#SOTU and the Innovation Agenda

As ordained by the Constitution, President Obama made the short trip up Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol last evening to give to the Congress and the Nation remarks on the State of the Union. Americans tuned in on television as in decades past but also online and took to Twitter with the hashtag #SOTU to provide quick reaction to the speech as well. The buzz? Obama’s “spilt milk” groaner got some attention, and there’s plenty of speculation about his re-election campaign this year.  Word clouds abound.  But what caught our attention was a reiteration of many of the issues that we have been talking about for quite some time.

In the economic section of the address, President Obama began by railing against the economic waste of outsourcing manufacturing to foreign countries, and tasking business leaders to commit to bringing jobs back to the US.  “
It is time to stop rewarding businesses that ship jobs overseas, and start rewarding companies that create jobs right here in America”, he said - and by rewards, we’re talking tax breaks.  Obama suggested a tax cut for American manufacturers, and said that high-tech manufacturers that make their products on home turf should be awarded double the tax deduction.  That would be nice, but hard to take advantage of if say, your skilled workers are overwhelmingly foreign born - as is the case with science and technology industries.  

But the President acknowledged that and then went on to outline his solution - a two pronged approach of investing in training and education, and reforming skilled immigration.  Noting that election year politics might stymie his hopes of comprehensive immigration reform, he suggested a stop-gap measure of awarding citizenship to “responsible young people who want to staff our labs, start new businesses, defend this country”. As for the many more responsible young people who get a US education and then go home to their own countries to start businesses and work in skilled professions? Obama counselled against letting them slip through our fingers, too.  This particular facet of the innovation agenda is on most presidential hopefuls’s
lists of talking points. When Newt Gingrich advocated for an automatic green card upon graduation for math, science, and engineering students, the other candidates quickly reiterated the point.  This isn’t Obama’s first pass at the issue, though -he has already championed a
Startup visa to encourage skilled worker immigration from overseas.

Also on the innovation agenda at the State of the Union were many of the initiatives the Obama Administration has championed with the Startup America Partnership - a public/private sector partnership created to encourage investment in startups. Specifically mentioned last night - deregulating how entrepreneurs get financing for their start-ups, tax breaks for job-creating start-ups, and investment in research and development.  When we wrote about the Administration’s commitment to these policy points a month ago, there were plenty of critics who saw the whole thing as a publicity stunt. Whether or not this is the case, it seems as if Obama is holding tight to innovation as a core peg of his economic policy leading up to his campaign.

With all these points in mind, we hope that the state of the Innovation Agenda, as well as the Union, continue, as the President said, get stronger.