John Kerry showed up to last night's State of the Union address with two black eyes and a broken nose, but that wasn't the only thrilling moment—Obama had technology on the brain. Here's what you need to know about the future of the future.
If there was one thing Obama wanted to hammer in last night (other than the obligatory Hey remember when I killed Bin Laden? *WINK*), it's high tech manufacturing. Jobs creating the next best microprocessor and solar panels. Jobs creating things that will keep the future chugging along—jobs that aren't doing so well in the US. Obama wants to ignite them at home:
Think about the America within our reach: A country that leads the world in educating its people. An America that attracts a new generation of high-tech manufacturing and high-paying jobs.
If you're a high-tech manufacturer, we should double the tax deduction you get for making products here. And if you want to relocate in a community that was hit hard when a factory left town, you should get help financing a new plant, equipment, or training for new workers.
If you're a business owner, that talk about double tax deductions is serious business. Obama says he's ready to make this happen, if Congress will oblige:
Send me these tax reforms, and I'll sign them right away.
So great! More tech jobs. But wait, what about the flipside of all this high-tech employment?
Long before the recession, jobs and manufacturing began leaving our shores. Technology made businesses more efficient, but also made some jobs obsolete.
No, we will not go back to an economy weakened by outsourcing.
This sounds very familiar. Perhaps Obama might chide—or at least allude to—a company like Apple, which is sitting on $97 billion in cash earned partially on the back of zilch-paying outsourced jobs. So maybe Apple isn't the best company to lionize here oh wait—
We should support everyone who's willing to work; and every risktaker and entrepreneur who aspires to become the next Steve Jobs.
Welp. I guess what the president meant was, "aspires to become the next Steve Jobs but then runs his company in an entirely different manner than Steve Jobs."
Of course, all those jobs aren't going to do anybody any good if we don't have qualified bodies to fill them. Obama's solution is two-fold. First, let's spend a hell of a lot more money on needed boosts to the education system:
Now you need to give more community colleges the resources they need to become community career centers – places that teach people skills that local businesses are looking for right now, from data management to high-tech manufacturing.
To prepare for the jobs of tomorrow, our commitment to skills and education has to start earlier. For less than one percent of what our Nation spends on education each year, we've convinced nearly every State in the country to raise their standards for teaching and learning – the first time that's happened in a generation.
That the US lags other countries in math and sciences but excels in pop stardom has been a known quantity for some time; let's hope those raised standards can move that needle a bit.
Second, and perhaps more controversially given the current immigration climate, Obama said that we need to make sure we keep smart, tech-savvy foreign students on American soil:
Let's also remember that hundreds of thousands of talented, hardworking students in this country face another challenge: The fact that they aren't yet American citizens. Many were brought here as small children, are American through and through, yet they live every day with the threat of deportation. Others came more recently, to study business and science and engineering, but as soon as they get their degree, we send them home to invent new products and create new jobs somewhere else. That doesn't make sense.
High-tech labor took a giant chuck of Obama's attention last night (and we're glad!), but there was some time the ol' web. Obama gave a nod to cyber security, which we already know will be a priority for the (slimmed down) Pentagon:
To stay one step ahead of our adversaries, I have already sent this Congress legislation that will secure our country from the growing danger of cyber-threats.
No word on what this means. Perhaps a group license for the LOIC.
And speaking of the LOIC, Obama gave an even slighter nod to the high seas of online piracy—though it really couldn't have been any less of a nod. More like a skull twitch:
It's not right when another country lets our movies, music, and software be pirated.
SOPA?? SOPA?? IS THE PRESIDENT SUPPORTING SOPA? IS THIS ABOUT SOPA?
No. It's just something he has to say.
So, Jobs—high-tech and Steve. Unlike last year's address, with talk of high speed trains we'll likely never see, Obama's talk of renewed future manufacturing was as feasible as it was impassioned. That progress will happen is inevitable; that it happens on our turf is imperative. If Congress can stop pantsing each other and sobbing all the time, Obama's tax reforms could be a terrific way to kick open the door to a new generation of jobs creating amazing electronic things. Jobs that aren't in Chinese factories.