American competitiveness legislation is the key to tackling today’s economic challenges, creating tomorrow’s opportunities
Under the leadership of President Biden and Democratic majorities in Congress, our economy is roaring. In the last year, the unemployment rate has dropped to a record 3.9%, 6.4 million jobs have been created, wages have increased, child poverty has decreased, and America is leading the world in a strong recovery — a Biden Boom! But despite this historic growth, real challenges remain.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, supply chain disruptions, and decades of underinvestment in U.S. infrastructure and manufacturing have resulted in higher prices for Americans at the grocery store and gas pump. The Biden administration and Congress have already acted to ease inflation and clear bottlenecks by extending operations at major ports, releasing oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, and enacting the bipartisan infrastructure law. But this can’t be the end of our work.
Right now, Congress can address the challenges facing families and keep the Biden Boom going by taking bipartisan action on American competitiveness legislation to secure our supply chains, cut costs, strengthen American leadership, spur innovation and create good-paying jobs that will set the U.S. up for long-term economic success. In December, the New Democrat Coalition announced our top priorities for this legislation and worked to ensure they were included in the House’s America COMPETES Act. Doing so will address many of the problems we face today, create opportunities for tomorrow, and help America succeed in the 21st century.
First and foremost, this legislation must address the global microchip shortage. From cars and clean energy technologies to cell phones and dishwashers, semiconductors and microchips are critical to the products Americans rely on every day. But the current global chip shortage is driving prices up for American consumers in many sectors. For example, new car prices rose by as much as 14% over the last year and used car prices rose 37%. Passing legislation that strengthens global supply chains and supports domestic manufacturing will not only bolster our supply of microchips, but also lower costs, create good American jobs, and help the U.S. lead in the global economy.
That’s a win, top to bottom.
To compete globally, we also need to leverage the talent of hard-working Americans in diverse communities across this country. Right now, jobs in the technology and innovation sectors are concentrated in just a handful of cities on the coasts. Just five U.S. cities account for 90% of the recent growth in innovation jobs. That’s a lot of untapped potential and communities being left behind. By investing in new innovation centers in regions outside of existing technology hubs like Silicon Valley, we can unlock the potential of communities like Madison, Wis., and Allentown, Pa., to attract new industries, tackle break-through challenges, and create the jobs of the future.
If we’re going to fill those jobs, we also need to support the next generation of high-tech and highly skilled American workers. I understand personally how important well-funded educational and research opportunities are to STEM jobs. Before I came to Congress, I was lucky to receive a quality education that prepared me for a job in science and technology. By expanding research fellowships and undergraduate research opportunities, specifically at historically Black colleges and universities, Hispanic-serving institutions, and tribal colleges and universities, American workers will gain the skills to thrive in the global economy. Increasing educational opportunities and funding will also ensure America leads the world as innovators and creators.
None of these investments happen in a bubble. America is made stronger through the support of our allies and close trading partners. That’s why we must leave behind the isolationist policies of the last administration and reclaim the mantle of being rule makers, not rule takers. We are in a global race for the future and if we don’t make these key investments, we put our national security, our allies, and our values at risk. As countries around the world ramp up their investments in science and technology, we must make sure we aren’t just keeping pace, but are staying one step ahead. This legislation levels the playing field so that the U.S. can fairly compete on the global stage.
We shouldn’t be intimidated by today’s economic challenges. We should be excited by the opportunities that lie ahead. President Biden recently said, “the best thing to tackle high prices is a more productive economy, with greater capacity to deliver goods and services to the American people.” This legislation upholds and delivers on that promise. It’s going to be hard work, but Americans have never shied away from discovering and creating the future. New Dems will work with the Biden administration and our colleagues on both sides of the aisle and Capitol to get the final bill to the president’s desk as soon as possible.
Suzan DelBene represents Washington’s 1st District and is chair of the New Democrat Coalition.