Politicians love promoting "made in America" during an election season but tend to forget about it once the dust settles. And so, for all the praise of American manufacturing in the last campaign – by Democrats and Republicans alike – very little has actually been done. So what happened to a real competitiveness – and – jobs agenda?
By any measure, the Obama administration is falling behind on its manufacturing promises, and getting no help from Congress. The president's campaign-trail goals of a rebalanced economy and 1 million new manufacturing jobs seem more aspirational than achievable at our current pace. And as those aspirations have stalled, the administration has shifted its economic focus from what Americans want – employment – to complex matters that will only compound our problems, such as the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership and Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership trade deals.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s worth negotiating trade agreements that will open markets abroad and provide effective enforcement for rules-based trade, if they guarantee a level playing field for American workers, farmers, ranchers, and businesses. But the administration and perhaps Congress apparently haven’t learned from the mistakes of the past: Before we negotiate, we must get our own house in order, and we must seek far tougher trade terms. We have leverage, after all, as we remain the gold-standard consumer market in the world.
Our goal should be to cut the U.S. goods trade deficit in half by 2017. This can be accomplished by tackling Japanese and Chinese currency manipulation and by ensuring our workers and businesses aren’t forced to compete with state-supported industries abroad.