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Carl Pope Headshot

What's Patriotic Now?

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AP File

Detroit -- I'm going to oversimplify, but not by much. There's nothing wrong with America that three million new industrial jobs using innovative technologies wouldn't solve. Those three million industrial jobs would quickly generate the other three million jobs -- in construction, agriculture, and services -- that add up to the current jobs deficit in this country.

That's the power of manufacturing jobs. They would instantly start carving down the mountain of debt that constitutes the price America is paying for two wars, the Bush tax cuts, and the economic collapse produced by trying to substitute banking fees for making things as the foundation of our economy. Our deficit is not the result of ongoing, out-of-control federal spending, either for basic government goods and services or for entitlements. It is black swans like the wars and self-inflicted wounds like the tax cuts that put us in hock.

Because a huge number of those jobs would be in new clean-energy technologies (that's where the opportunities for innovation are brightest), creating three million new industrial jobs would unavoidably slash our reliance on imported oil, right our nation's trade deficit, and put us on a pathway to avoiding future wars in the Middle East. Not to mention doing our part to heal the disrupted global climate.

What do we need to repower manufacturing? Our problem is not American wages -- the manufacturing jobs we need are not low-wage, low-technology industries like shoes and apparel, but highly skilled and therefore highly paid jobs in innovative sectors like mass transit vehicles, electric cars, new battery and energy storage technologies, solar power, wind turbines, high performance building materials, carbon fiber for lightweight vehicles.

What manufacturing needs is markets (China took over our lead in solar panels because China created the market for them), finance (another area where the Chinese have done a much better job of ensuring that new factories can get affordable loans), and policy support and consistency. U.S. tax policy for innovating industries typically works on a one- or two-year Congressional stop-start cycle: manufacturing is overly taxed because it used to be so dominant in the economy. We have tons of incentives for companies that move these jobs overseas, and we no longer enforce trade rules consistently to support our own industries.

Can we do it? Yes. A few proof points:

Michigan is poised to take over 20% of the world's advanced battery market to produce 1.7 million hybrid and electric vehicles in the Us by 2015. Already thousands of new jobs have been created by companies like 1-2-3. None of this, incidentally, would have happened with out both the Obama rescue of GM and Chrysler and the investments the Department of Energy made in the battery sector. And 1.7 million is a number that can easily be exceeded if the Obama administration puts in place ambitious, effective emissions and fuel efficiency standards for new passenger vehicles this fall.

DOE just provided the necessary loan guarantee backup for three large-scale solar facilities in the California desert -- facilities which will power 275,000 homes and generate more than 1000 jobs.

Siemens USA just landed a $500 million contract to provide Amtrak with new, U.S.-built energy-efficient locomotives.

KLM and Lufthansa both announced that they are going to be flying airplanes using advanced biofuels, providing an area where the U.S. has a major potential edge as a large country with tremendous biofuels potential and a new, high value market.

The list could go on. What's lacking?

Clear national vision from the administration. Despite the president's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, there's no real national drive to create those three million jobs.

Second, nationalism from the Republicans. They almost seem to want the U.S. to become a second rate country -- because they can't tolerate the reality that to compete in today's world we need a strong, effective federal government. That the Republicans are trying to use the debt ceiling as a hostage, leveraging the possibility of global economic collapse for partisan advantage, is, quite simply, shameful.

But we don't have to let them get away with it. Patriotism can still trump partisanship, and manufacturing is, well, almost pixie dust.

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