SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Senator Clinton warned Silicon Valley executives yesterday that the boom they have experienced in recent years could evaporate if America fails to improve its educational system and overhaul the delivery of health care.
"The fire that was sparked here in this valley has made such a difference, but it can't just be allowed to sputter out," she told about 200 attendees at a CEO summit here sandwiched between fund-raisers for her presidential bid.
Mrs. Clinton, a Democrat, presented a nine-point "innovation agenda" that she said could ensure that America remains at the forefront in cutting-edge industries. She said she would make permanent a research and development tax credit that is currently renewed on a rolling basis, leading to uncertainty for many firms.
"While other nations have marched ahead, we've been marching sideways," Mrs. Clinton said. "While American investment in research and development has remained relatively static, China has doubled the share of its national wealth invested in R&D."
Mrs. Clinton said she wants to spend $50 billion of federal money on projects to promote energy efficiency and alternative sources that could reduce America's reliance on imported petroleum.
"The country that split the atom can end our dependence on foreign oil," she said.
The former first lady also called for the development of "reality" television shows that would give "real sex appeal" to those pursuing careers in engineering and mathematics. "They could walk around in great-looking clothes and be really attractive," she said.
Mrs. Clinton said she believes major health care changes are possible because frustration with the health care system has grown significantly since her unsuccessful effort to revamp the system 14 years ago during her husband's presidency. However, she said the insurance and pharmaceutical industries are sure to resist reform.
"They are going to fight it. I was up against $300 million of advertising and public relations to convince people they really didn't want to change," she said. "I have no illusions about how hard this will be, but I think we finally have a critical mass."
Mrs. Clinton's only compliment for President Bush pertained to his support for legislation to legalize the status of millions of foreigners illegally living in America. "This is one area where I really give the president a lot of credit," she said. "He has taken on the base of his own party, which is absolutely necessary because they unfortunately are influencing a lot of the debate."
Mrs. Clinton said it was possible no comprehensive immigration bill would pass. She said the tech executives might need to seek a stand-alone measure to increase the number of "H1B" visas, which allow technology firms to bring workers to America from India, China, and other countries.
The senator drew howls of laughter when she said those working on energy efficiency need to tackle a particular problem retarding wider use of energy-saving light bulbs. "The problem is every woman in this audience knows what it is like to try on a bathing suit in a dressing room with a fluorescent light," Mrs. Clinton said. "There will not be broad-based market acceptance until we get a better glow from the fluorescent lights."