While most of us read a newspaper or two every day, I sometimes wonder if elected officials ever do. Some of the glaring problems facing our country are there for them to see too. In one of today’s newspapers — The Examiner — I was struck by how the key themes affecting today’s manufacturers (and most of the rest of the country as well) are right there under our noses. Is anyone going to do anything constructive about these headlines and the stories behind them?
school dropouts. Thirty percent of high school students nationwide don’t finish high school! An expert is quoted, saying “the projections for the workforce of the future are looking gloomier and gloomier.” Add to this the fact that about a third of all entering college freshmen never get a college degree either. If this system isn’t broken, I don’t know what is. Millions of young Americans every year are thrown into a more and more competitive global marketplace with virtually no skills to function in it.
boosting trade. The President of Columbia is in town to promote a free trade agreement with the United States. Around the world, US exporters face tariffs and barriers while many products coming here face virtually no such restraints. Our trading competitors are signing trade agreements left and right but Congress can’t seem to see that helping US companies sell overseas is good for jobs and the economy.
innovation. Who can argue that having a more innovative economy isn’t good for all of us? Yankee ingenuity is our great national advantage from manufacturing to banking to consumer products. So the headline reads that prescription drugs will soon have price controls. Hmmmm…let’s think about how that will spur innovation. Maybe it will just drive R&D offshore and the high-paying research jobs that go with it.
health care. A Kaiser Permanente study shows that Americans like the benefits of electronic health records, but don’t know much about it. Harnessing technology in the health care sector, as manufacturers have already done, is one of the great promises for bringing down health care costs without resorting to a federal bureaucracy.
energy. A congressional committee has passed new incentives for ethanol production. That’s a good step, but the legislators turned down efforts to use liquefied coal, which is abundant in the United States. And meanwhile, many legislators rail against oil companies that still have the job of providing the largest share of our energy supplies well into the future, regardless of what inconvenient truths you may have heard. Why don’t we forge a policy to help them get that job done?
Gee, that’s a great platform for the 2008 presidential race, I’d say. Who will help us get through these headlines and make real progress on each of these? It’s a good question to ask any candidates for public office over the next year or more. Click on any of the links above if you want to get the full story.
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