Dispatches from the Heartland: Don’t Bet Against America
Is the Democratic Party perfect? Hell, no. I’ve said that before, and I’ve got the scars to prove it. But on the issue of domestic manufacturing investments and clean energy development, we got it right—big time.
Right now industries in the U.S. are booming, driving innovation, and bringing jobs back to local communities. And it’s happening because of strong pro-American policies and investments designed to boost our industrial might.
The harshest critics of industrial policy and clean energy investments—including the House “Freedom Caucus” and other GOP members who voted against the bi-partisan infrastructure bill but are now taking credit for its investments—seem to lack faith in American workers and businesses. They don’t believe we can organize ourselves, pass policy initiatives, and spend public money in a way that will grow the pie for everyone—not just the biggest businesses in the world. The naysayers argue that America can’t resuscitate its own steel and auto manufacturing sectors in more dynamic and sustainable ways, and don’t believe we can bring supply chains back home even as company after company is sending out announcements about once-offshored jobs returning to the heartland.
Apparently, according to the logic of these critics, the laws of globalization shall not be challenged. But if we listen closely to what the naysayers are really arguing, it’s essentially this: America’s best days are behind us, and we should just relent. We should just fold up shop and let China run the world’s economy as multi-national corporations get richer and more powerful while working families end up in a more precarious situation.
In doing so, they are aligning themselves against American workers and communities aching for the chance to be the dominant force in the economy of the future. But our workers and patriotic business leaders are sick and tired of being underestimated and counted out. They’re ready to reclaim America’s leadership without the negative nellies trying to hold us back.
Let’s face the facts—China does have a head start on several fronts. The Chinese government has a stranglehold on clean energy supply chains, dominating nearly every step of electric vehicle battery manufacturing and solar panel production. This didn’t happen by accident. While the status quo forces were blocking new industrial policies and clean energy legislation in Washington, the Chinese government spent years making strategic investments in emerging technologies. And what’s their answer now? They want us to throw in the towel and stake our economy on innovations from the last century while China and the rest of the world race ahead.
Here’s the thing, though—if the naysayers get their way, if we pump the brakes on electric vehicle manufacturing and other advanced manufacturing, it won’t stop the rest of the world from doing what it wants to succeed. Global markets aren’t going to freeze and wait for us to catch up. Instead, American workers building today’s technology will lose their jobs as the world shifts to tomorrow’s innovations.
Workers on the floor of any Midwest factory know what it’s like to be squeezed out by international competition. They’ve waited decades for America to reclaim its position as a manufacturing powerhouse and to see new plants opening in their towns. Ohio workers know their livelihoods depend on reversing the flow of jobs and innovations made overseas so that the technology of the future is made by American workers.
Democrats bet big on our own clean energy industries and workers. We not only put ourselves back into the race, we are also striving to move back into the lead. We have an industrial strategy in hand that will spark life back into our supply chains, identify where we can create competitive advantages, and bring new economic opportunities to communities—especially in the Midwest but also in the South.
Thanks in no small part to the Inflation Reduction Act, the CHIPS and Science Act, and Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, we are making investments that give America a new competitive edge in the global marketplace. A $1 trillion surge of private investment from these laws will supercharge domestic job growth, creating a net 4.3 million new jobs in the American economy by 2050. Ohio has already seen $30 billion of private investment in just two years, creating 10,000 jobs. That’s 10,000 families that have stability and hope for the future. They have it because Democrats—and a bloc of country-first Republicans who bucked the far-right to vote for some of these investments—believed in them and bet on them to win the future for America.
The tired old idea that if you cut taxes for the billionaires, it will somehow magically trickle down to the average American has utterly failed. Over the past two years, we did the opposite. We pumped energy and money into communities that have been left behind for 40 years. And it's working: bridges are being built, factories are going up, and good jobs are returning to the United States.
Here’s what the ideologues need to understand at a deep and fundamental level: a rising tide really does need to lift all boats and never bet against America’s workers and businesses.
Tim Ryan is a Senior Visiting Fellow at Third Way and formerly represented Ohio’s 13th Congressional District in the United States House of Representatives.