The United States should set a goal of leading the world in advanced manufacturing, says Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, co-chair of the House Manufacturing Caucus. While he says much of manufacturing has become more efficient and competitive, he says advanced manufacturing in areas such as green technology is critical to the country's economic future.
"Everybody has to come to grips with the fact that we're not going to make tennis shoes anymore. We're not going to make certain low-end manufacturing products," Ryan says.
He stresses that government must support basic research and then let private companies capitalize on the research in the market. He noted that semiconductor manufacturers were recently on Capitol Hill lobbying for significant investments in research. "One of the real assets the U.S. always had was we supported that kind of cutting-edge research, partnering with industry to make it work," Ryan says. He warned against a mindset that believes "there is nothing positive that government can do" to help industry.
Recent good news from General Motors and Chrysler are evidence that the federal bailout of these companies was good policy, he says. "We would have lost the American auto industry," he says. "I don't know what could have been done to save the steel industry back in the day, but we would have been a lot better off as a country if we had taken that as seriously as losing the auto industry."
"You go to [General Motors'] Lordstown [assembly plant] and those 4,500 workers are making good wages. Every worker got a $4,000 profit-sharing check a couple months ago. That is a lot of money jumpstarting our economy," Ryan observes.
Ryan says one of the simplest things government could do to help U.S. manufacturing is encourage the Pentagon to spend more of its $500 billion budget on domestically produced products. He says there is "no reason why that money shouldn't be driven into the American economy." He also points out the critical national security need for a strong industrial base. "Supplying our own military is one of the most important reasons why we need a strong manufacturing base," he says.
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