“We have to do more to build back better, improve manufacturing, get Americans back to work, and lay the foundation for shared growth and prosperity,” Secretary Raimondo told a House subcommittee.
Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo appeared before a House subcommittee on Tuesday, presenting her agency’s 2022 Fiscal Year Budget and fielding questions dealing with everything from specifics about funding for President Biden’s American Jobs Plan, to support for the semiconductor industry, to supply chain issues and solutions.
“The Department of Commerce has one overarching goal and that is to help the American economy grow,” said Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) during his opening remarks. “In order to meet that goal, we must ensure that the U.S. has a vibrant and thriving industrial base – a base capable of developing the technologies and manufacturing of products essential for economic development and prosperity.”
Tuesday’s House Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Commerce hearing with Raimondo offered reassurance that there is bipartisan support to do precisely that: help the American economy grow through manufacturing.
“Certainly, protecting American technological and economic leadership is crucial as we focus on beating China and winning the future,” said Ranking Member Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.).
After working through the details of the Department of Commerce’s 2022 Fiscal Year Budget, which includes $11.5 billion for the department, a 29 percent increase from last year, Raimondo delved into her argument for how increased funding would translate into meaningful change for everyday Americans.
Large portions of the budget are aimed at reviving American supply chains and bringing manufacturing jobs home, Raimondo said. This includes funding for the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and, more specifically, the Manufacturing Extension Partnership Program (MEP). MEP, a national public-private partnership program, has been extremely helpful in the past at helping manufacturers create jobs, save money and increase profits.
Key to the budget’s success, explained Raimondo, are partnerships like those supported by MEP. Building back better will require all levels of government as well as the private and public sector to work together.
“We have to do more to build back better, improve manufacturing, get Americans back to work, and lay the foundation for shared growth and prosperity,” Raimondo said. “President Biden’s budget request puts forward investments designed to do just that.”
Raimondo’s testimony was met with support from both sides of the aisle.
“This discussion today is all about the American people. It’s about security for the American people. It’s about jobs for today and tomorrow for our children and grandchildren and people trying to provide for their families today,” said said Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.). “This discussion…is probably the least partisan dialogue I’ve seen in the eight years that I’ve been in Congress.”
Cárdenas was right. Nearly every member of the subcommittee agreed that something must be done about American manufacturing, and that Biden’s American Jobs Plan offers serious solutions.
Of course, it is hard to disagree when looking at some of the statistics behind our current position. Over the past 20 years, so much American manufacturing has been offshored that the U.S. now only produces 12% of the global supply of semiconductors, which is down from the 37% we used to supply.
Meanwhile, more than 5 million manufacturing jobs have been lost between 2000 and 2015.
The effects of these losses were only further exaggerated by the COVID-19 crisis, as noted by Subcommittee Chairwoman Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.).
“The COVID-19 crisis laid bare our uneven manufacturing policies over the last 40 years,” Schakowsky said. “Policies that, overall, have made American families poorer and left our country flat-footed in the early days of the pandemic.”
Another thing the COVID-19 crisis revealed was America’s overreliance on foreign supply chains – particularly those based in China. There, low labor standards and unfair trade practices undercut American manufacturers. Moving forward, Raimondo stressed that the U.S. needs to throw all of the support it can behind our manufacturing sector to compete.
Looking just at semiconductor capacities, China alone has invested $200 billion dollars over the next 5 years. “We’re proposing $50 [billion],” Raimondo said. “And I think we need every bit of it, and then some.”
Luckily, there has been some recent moves to provide American manufacturers with some support. On Tuesday, the Senate overwhelmingly passed legislation designed to help the U.S. compete with China, and the Biden Administration released a plan to shore-up American supply chains.
“We need to put our money where our mouth is and invest in the American people so we can upgrade our infrastructure, our manufacturing capacity, and build back better – and our constituents are ready,” said Rep. Soto Darren (D-Fla.).
If Raimondo’s testimony proved anything, it is that American manufacturers have Congress’ attention. Now it’s time to get to work.
“The bad news is, we’ve fallen behind,” Raimondo said. “The good news is, if we catch up now, it can create a lot of good jobs for Americans.”