Opinion

Six steps for jump-starting the U.S. economy

Photo of Rep. Mary Bono Mack
Rep. Mary Bono Mack
Contributor

As jittery world markets keep a nervous eye on the unfolding (and entirely predictable) financial crisis in Greece, Congress has a unique opportunity to make “Made in America” matter again. If we are truly serious as a nation about creating the kind of positive legislative and regulatory environment needed to create new jobs — as well as to bring jobs back to the United States from abroad — there are some common-sense steps that we should take right now, along with dramatically cutting non-essential federal spending and reducing our nation’s staggering debt.

With unemployment stuck at a stubborn 9.1 percent, it’s time to finally free American innovation and ingenuity — long held hostage by a regulatory regime which is as great a threat to our prosperity as any foreign regime. Today, U.S. businesses are holding tight onto more than $1.8 trillion in cash reserves. Let’s give them a reason to invest that money in America’s future. Here are six things we should do immediately:

First, let’s ensure regulatory fairness. Rules and regulations imposed by Washington cost Americans more than $1.75 trillion each year or about $15,500 per household. After finishing our top-to-bottom review of all regulations — scrubbing every outdated and senseless regulatory requirement off the books — we should place a moratorium on any job-killing regulations and establish a more fair and transparent review process. Moving forward, we should also require Congressional approval for all major rules and regulations imposing significant new costs on the economy.

Second, let’s encourage innovation and job growth by lowering the tax rate on U.S. businesses to no more than 25 percent. According to a recent report by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, the United States ranked sixth among 40 nations in “innovation-based competitiveness.” But we were dead last in progress made over the past decade. Dead last.

Third, we need to make intellectual property protection a top priority. By most estimates, the theft of U.S. intellectual property costs our economy hundreds of billions of dollars a year, but the real damage — both in terms of lost jobs and stalled progress — is impossible to calculate. Most sinister, this is deflating to our nation’s entrepreneurial spirit and psyche. From Hollywood to the Silicon Valley, my own state of California has been especially hard hit by this problem. Simply put, our nation’s economy cannot thrive in a world of “no-cost” competitors.

Fourth, we need to open more foreign markets to U.S. products. We simply can’t sit on the sidelines while other nations sign free trade agreements and gain a foothold in promising new markets. Long-stalled trade promotion agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama should move forward quickly. Years of lost opportunities have only resulted in thousands of lost jobs. It’s time to quit playing politics with our trade policies.

Fifth, we need to dramatically increase energy production here at home. It’s time for an “all-of-the-above” approach to energy that includes more American-produced oil, natural gas, coal and nuclear, along with alternative energy sources such as wind, solar, hydropower and geothermal. This will drive down prices, create new American jobs, reduce our dangerous dependence on foreign oil and strengthen our national security.

Sixth, we should embrace vigorous oversight of new laws and agencies. Aggressive oversight doesn’t have to be a political parlor game. Rather, we should see these as beneficial opportunities to “get it right.” Americans want — and deserve — our best efforts. Oversight hearings, which my subcommittee will be holding this year, are a unique opportunity to see what’s working and what’s not. And, at the end of the day, we must have the political courage to embrace change that’s necessary but not always popular.

  • Jess Thinkin

    Gridmark says..and says.. and says.. “listen to me — or I’ll just fill up another four or five pages!” But if one finally gets to the end-game of his c-o-m-m-e-n-t-a-r-y, one is overwhelmed with the earth-shaking cogency of his concluding admonition. “We need to get out of the paradigm we are in and look to something new and deal with globalization.” Snore, snore, snork…what?..oh-oh, are we done yet? I must have dozed off.

  • factcheck

    I agree with Gridmark that globilization hasn’t been all that it was cracked up to be, but that ship has now sailed. As the Congresswoman correctly points out, it’s critically important for the United States to expand trade in growing global markets. The U.S. International Trade Commission estimates that passage of the FTA agreement with South Korea alone will add nearly $12 billion to GDP and $11 billion in merchandise exports, supporting tens of thousands of American jobs.

    Yes, hundreds of millions (if not billions) of people worldwide are looking for jobs (although the last time I checked, Gridmark, China was still a Communist state), but there are also hundreds of millions (if not billions) of people who are potential new customers for the United States if we adopt smart policies and create innovative products.

    Stay the course? No. But shutting the door on reality isn’t going to get us anywhere either.

    • Gridmark

      China is doing “state capitalism” and it is working for them at the moment. They still have a lot of people and they have taken a lot of our jobs regardless of what system they have. What they do is not by accident. They have cheap labor and they have manipulated their currency. The fact remains 57,000 factories have closed and we are not making the irons and toasters. And no matter, it is that 2 billion cheap laborers will put pressure on our jobs and wages. All of the pundits have been wrong for years. While we can’t have protectionism, we still have to invest in our country, in our people, and in the future. Here are a list of things we can do.

      1. Invest in your country: That is energy independence for security and jobs. Also a new air traffic control system that will save 12% on fuel. The savings to the airlines can go to build new aircraft. A nationwide high speed internet system. Perhaps high speed rail within reason.

      2. Invest in your people: That is mandatory vocational training. We live in a globalized world and you can no longer rely on factories. We have to be an educated society.

      3. Invest in the future: Federal research grants to be given to universities and business to bring out new technologies. Today there are no new jobs to go to for those unemployed. You need new areas of growth. No playing games with embryonic stem cell research.
      http://www.newsweek.com/2009/11/13/is-america-losing-its-mojo.html

      4. Fix the antitrust laws that Reagan relaxed. Monopolies and consolidations destroyed jobs.

      http://growth.newamerica.net/publications/articles/2010/who_broke_america_s_jobs_machine_27941

      5. Consider an “American job elimination tax” on companies that move out of the country. These companies do not pay middle class wages, healthcare, pensions, social security, or city and state taxes.

      6. Get away from failed ideology. We saw it for 8 years. Tax cuts was used as an ideology. It did not prevent recessions. And did not create prosperity. You still have to solve problems. Ideology does not solve problems.

      7. Supporting small business sounds nice and it is heard in Washington, but it does not work in my community as the big business left. That means you cannot have small business where factories have closed.

      8. We are losing the middle class. We cannot compete with 2 billion cheap laborers in the world that want our jobs. There are not enough jobs to go around. Competition is good, but it can be harmful also. All we are doing in this country is build the same business environment so that we can knock the other guy out. A person loses his job and has no place to go to. And the reason is that we did not invest in our country, in our people, and in the future.

      9. Have commissions to cut government spending. It seems to be the only approach to doing this. Obviously, one side or the other will complain, but something has to be done now. Actually, Obama had this but did not follow through.

      10. Government appointed jobs and organizations need to be slimmed down. Every 50 to 60 years we need to go through this. There are too many secretaries, deputy-secretaries, under-secretaries, and under-under-secretaries. Information gets loss through the process and government becomes ineffective. The last time this was done was with the Hoover Commission in the late 40’s.

      11. Pour money into new drugs and preliminary medical science. Drugs are becoming less resistant to diseases. And potential super bugs are coming.

      12. Fix the infrastructure. It is the reflection of our country and to the rest of the world.

      13 And if we have not kept up with it, every school should have physical education. Also wash your hands when you come home to prevent viruses and less trips to the doctor. And as we see so often, stop throwing pop cans, etc. outside the car.

      14 We need to slow down urban sprawl. Inner cities are being abandoned. As people leave there is no money left to support the inner city. This maybe controversial to some, but at some point we will have to deal with the problem. Sprawl also takes away from farms and spreads cities out too far in a time when you have empty buildings. We cannot have cities in decay. And cities in decay cannot create jobs and small business.

      15.Create an hour period each school day for freshmen high school students to study any subject for a month (9 months-9 subjects) that they would have not normally have taken. It may be the hardest of subjects in which students would have been afraid in failing like algebra, geometry, calculus, languages, music, or any other subject including learning sports, like golf, football, baseball, or tennis as examples. There are many retired people who would like to teach what they learned in life. There could be a test at the end of the month, but this would only to see if the student learned anything in that subject and would not count against him in his grade average. The point is to have students learn as much as they can on different subjects and to see if they like a certain subject that they did not anticipate.

      16. The Bush tax cuts is spent money. It was for the “here and now” and did nothing for our future. The tax cuts did not trickle down as our jobs went overseas. It would have been better to revitalize our cities and towns across America. I look at my town with closed factories and a downtown with empty 100 year old buildings. It is a disgrace as China is building for the 21st and 22nd century. While you will have some white elephants, the 800 billion dollar tax cuts was the biggest white elephant of all and we have nothing to show for it. Having revitalized city centers means support for small business and would give a renewed enthusiasm for our country.

      17. And finally, I don’t think our electoral political system works anymore. Every candidate is bought off and it takes huge amounts of money to run a campaign. I would suggest a management team or a turn around specialist to be appointed as president for a couple of years or more. And there would be a board of directors who he answers to and for the middle class. That does not mean that we do not support the rich or free enterprise, it is a matter of working with them to see what works.The parties are riddled with failed ideologies. We can do better that what we have.

    • Gridmark

      I would also add that China has been growing at 8% a year for over a decade and we have done little. On top of the 2 billion cheap laborers, the middle class is up against mergers and consolidation and the loss of jobs, automation and the loss of jobs, and lean principles and the loss of jobs. No one has come close to solving these problems and whatever figures they come up with has not come close to what we need to do.

  • Gridmark

    Mary, you are partly right. I agree with protecting intellectual property and some of the other things you say. But when the free market takes in 2 billion cheap laborers, then we have a problem. Everyone wants jobs. I was in Europe and people in Croatia are complaining about their ship building going to China. The riots in Egypt in which one guy was interviewed said they need jobs. So everyone wants jobs. The fact remains is that after communism collapsed it opened up 2 billion cheap laborers and we did not prepare for it. We have closed some 57,000 factories over the last decade and yet, almost all the economists, democrats, republicans, and the federal reserve are still going with the assumption that free trade is working. While Bush was president and he came to Ohio, he preached “free trade is good” and the factories closed. His tax cuts are done and gone and are useless today. So, when we talk of white elephants, that was 800 billion dollars of nothing. Today we see the democrats wanting to spend in useless areas. The republicans want more in tax cuts after they had years of tax cuts and the lowest tax cuts. The states wants casinos for jobs. And the fed wants a low dollar for exports (mind you that 1/3 of our manufacturing closed down) and low interest rates to keep the economy going. Now, I find this all hilarious, when they all preach free trade. Or maybe it is that ONE WORLD ORDER that we have been hearing about. But wishing jobs will come back and with what little activism that the republicans want will not do much.

    It is also funny that politicians say they support small business, but the factories are closed in my town. So what business can we have here? What product can we build here and not some other country? These are question not being answered. We have seen years of neglect and false ideologies over the past and it will take a long time to get out of it. As a moderate, I hope people listen to the likes of Fareed Zakaria and others. We need to invest in our country, in our people, and in the future instead of the failed ideology of “stay the course” and the same old sound bites. We need to get out of the paradigm we are in and look to something new and deal with globalization.

  • cmccartn

    Great piece. I wish this is what our national dialogue looked like, people suggesting solutions.