Michael Barone

Another disturbing finding of the OECD is that younger age cohorts in the U.S. do not seem to have skills as high as those in the cohort just below age 65.

All of this suggests that America's economic future may not be as bright as its past -- or that the current economic doldrums may turn out to be the new normal.

What to do? The OECD sensibly calls for better education and more adult skills training. In fact, many worthy attempts have been made and are being made to improve education around the country, and some have had positive results.

Even the Obama administration, despite its political debts to teacher unions, has pitched in to some extent.

In the meantime, the United States can do something about improving skill sets by changing its immigration laws to increase high-skill immigration.

Current immigration law has inadvertently resulted in a vast low-skill migration from Latin America and especially from Mexico. Unanticipated large numbers have used the family reunification provisions to come in legally, and large numbers have crossed the border illegally.

Congress can change that by cutting back on extended family reunification, improving border enforcement and requiring use of e-Verify or other status verification technology.

More important, Congress can vastly expand high-skill immigration. The Senate bill passed last spring goes some distance toward this, but not far enough.

The U.S. should take a lesson from its Anglosphere cousins Australia and Canada, which both have higher immigration proportionate to population and which both outscored the U.S. in literacy, numeracy and high-tech problem solving in the OECD survey.

Australia and Canada allocate large shares of their immigration flow by point systems, which give credit for educational achievement and marketable skills. They do not necessarily tie high-skill immigrants to a single petitioning employer, as H-1B visas do in the U.S.

Both countries are attracting high-skill immigrants, especially from China and India, and both have had better performing economies than the U.S. does.

Making a concerted effort to attract high-skill immigrants should be a no-brainer for America.


Michael Barone

Michael Barone, senior political analyst for The Washington Examiner (www.washingtonexaminer.com), is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Fox News Channel contributor and a co-author of The Almanac of American Politics. To find out more about Michael Barone, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com. COPYRIGHT 2011 THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER. DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM