A Democratic congressman from California is looking to the past to bring more tech jobs to middle-Americans in the future.
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Rep. Ro Khanna, who represents a tech-heavy district that includes Silicon Valley, plans to introduce a bill that would establish a grant program to build up tech-related education opportunities in the middle of the country – in an effort to help the area transition to innovation-based economies.
In a draft proposal of the bill obtained by The Guardian, Khanna calls for the Department of Commerce to create a five-year federal grant program that would offer up to $100 million to 50 higher learning institutions in “rural and urban areas” to create a “United States Technology Institute.”
“In an economy that is this wired, you should be able to the live in the community you grew up in and work for any company around the nation,” Khanna told The Guardian. “There is no reason we should have [hundreds] of thousands of jobs outsourced to China or Brazil or India. Those jobs can be done in rural areas of America.”
In order to qualify for the program, institutions would have to be located in federally-designated “Opportunity Zones” – defined as economically distressed communities.
By allowing Americans to score high-quality jobs in their hometowns, Khanna intends to attract more high-performing workers to those towns, thereby boosting the local economies as well.
The proposal draws on legislation introduced under President Abraham Lincoln in 1862, called the Morrill Act (or the Land-Grant College Act of 1862) – which offered grants of land to states to finance the construction of public agriculture-focused colleges. The model was expanded in 1890.
Rep. Khanna’s office did not immediately return FOX Business’ request for comment.
Khanna has positioned the bill as a counter to President Trump’s jobs initiatives. Trump won the 2016 election in part by targeting support from workers and families in the middle of the country, and has since focused on reviving industries such as manufacturing in those areas where jobs have been depleted.
Democrats gained control of the U.S. House of Representatives during the 2018 midterm elections, while the Republicans held on to the Senate. A divided Congress is likely to make it harder for legislation like Khanna’s to pass.
The California congressman was a part of another notable bill sponsored by Independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders this year, which targeted big companies like Amazon for allegedly not paying workers a fair wage. The Stop BEZOS Act would impose a 100 percent welfare tax on large employers equal to the amount that their workers receive in public assistance benefits, in an effort to encourage companies to raise wages.
In the wake of Sanders’ introduction of the bill, Amazon raised its minimum wage to $15 per hour. He has also targeted McDonald’s and Walmart.