How to Rebuild America

By Joel D. Joseph

Barack Obama called for the rebuilding of America in his inaugural address. He said:

“Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America. ... We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. … All this we can do. All this we will do.”

If we are to rebuild America, we need to do it with American labor, American materials and American know-how. For if we use imported goods to rebuild America we will not truly be rebuilding this country. Further, as taxpayers, we should insist upon it. The economic principle of the multiplier effect works much better when tax dollars are spent on domestic goods.

Three areas that require immediate attention are aircraft, steel and battery technology.

We must require that all of the steel, and other materials, used to build new bridges be made in the USA. This will create good jobs in the United States and help the country to recover. Importing steel will not help the US steel industry. The US steel industry is the most efficient in the world. It has reduced energy consumption per ton by 33% since 1990, already meeting the Kyoto Treaty’s requirements.

New legislation introduced by Reps. Pete Visclosky (D-Ind.) and Tim Murphy (R-Pa.) entitled “The American Steel First Act,” requires federally funded construction projects under the Department of Transportation (DOT), the Department of Defense (DOD) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to use 100% American-made steel products. This bill should be amended to include a requirement that all materials used in these infrastructure projects be made in the United States.

Former President Bush allowed the president’s helicopter, for the first time, to be made with European designs and parts. Bush did this because he owed various foreign governments for favors, including the participation of Britain in the Iraq War. Bush personally promised Tony Blair that he would use British transmissions in the presidential helicopter and made good on that promise.

Bush was considering replacing Air Force One with a European aircraft, but, thankfully, failed to act before leaving office. In addition, the Air Force almost purchased refueling aircraft from Europe, but was stopped by the Government Accountability Office (GAO). The GAO overturned an Air Force contract with Airbus Industries, a European-subsidized aircraft manufacturer. The GAO blasted the Bush Administration for making a number of significant errors in awarding the contract to a European-based consortium. We should never again allow the US government to attempt to curry favor with foreign governments to supply our defense needs instead of strengthening our defense industries.

The change that President Obama stands for requires that all US government aircraft be made in the United States. If we are to continue having the best technology in the world, we must produce high-technology products here.

In President Obama’s hometown a new alliance has been built to improve the state of the art of battery technology in the United States. The National Alliance for Advanced Transportation Battery Cell Manufacture was recently formed in Chicago. The founding members of the Alliance include 3M, MicroSun Technologies, Mobius Power, Townsend Advanced Energy and ten other high-tech companies. The Alliance seeks to replicate the success of Sematech, a government supported collaboration of US semiconductor manufacturers formed in the 1980s to address the increasing migration of semiconductor manufacturing from the United States to Asia.

Between 1988 and 1993, Sematech raised $990 million in government grants and private investment to help US manufacturers recapture their lead in semiconductor technology. US automakers are expected to play an important role in the Alliance. US truck and auto makers and representatives of the Department of Defense will be invited to serve on the Alliance’s advisory board. If the US is going to develop green technology, it will need the most advanced batteries to be built here.

Like John F. Kennedy’s pledge to reach the moon in 10 years, we should have a national goal of developing inexpensive battery technology for automobiles and trucks to be made in the USA. We should have a parallel goal of reducing emissions from the production of electricity by using wind power, solar energy and other alternative sources so that at least one-half of our energy is clean within 10 years. Batteries, after all, are charged with electricity, and most electricity is now produced with polluting, coal-fired power plants.

Argonne National Laboratory, a part of the US Department of Energy, has been consulting with the battery coalition. Argonne also has been conducting research for the FreedomCAR Partnership between the US Department of Energy (DOE) and US automobile manufacturers. We need to fund these battery projects just as we funded the infrastructure for the Internet. The Internet was originally a Department of Defense-funded project. The Internet has been an effective economic engine for the US economy. A high-tech battery project will also have wide-ranging position economic effects on the US economy.

Joel D. Joseph is the founder and chairman of the Made in the USA Foundation. Email or phone (310) 922-1856).

From The Progressive Populist, Feb. 15, 2009

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