Kadner: Lipinski Still Pushing for National Manufacturing Strategy
U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski has been trying to pass a bill aimed at revitalizing this nation’s manufacturing base since 2010.
“This is probably the important piece of legislation I’ve passed in my 10 years in Congress,” Lipinski, D-3rd, said Friday. “It could really make a difference for people in this country. It means business growth and jobs that would pay Americans a living wage.”
It’s a measure that has passed out of the U.S. House of Representatives three times, with support from Democrats and Republicans.
On Thursday night, the American Competitiveness Act (as Lipinski’s plan is called) was bundled into an enormous piece of legislation, an omnibus bill, that provides $1.1 trillion to keep the government funded through September.
“I didn’t even know my bill had been included in the omnibus package,” Lipinski said.
U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-16th, is a co-sponsor of the legislation.
The bill in previous years died in the Senate without a vote because U.S. Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., the Senate majority leader, wanted to pass his version aimed at achieving the same ends.
What’s different this time?
Well, as I mentioned, the bill basically was stuffed into a congressional resolution aimed at avoiding another government shutdown.
And if Senate Democrats don’t support that measure, Republicans will be in control of both the House and the Senate next year and are likely to adopt something even less tolerable to liberal politicians.
Yet, according to several stories out of Washington, D.C., liberal senators are angry that the omnibus spending plan includes a measure that would repeal regulations that were placed on the sale of financial derivatives (called “swaps”) following the Great Recession.
Specifically, the bill repeals provisions in the Dodd-Frank reform law that prevent the federal government from financially guaranteeing such securities.
Back to the Lipinski proposal, a common sense attempt to make sure that the American manufacturing base remains healthy and continues to grow in the future.
The law requires that the White House, every four years beginning in 2018, create a national manufacturing strategy for the country.
In Lipinski’s vision, it would be a plan targeting future areas for manufacturing growth while also assessing the needs of current manufacturers to remain competitive throughout the world.
“When I came to Congress 10 years ago, the attitude here was that manufacturing had no future in this country,” Lipinski said. “We were heading to a service economy, and the rest of the world was going to do manufacturing.
“That has changed, I’m happy to say, and there’s now a realization that we have to remain competitive, for national security reasons as well as economic reasons.”
Lipinski’s initial proposals envisioned the creation of an independent manufacturing panel composed of business leaders, academicians and government officials that would develop the basic strategy to bolster the nation’s manufacturing base.
But the White House never liked that idea because it was seen as eroding the power of the executive branch.
The current legislation, Lipinski said, drops the idea of an independent advisory group but mandates that the White House seek input from the business community when developing its four-year strategic plan.
“What we’ve seen happen over the years is that companies like Apple come up with technological breakthroughs, but the manufacturing takes place overseas,” Lipinski said. “That’s the sort of thing we have to stop.”
He said that since the 1970s, the number of U.S. manufacturing jobs has been shrinking, from roughly 20 million in 1979 to fewer than 12 million today.
“China is poised to take over as the world leader in manufacturing, but we’re still up there in the top two nations in the world in manufacturing,” Lipinski said. “But we need a plan to do that because the hemorrhaging of manufacturing jobs has contributed to stagnations of middle-class wages. Since 2000, the inflation-adjusted median (annual) household income (in the U.S.) has fallen by about $4,800.”
I told Lipinski that many conservative Republicans feel that government should just keep its hands off business.
“The reality is that government impacts business in thousands of ways,” Lipinski said. “There are taxes, regulations, government purchases of equipment and services and investment in research and development.
“The problem is that there is no coordination, no plan, no strategic process to determine what the impact of all those government actions are on our manufacturing base.”
Under the bill that Lipinski and Kinzinger have co-sponsored, once the president announces his manufacturing plan every year as part of his budget address, he would have to include a report about how he’s implementing that plan.
Americans say they want bipartisan cooperation in Congress, and Lipinski has worked with Republicans to forge this legislation.
Americans want jobs that pay a living wage, and this measure is aimed at achieving that end. The manufacturing industry has supported the idea of creating a national strategy.
But the only reason this common sense idea stands a chance is because it was stuffed into a massive package of bills that included vital funding to keep the federal government running.
And that package also includes a separate, repugnant measure to allow risky financial investments that nearly destroyed the national economy a few years ago.
That stinks. And the average American knows it.
In a perfect world, Lipinski’s proposal should have been considered on its merits, fine tuned if necessary and endorsed by Democrats, Republicans and the White House.
America has always made things and made them better than any country in the world.
All American workers want is a chance to continue that tradition.
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