite the shock of the recent Great Recession, Washington continues to neglect one important asset that America has over other nations: people. Whether they are Americans or non-Americans, recent immigrants or fourth-generation Americans, skilled or unskilled, the mobility of people in and out of a country plays a key role in today’s global economy. 

Last week’s Economist cover story, “The Magic of Diasporas,” reveals the critical role of immigrant networks in the global production process. Whether it’s through the transfer of knowledge, creating new innovative technologies, or attracting foreign direct investment, diasporas serve as valuable bridges between regional, national, and global economies.

Yet old habits in Washington die hard. Policymakers continue to break these bridges, rather than harnessing them for America’s economic recovery. One example is the Visa Improvements to Stimulate International Tourism to the United States of America Act, or VISIT-USA Act (S.1746) proposed by Sens. Schumer and Lee last month. They propose to create a visa for foreigners who make cash investments of at least $500,000 in residential real estate. 

This visa would come with several restrictions: They can’t work, and they can’t stay in the country if they sell their property. The bill would confine these high-net worth, and more than likely highly-educated, people to consumerism, rather than producers in American’s economy.  That’s not the best way.

Washington needs to start learning how to leverage its assets.