In his January 25th State of the Union Address, President Obama spoke of Americans “winning the future” and how we might accomplish this feat in an increasingly competitive global market. He appealed to American sensibilities of hard work and ingenuity, and invoked our nation's can-do attitude, while also alluding to government support of businesses in today's trying times.
It's no surprise that government intervention is a thorny topic, and that political groups have well reasoned but often-opposing opinions on the size and scope of governmental influence. What one side calls “investment” — for example, in education or infrastructure — the other calls “spending,” a touchy subject due to the growing national deficit.
Even so, Obama highlighted what he considers critical investments to help secure the future of the U.S., including education, clean energy, high-speed rail, and widespread access to high-speed Internet. He also underscored the importance of significant investments in research and development, which bodes well for science, engineering, and manufacturing.
Now, many readers of this column and our Motion Monitor eNews-letter have emailed us to say that the government needs stronger and more consistent policies with regard to trading with other nations, especially emerging competitors such as China and India. To that end, there is some good news. The Association for Manufacturing Technology, AMT, supports Obama's creation of a new post overseeing manufacturing policy. Ron Bloom, the administration's “car czar” since 2009, was named Special Assistant to the President for Manufacturing Policy within the White House's National Economic Council. AMT's President Douglas Woods is optimistic that the move is a “step in the right direction toward establishing a national manufacturing strategy.” AMT has created what it calls a Manufacturing Mandate that outlines what it will take to revitalize America's manufacturing sector, calling for a consistent approach to managing the government's manufacturing initiatives. One of Bloom's tasks will be to reconcile dozens of conflicting policies related to manufacturing. To read the Mandate in full, visit amtonline.org.
Hopefully, Bloom will make headway in strengthening America's manufacturing base and fortifying U.S. competitiveness. A revitalized manufacturing sector would certainly provide welcome employment to some of our nation's jobless citizens. Economists indicate that the 9.4% unemployment rate may not improve much this year, even with a recovering economy, and that it will likely take several years to reabsorb the unemployed and underemployed.
If you have ideas or opinions on what role the government should play in strengthening American competitiveness in the global economy, please send us a note. We'll share your valued opinions in a future issue.