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Issues: Manufacturing Jobs

In the past five years, America has lost 2.8 million manufacturing jobs. And Michigan has been hit particularly hard, losing 180,000 of those jobs — almost one out of every three manufacturing jobs we had in 1999.

Not only does this problem hurt these workers and their families, but it’s also a crisis for our country as a whole. America’s economy and well-being are directly connected to the health of our manufacturing sector.

The rise and fall in the number of manufacturing jobs directly affects the rise and fall of median family income. Further, throughout our history, manufacturing has contributed significantly to American economic growth — even during the “tech boom” of the 1990s, manufacturing was responsible for 22 percent of economic growth.

America must revitalize our manufacturing sector, for the good of our workers, for the good of our economy, and for the strength of our national security. We can’t cede our manufacturing industry to other nations.

That’s why Carl has argued that we need a comprehensive manufacturing initiative that is as bold and visionary as President Kennedy’s Apollo program was 45 years ago. Such an “Apollo” program in manufacturing would unite industry, academia, and government in an active partnership to produce new vehicles that operate on alternative fuels and leap-ahead technologies that will boost our auto industry and end America’s dependence on foreign oil.

In the short-term, that means vastly increasing the production of flex-fuel vehicles, which can run on gasoline or an ethanol or biofuel blend, and increasing the availability of these fuels themselves. In the long-term, that means building joint industry-government partnerships to develop new technologies — hydrogen and fuel cells, advanced hybrids and clean diesels, advanced batteries, and more. Congress must change the tax code to provide incentives for developing these new technologies and robustly fund R&D partnerships.

Our domestic manufacturers are at a huge competitive disadvantage: they face billions in legacy costs, the manipulation of currency exchange by foreign governments, and trade barriers that block our products to export markets without reciprocal restrictions. We need to level the playing field for our automotive and other manufacturing industries. Our manufacturers are not competing with foreign companies, they are competing with foreign governments. Carl believes that we need a federal government that fights as hard for our manufacturing industries and jobs as other countries fight for theirs.

A new Apollo program to produce new manufacturing jobs, advanced automotive technologies, renewable non-polluting energy sources, and energy independence is our opportunity and our responsibility. It will be our legacy to the next generation of Americans.