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Columbus’ Discovery

“I’m so glad Columbus didn’t find India,” jokes Ram Gupta, an executive vice president at PeopleSoft, Inc. “I would be on a reservation running a casino if he did. Luckily, he discovered America.”

Gupta, PeopleSoft’s resident guru for products and technology, made that comment to me last week during a conversation we had at the company’s headquarters in Pleasanton, Calif. We were chatting about the rise of India and China as high-tech innovation centers in the world.

Gupta came to the U.S. in 1990 with a few dollars in his pocket and a tourist visa. “If you asked smart and educated people in India where they would want to be then, just about everybody would say the U.S. Not anymore. The U.S. government may have gone too far in regulating business. It’s crippling. On the people side, the standard of living has risen so quickly in other countries that in Beijing, the airport is better than Washington, D.C. War mongering hasn’t helped much. People don’t like us anymore.”

More troubling, of course, is U.S. immigration policy which keeps talented people in the creative class out. Gupta points out that some two million immigrants are allowed in the U.S. every year, but that only 65,000 visas are granted to professionals–who have long been an important part of America’s ability to remain innovative.

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