We need to foment a new American industrial revolution. Specifically, we need a 21st-century burgeoning of green manufacturing in the United States.
Americans going green – manufacturing windmills and solar cells – would benefit both the economy and environment. As the Wall Street debacle that pushed this country into the Great Recession last year showed, the United States cannot depend on trading in obscure financial products to support its economy. To survive, America must be able to manufacture products of intrinsic value that can be traded here and internationally.
Key progressive leaders participating in the October 29, 2009 "Building the New Economy" conference in Washington address what it will take to ensure that the new economy that emerges from the wreckage of the old will provide Americans with good jobs.
Over the past decade, 40,000 manufacturing facilities across the United States have closed. Since the recession began in December 2007, 2 million U.S. manufacturing workers lost their jobs, making their unemployment rate 12.4 percent. Those who found new jobs got lower pay, according to studies by the Economic Policy Institute.
Each year the United States imports hundreds of millions of dollars more in commodities – mostly manufactured goods – than it exports. As a result, the United States has accumulated a trade deficit over that period of more than $7 trillion.
This is fine with countries like China, Japan and Germany that base their economies on building goods for export. Their factories are humming; their citizens are working and saving. By contrast, U.S. factories are closing; our citizens are borrowing on credit cards and against the value of their homes to buy imported products. And the U.S. government is indebting itself to China to cover its trade shortfall. It’s an unsustainable debt cycle.
The United States needs a coordinated industrial policy like every other major First-World country to end that cycle and direct development. Focusing on green-energy development is the way to go – to create jobs, clean the environment and reduce reliance on imported oil.