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February 15, 2010

News Flash: Nations Compete

-- by Dave Johnson

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture as part of the Making It In America project. I am a Fellow with CAF.

I have a regular spot on the radio show, The Fairness Doctrine, currently in Massachusetts but going national. The show has a liberal and a conservative host and they present and discuss differing viewpoints -- without shouting.

On the show today we talked about my post from last week, With Washington Stalled, China and Others Race Past Us. In that post I wrote,

One party in Washington is following a strategy of obstructing everything, believing that the public will blame the other party for nothing getting done. The other party refuses to use the powers it has to act on the nation's agenda, fearing that the public will thing they're being mean or something. So we're stuck, standing still, getting nothing done. And the rest of the world moves forward with the green manufacturing revolution, taking the jobs, taking the industries, taking the momentum, taking the future.

Here is my point: We're standing still, and other nations are moving ahead. Literally. High-speed rail is an example of this difference. Compare China's investment in public infrastructure like high-speed rail with our own.

At Open Left Saturday, Paul Rosenberg wrote a post about China's wonderful new high-speed rail system, Whose near future is our far future: Europe, China or California?, saying,

"It's really amazing how much rail they're going to have built within the next two years, 42 lines including connections between China's most important cities. ... The US, in contrast, will have one line built in four years, connecting Tampa and Orlando. Tampa and Orlando? That's not so much a high-speed rail line, more an overgrown Disney ride."

China has a national strategy of massive investment in public infrastructure to create jobs and stimulate manufacturing. This investment then leaves behind a modernized manufacturing infrastructure as well as a much more efficient transportation system. This is part of a larger strategy to develop an economy that is much more energy efficient than their competitors, which means they will be better able as a nation to compete economically.

President Obama has been trying to get our own country to invest strategic projects like this. If we can invest in a more efficient economy then WE will be more competitive in the future than we are today. This means more jobs and a higher standard of living in the future, as these investments pay off. But his efforts meet resistance every step of the way. Just one example of this is how the entrenched oil and coal interests take advantage of the corruption of Washington, especially the Senate, to block these efforts. They also invest heavily in poisoning the information that reaches the public, like funding "climate skeptics" and think tanks that pump out "ideology" that isn't really ideas but is propaganda that serves their own financial interests. They and others are doing everything they can to block us from investing in the green manufacturing revolution while the rest of the world is moving ahead.

America is stuck in this weird ideology that says government is bad, and it is wrong for government to help the people by planning and investing in our future. There is a "market fundamentalism" that says that markets must decide things, not democracy. They say our people through our government will make bad decisions, that companies are much more efficient at making decisions, so we should instead let the people who run the largest companies decide how to use our country's resources, labor force, and capital. They say this is much more "efficient" than letting democracy make decisions.

Here is a fact: nations compete. You might believe this is an outmoded concept. It might not fit with the business model of multinational corporations. But we still have countries that see themselves as unified nations with a shared identity, and these nations compete. They compete with US. China is competing with US and the rest of the world, to bring manufacturing to itself, and using national strategies. We are not responding as a nation.

When someone is in a fight with you, you have a much better chance of winning if you at least understand that you are in a fight and get yourself organized to do something about it! How hard is that to understand? China and other countries are in a fight with us for economic dominance. Manufacturing is the key to economic power, and they are fighting to win manufacturing business away from us.

I don't say this to particularly criticize China. The Chinese don't owe me a job. China is just taking care of its own. It should. That is what nations are supposed to do. So to the extent that we still see ourselves as a NATION, we need to take care of OUR own. We need a national economic/industrial strategy, where we say THIS is how WE are going to compete.

If America is still a nation with a democracy we're going to have to step up to the plate and compete as a country and as a people.

Posted by Dave Johnson at February 15, 2010 4:58 PM


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