As we work to recover from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, both Republicans and Democrats have offered plans for our economy. Republicans' own Congressional campaign chair admitted that they intend to return America to the "exact same agenda" of the Bush years -- the agenda that got our economy into this mess. Democrats, on the other hand, believe that when more products are made in America, more families will be able to Make It In America. That's why Democrats are pursuing the Make It In America agenda, a plan to create middle-class jobs by rebuilding our manufacturing sector. Reinvigorating manufacturing will be at the top of Democrats' agenda for a long time to come, and it will remain a top priority in the next Congress, where we expect to retain the majority -- because Americans still look to Democrats to strengthen the middle class.
How do the two parties' approaches compare?
Ironically enough, Republicans announced their "Pledge to America" at a small business -- and then turned around that same day and voted against loans and tax cuts to help small businesses. Republicans claimed that they'd listen to voters' suggestions on their "America Speaking Out" website; but the single most popular policy turned out to be preventing the outsourcing of American jobs, an idea conspicuously absent from the Republican agenda. In fact, House Republicans voted against legislation to make it more difficult to outsource American jobs -- five times.
Republicans' economic agenda is no different from the agenda they pursued during the Bush years: lax rules for corporations and tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. But we've already seen exactly what those policies accomplished. Taking the referees off of the field led to a Wall Street meltdown and the loss of millions of jobs; tax cuts for the wealthy coincided with an economic crisis, declining income for the middle class, and historic levels of inequality. Now, Republicans want to extend those tax cuts for the wealthy, and they're holding middle-class tax cuts hostage in order to do so -- even when economists agree that upper-income tax cuts won't create jobs or boost the economy, and even when another Republican tax giveaway would put our children another $700 billion in debt. It's no wonder that, considering the challenges our economy still faces, even former Bush speechwriter David Frum called the Republican plan a "pledge to do nothing."
By contrast, Democrats understand that recovery begins with the middle class -- and that manufacturing is one of the most reliable sources of secure, middle-class jobs. Reclaiming our place as a nation that makes things is a crucial part of realizing the American Dream.
While America lost nearly one-third of its manufacturing jobs during the Bush years, that sector has started a rebound. We added manufacturing jobs for the first seven months of this year, a total of 136,000 new jobs -- and the longest sustained growth in manufacturing employment in 13 years. And though that string of adding jobs was broken in August, the economic activity of the manufacturing sector, as measured by production, exports, and inventories, has expanded for 13 straight months. Democrats want to shape policies that can build on that success -- policies that both business and labor can strongly support, because they mean a more competitive American economy and sustainable, well-paying jobs.
For that reason, Democrats have worked to pass bills on the Make It In America agenda -- a plan to regain our manufacturing strength. Make It In America means investing in manufacturing innovation, making the American workforce the best-trained one in the world, and creating an environment in which American manufacturers can create jobs here and still compete in an open global market.
President Obama has already signed four Make It In America bills into law: they include a bill to speed innovation by breaking the backlog of patents waiting for approval, a bill to make it cheaper for American companies to obtain the materials they need to manufacture goods, and a bill to reduce tax loopholes that encourage companies to ship jobs overseas. The most recent Make It In America bill signed into law will help increase lending to small businesses, provides an additional $12 billion in small business tax cuts, and promotes the export of U.S.-made goods; it is projected to save or create hundreds of thousands of jobs.
Soon, the president will be signing a fifth Make It In America bill, which promotes private sector, on-the-job training for veterans in the growing energy sector.
Eleven other Make It In America bills have passed the House. These bills help clean energy firms compete at home and abroad; fight the trade imbalance; help rural families upgrade their homes with energy-efficiency products that are largely made in America; build job-training partnerships between unions, businesses, and educators; support American production of rare earth minerals, which are critical to high-tech manufacturing; ensure that Congress and the Department of Homeland Security buy American-made goods whenever possible; direct the president to work with business and state leaders to develop a national manufacturing strategy, just like our toughest international competitors have; make sure that the government buys American-made American flags; and help ensure that American workers are given every opportunity to earn certifications, degrees, and qualifications for the jobs American industry needs to fill.
Another House-passed Make It In America bill would hold China accountable for its unfair currency policy, which harms American workers. By deliberately undervaluing its currency, China is able to sell its goods in the United States at an artificially low price -- which helps put American manufacturers out of business. The bill we passed would empower the Commerce Department to place duties on goods receiving what amounts to an unfair subsidy from a foreign government. And that will help level the playing field for American businesses and workers.
Why do Democrats take manufacturing so seriously as a key to our long-term economic health? In large part, it's because our ability to create tomorrow's jobs depends directly on our ability to make things here today. Innovation follows manufacturing.
As a cautionary tale, think of the advanced batteries that will soon power electric vehicles. According to Intel's Andy Grove, "the U.S. lost its lead in batteries 30 years ago when it stopped making consumer-electronics devices. Whoever made batteries then gained the exposure and relationships needed to learn to supply batteries for the more demanding laptop PC market, and after that, for the even more demanding automobile market. U.S. companies didn't participate in the first phase and consequently weren't in the running for all that followed. I doubt they will ever catch up."
Stories like those can't keep happening -- not if we want the world's most important new technologies to be pioneered and built in America, and not if we want a strong middle class. That's why we can't ignore manufacturing, and that's why rebuilding it will be one of the defining challenges of the decade to come. Faced with that challenge, Republicans only offer a return to the failed policies of the past. Democrats, on the other hand, are working to re-instill Americans' confidence that they, their children, and their neighbors can Make It In America.