Videos & Speeches

As we just heard, the Senate continues to discuss and consider an extension of unemployment benefits. Many Americans certainly do continue to struggle to find work in today’s economy. While assistance to those without work serves an important purpose in helping Americans in transition, I am fearful we are failing — in fact, I know we are failing — to address the underlying and important root cause of that unemployment, and that is, how do we as Americans grow our economy and create jobs for the citizens of our country?

A growing economy creates new opportunities for Americans to find meaningful work. And with meaningful work comes the opportunity for Americans to improve their economic security and advance up the economic ladder.

In 2012 Senator Wyden and I started the Economic Mobility Caucus that met today for the fifth time, exploring ways we can work together to create the opportunity for every American to work their way up, have a better life, a greater future, more success, and better financial stability.

Unfortunately — again, at the moment, in my view — a lack of leadership and partisan politics have prevented action on measures that could provide an immediate boost to the economy at little or no cost to the American taxpayer.

Data from the Kauffman Foundation in Kansas City makes clear that most new jobs come from the young companies created by entrepreneurs. In fact, since 1980, nearly all of the net new jobs that have been created by companies are less than five years old. These new businesses create an average of three million jobs each year.

As of December, approximately 20.6 million Americans who are unemployed, want to work but have stopped searching for a job or are working part time because they can’t find full-time unemployment. So when we talk about the unemployment rate, it masks the true story of people who have given up looking for a job as well as those who have a part-time job and need and desire a full-time job.

The labor force participation rate has reached its lowest level in 35 years. At a time when just 62 percent of working-age Americans are employed, it is clear we need an economic boost powered by entrepreneurship. To jump-start the economy and create jobs for Americans, we have put together and I authored bipartisan legislation called Startup Act 3.0.

The Senate majority leader is often talking about the need for allowing votes on legislation that has bipartisan support, and this is a perfect example of such a bill that ought to be considered by the Senate.

Working with Senator Warner — my primary cosponsor of this bill — and Senators Coons, Kaine, Klobucharas well as Republican Senators Blunt and Rubiowe introduced commonsense legislation that addresses four key factors that influence an entrepreneur’s chance for success: taxes, regulations, innovation, and access to talent.

It has become all too common that we are denied the opportunity to have a vote on things that many of us find common agreement on, and Startup Act 3.0 is one of those. In fact, I offered, along with Senator Warner, Startup Act 3.0 as an amendment to the unemployment insurance extension bill. Startup 3.0 makes commonsense changes to the Tax Code to encourage investment in startups and reward patient capital. To address the burdensome government regulations, the legislation requires Federal agencies to determine whether the cost of new regulations outweigh the benefits — and encourages Federal agencies to give special consideration to the impact proposed regulations would have upon those startup businesses.

As any entrepreneur knows, a good idea is essential to starting a successful business. To get more ideas out of the laboratory and into the market, this legislation improves the process for commercializing federally funded research so taxpayer-funded innovations can be turned into companies and spur economic growth and job creation.

Finally, Startup 3.0 provides new opportunities for highly educated and entrepreneurial immigrants to stay in the United States. They are here legally now but are often told they need to return home to pursue their careers, when we know their talent and their new ideas could fuel economic growth and create American jobs.

While there is meaningful disagreement — we have plenty of disagreement about the immigration issue — there are aspects of immigration in which there is broad agreement. One of the areas of agreement is highly skilled immigration. Highly skilled immigrants not only provide the talent for growing companies needed to fuel further economic growth and job creation, but those individuals tend to be very entrepreneurial.

Immigrants are now more than twice as likely as native-born Americans to start a business. In 2011 immigrants were responsible for more than one in every four U.S. business founded.

In addition, immigrants are responsible for significant contributions to innovation. According to a recent study by the Partnership for a New American Economy, 76 percent of patents at the top 10 patent-producing U.S. universities had at least one foreign-born inventor.

One of the best things we can do for the American economy is to welcome highly skilled and entrepreneurial immigrants. No matter what Congress does, these individuals will continue to innovate and create jobs. The question is where will they innovate and where will the jobs be created? If Congress makes the right choice, those jobs and that innovation will occur in the United States of America and build the U.S. economy and employ U.S. citizens.

Unfortunately, there are too many people in the Senate and in the Congress in Washington, D.C., who say we can’t do anything unless we do everything. That has prevented the passage of targeted immigration legislation that would boost the economic growth and create American jobs.

That same attitude prevents us from doing many things on the Senate floor, and it is well past time we found ways to do the things we can agree upon and not wait for the opportunity to do everything. Let’s do the things we can while we wait and work on the chance to do bigger and broader things.

