Making it in America: Still Clueless on the Right
August 21, 2009 - 10:13am ET
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When Bloomberg reported the Obama Administration was about to name Ron Bloom, now head of the auto task force, as a de facto “manufacturing czar” in the National Economic Council, the chattering heads on the right had the expected knee jerk reaction.
Investor's Business Daily scorns the idea, saying all industry needs is more deregulation, lower taxes and freer trade. The far right Heritage Foundation’s James Gattuso warns about the specter of an industrial policy, saying all manufacturing needs is for government to “reduce the burdens on enterprise.”
For most of the last thirty years in the conservative era that Reagan inaugurated, this country has relentlessly embraced deregulation, corporate defined trade, and lower corporate taxes. The result has been a declining middle class, soaring health care costs, a manufacturing recession throughout the Bush years,, more and more good jobs shipped overseas, this country borrowing $2 billion a day from abroad, Wall Street capturing 40% of all business profits, a shrinking middle class, culminating in the Great Recession, the worst economic downturn since the Depression. We gave these folks the wheel and they drove us off the cliff. Their advice on how to get out of the ditch? More of the same.
Obama has this right. We can’t go back to the old economy and should not want to. It didn’t work well for most Americans. Its growth was based on unsustainable bubbles and imbalances. Instead of the shifting sands of debt and speculation, Obama argues we have to build sustainable growth on the solid rock of investment and production. We have to make things in America again.
Obama has detailed elements of a new course: investment in education and training to produce the best educated workers in the world; investment in 21st century infrastructure to provide competitive advantage; support for research and development, particularly in the green technologies that will dominate the markets of the future.
Absent, however, has been any coherent policy on helping to insure that we revive manufacturing and high wage jobs in America. Obama has pointed to new energy as a source of good jobs – but without a national strategy, we’ll end up as dependent on imported solar cells and windmills from China as we now are on imported oil.
So news that Ron Bloom – who combines experience both with Wall Street and with the Steelworkers struggling to modernize the steel industry – might be tasked with developing and driving a manufacturing strategy out of the White House suggests that the president understands how critical this is.
That should be cheered by all, except, of course, the apologists of global corporations and market zealots who think that the economic strategies of the last decades have been a grand success.
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