We Must Walk the Walk

Last Word

American manufacturing has been a pillar of our economy for generations, and today it remains a valuable path to the middle class for millions of Americans. In 2008, manufacturing employed 13.5 million Americans and comprised 13.6 percent of the United States’ GDP.

American manufacturing has been a pillar of our economy for generations, and today it remains a valuable path to the middle class for millions of Americans. In 2008, manufacturing employed 13.5 million Americans and comprised 13.6 percent of the United States’ GDP. Domestic manufacturing is responsible for two-thirds of our nation’s research and development investment and generates approximately two-thirds of the nation’s exports. Despite these strong figures, since 2000, more than 2.9 million manufacturing jobs in the United States have disappeared. 

This downturn in manufacturing employment is because of myriad internal and external factors. Some in the administration argue that manufacturing’s steady and impressive productivity gains explain the job losses. But productivity enhancements do not tell the full story. Unfortunately, America’s lackadaisical effort to protect and promote manufacturing is partly to blame for the sector’s woes. The government’s stove-piped approach to overseeing manufacturing, our ballooning trade deficit—primarily with countries who illegally subsidize their manufacturing industry—and the lack of government incentives have combined to limit progress.
 
Within my district, I see the painful effects of neglect. When I was growing up, I remember traveling down 65th Street in Bedford Park, Illinois, passing by countless profitable manufacturing companies. Now, many of these same factories are boarded up or have been turned into distribution facilities for foreign goods, while good-paying American jobs have been shipped overseas. 
 
This situation is unsustainable. A vibrant manufacturing sector is critical to America’s economy and national security. That is why I have taken a leadership role in Congress and am working on legislation in three key areas affecting domestic manufacturing: access to credit, enhanced coordination of manufacturing policies and programs, and reforming domestic procurement. 
 
Because of Wall Street’s failures, manufacturers cannot access the capital necessary to meet their needs. To address this challenge, I introduced H.R. 2936, the BUILD Manufacturing Act, which will provide qualified manufacturers increased access to private capital through a government-backed loan guarantee program. Loans to qualified manufacturers would be made by banks on a first-come, first-serve basis, with specific emphasis placed on loans to small- and medium-sized manufacturers.
 
Also, I am working on legislation to require the federal government to create a National Manufacturing Strategy that would help overcome this obstacle.This legislation would instruct the president to create a task force of federal agencies, governors, and other stakeholders to assess the current state of American manufacturing. This assessment would include workforce and financial issues, the effectiveness and integration of related government programs, global competitiveness, emerging markets, and forecasts of future factors affecting the industry. Based on this assessment, the Task Force would develop a strategy identifying short- and long-term goals for U.S. manufacturing and propose policy recommendations to the president, Congress and other stakeholders to achieve those goals. These recommendations would be used to develop a comprehensive national manufacturing strategy published every 4 years, similar to the Quadrennial Defense Review.
 
The Buy American Act of 1933 has required that U.S. government spending support American jobs. But it has often been undermined by an opaque waiver process and other loopholes. I recently introduced H.R. 4351, the Buy American Improvement Act, to close these loopholes, increase transparency and create American jobs. This much-needed legislation will require that requests to waive the Buy American Act be posted online with time for public comment, giving American businesses a fighting chance to receive federal contracts. In addition, and among many other helpful reforms, the bill would require that the government publicly justify any waivers it grants and redefine “American-made” as at least 75 percent American-made. 
 
I hope you will join me and encourage your legislators to move forward with initiatives to revitalize this deserving industry. 