The STEM visas we talk about seem so important to our economy. American businesses are projected to need an estimated 800,000 workers with advanced STEM degrees by 2018 but will only find 550,000 American graduates with an advanced STEM education.

We must do more as a nation. We absolutely must do more to prepare Americans for careers in STEM fields so that our country no longer has to rely upon talented foreign labor. But in the short term, as we work to equip Americans with skills for the 21st-century economy, we need to create a pathway for highly educated foreign-born students who are here in the United States legally, going to school, to stay in America where their ideas and talents can fuel great American economic growth.

Startup 3.0 creates visas for foreign students who graduate from an American university with a master’s or Ph.D. in science, technology, engineering or mathematics. These skilled workers would be granted conditional status contingent upon them filling a needed gap in the U.S. workforce.

It may seem counterintuitive that by allowing highly skilled workers to work in the United States, more Americans will find work, but that is exactly what will happen. A study by the Partnership for a New American Economy and the American Enterprise Institute found that every immigrant with a graduate degree in the United States from a U.S. university working in a STEM field creates 2.62 subsequent American jobs.

If American companies are unable to find and hire the qualified, talented workers they need, those businesses will open locations overseas, and I have seen examples of that too many times. When this happens, not only are those specific jobs gone — they are lost — but also the many supporting jobs and economic activities associated with them are no longer here.

Even more frustrating to me is that when these highly skilled workers who are now employed in some other country and who are entrepreneurs too have an idea and they found and start a business that may grow and create more jobs because they couldn’t find employment here due to lacking the necessary visa and have moved to another country, they use their entrepreneurial skills and talent, and they create the jobs — the company — elsewhere. So the jobs we need in this country are then outside the United States.

This legislation also allows for an entrepreneur’s visa. Immigrants to the United States have a long history of creating businesses in America. Today, one in every 10 Americans employed at a privately owned U.S. company works at an immigrant-owned firm. Of the current Fortune 500 companies, more than 40 percent were founded by a first- or second-generation American.

So my question to my colleagues is, why would we want to leave an immigration system in place that discourages entrepreneurs from coming to our country, investing their own money, and creating jobs here and strengthening our economy? I think we should do exactly the opposite and welcome those people who want to create jobs for Americans in America.

Startup 3.0 creates an entrepreneur’s visa for foreign-born entrepreneurs currently in the United States legally. Those individuals with a good idea, with capital, and a willingness to hire American workers would be able to stay in the United States and grow their businesses here. Each immigrant entrepreneur would be required to create jobs for Americans. If the business is not successful and jobs are not created, the immigrant would have to go back to his or her home country.

Using conservative estimates, the Kauffman Foundation predicts that the entrepreneur’s visa would generate 500,000 to 1.6 million jobs over the next 10 years. These are real jobs with real economic impact that could boost GDP, is estimated, by more than 1.5 percent. These are jobs for Americans desperately seeking to work here to support their families and follow their dreams.

As the Senate considers extending unemployment insurance in the short term, we must not lose sight of the long-term goal — that ought to be the short-term, intermediate, and long-term goal — of creating an environment for jobs in America. There is no better way to create jobs than to support entrepreneurs and to foster the development of new businesses, which are responsible for all those net new jobs in the economy.

Numerous studies demonstrate that a smarter more strategic immigration policy that supports entrepreneurs and skilled immigrants can grow the economy and help put Americans back to work. Jobless Americans and U.S. businesses searching for the talent they need to expand and create jobs can no longer afford to let the all-or-nothing approach to immigration legislation hold economic growth and opportunity hostage. It has prevented progress on important challenges facing our country for far too long. A far better approach would be to pass the things we can agree upon now and keep working to find agreement on the issues that divide us. First on this list should be the measures outlined in Startup Act 3.0.

Other countries are realizing the value of highly educated and entrepreneurial individuals in starting businesses, and they are changing their laws to welcome them. The United States cannot afford to turn a blind eye to global competition. If we fail to act, we risk losing the next generation of great entrepreneurs, and the jobs they will create will be in foreign countries, not in the United States, and we risk continuing another month in which 20.6 million Americans remain without meaningful work.

Work is an ennobling feature of life. Jobs matter, and this Congress and this President have failed miserably, in my view, to carry out one of our primary responsibilities — to create an environment in which Americans can find work and can pursue that American dream of putting food on their family’s table, saving for their kids’ education, making sure they have a secure retirement in the future, and knowing every day when they get up and go to work they are doing something good for themselves and for their families and their country.

Mr. President, we desperately need to work together to create an environment in which American jobs are created. No one I know really wants to be the recipient of an unemployment check. It may be necessary, but it is not their goal. The goal is to find an ennobling, meaningful job that supports them and their family.