Good jobs require strategic thinking
America needs a business strategy to compete in the global marketplace.
It needs a plan to create jobs that pay decent wages.
And for the third time in as many years, U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-3rd) is trying to pass a bill aimed at doing that.
Actually, Lipinski’s measure twice has passed the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.
The Senate has failed to call the bill for a vote both times.
This year’s version of the bill (HR 2447) is called the American Manufacturing Competitiveness Act of 2013 and is co-sponsored for the second time by U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-16th).
The bill’s main goal is to create a national manufacturing strategic plan to make the U.S. competitive internationally.
What free-market advocates who abhor government regulation or intervention in business fail to realize is that the global market and U.S. interests are not always the same, and the interests of business may conflict with the best interests of the country.
To make a bigger profit, for example, it may be prudent to locate your factories overseas. But if those factories produce high-tech military computer components, it may not be best to have them all in foreign countries.
But the bigger problem, as I see it, is maintaining a manufacturing base that creates jobs that allow people to buy a house, save for retirement, put their children through college and continue to feed the consumer engine that has created a standard of living in the U.S. second to none.
Lipinski’s bill is intended to create a plan that would analyze factors that impact the competitiveness and growth of the U.S. manufacturing sector. It would focus on “research, development, innovation, technology transfer and commercialization activities in the United States.”
There would be an emphasis on the “adequacy of the industrial base for maintaining national security.” The plan would evaluate “the state and capabilities of the domestic manufacturing workforce.”
There would be a focus on trade enforcement and intellectual property, along with an evaluation of emerging technologies and their markets.
Finally, the plan would focus on policies related to manufacturing promotion undertaken by competing nations.
In the past, Lipinski’s legislation had sought to do all of that by creating a committee composed of leading industrialists, academics, scientists and elected officials. While conservatives in the House supported the concept, there were criticisms that it would create a new bureaucracy.
But the real stumbling block was that it was seen by the Obama administration as a threat to presidential powers, undermining the authority of the Secretary of Commerce.
Whatever the reason, the fact is that a bill supported by the manufacturing industry, sponsored by a Democrat and endorsed by the Republican House, couldn’t get out of committee in the Senate, which is controlled by Democrats.
As I’ve stated in the past, this is the sort of narrow-minded, self-absorbed, myopic Beltway view that has resulted in the political gridlock that has perpetuated the current period of economic stagnation.
To gain broader support for his legislation, Lipinski has dropped the idea of creating a supercommittee consisting of the best and brightest minds in technology, business and research.
Instead the Committee on Technology, under the National Science and Technology Council, based out of the White House, would develop the national competitiveness plan. The commerce secretary or his designee would serve as chairman of the committee.
The strategic plan would “prioritize near-term and long-term objectives” and create “metrics for use in assessing progress toward those objectives.”
“While this is not my ideal plan,” Lipinski said, “I believe it has a good chance of getting passed. While the U.S. remains the leading manufacturing nation in the world, China is No. 2 and gaining on us.
“I think manufacturing has been hard hit, not just by the economic recession, but over the last two or three decades.
“We need to create jobs with good pay and benefits for our workers,” he said. “And there’s a multiplicative effect to manufacturing. Jobs created there build other jobs and create other support businesses better than the service sector.
“There was kind of a feeling in Washington for years that the U.S. doesn’t need manufacturing any more, that that was something that would be done in foreign countries and we couldn’t compete, but I think that attitude has changed.
“For one thing, there are entirely new areas of manufacturing where America could take the lead — nano-manufacturing, additive manufacturing, 3-D printing are just a few. We can take the lead in these areas and compete globally if we invest in them now. We need manufacturing to defend our country.”
Lipinski has reached across the aisle to gain Republican support for his bill, worked with the manufacturing industry and, more importantly, talked to his constituents about their needs.
He understands that while the unemployment numbers may be going down, many Americans are working in jobs that pay only a fraction of what they used to make. Those jobs don’t provide pension benefits. Often, there is no job security.
This country spends billions of dollars on weapons, military equipment, satellites and intelligence gathering to guarantee our national security.
War games are played in the attempt to envision every possible scenario.
But despite terrorist attacks, this country’s national defense is by far the strongest in the world.
What is needed to protect our country in the future, is a strategy to develop jobs, protect U.S. business interests against foreign enemies and train workers for the future.
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