U.S. “Must Create the Supply Chains of Tomorrow, Not Fix the Supply Chains of Yesterday”

By Stockton Grunewald
Mar 23 2022 |
The Port of San Pedro in Los Angeles, seen with shipping containers stuck at harbor. Getty Images

The Senate Banking Committee this week examined how strengthening American manufacturing is critical to solving the supply chain crisis.

The Senate Banking Committee met on Tuesday to discuss ways to muscle up America’s supply chains to build a more resilient economy, with Members of Congress and experts agreeing that the path forward must include a stronger American manufacturing base.

We’ve spoken at length about how America’s fragile, pre-pandemic supply chains broke down in the wake of COVID-19, as they were too reliant on imports and “just in time” manufacturing. The lingering effects of the pandemic — and new challenges due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine — have created additional difficulties.

Bringing critical manufacturing back to the United States is the way to fix this problem. In fact, American manufacturers were essential to helping the country survive the pandemic.

Dr. Erica R.H. Fuchs, professor of Engineering and Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University, praised American manufacturers for their innovative approach to the COVID-19 pandemic. Without their steadfast support switching to critical supplies, such as masks, personal protective equipment (PPE), and at home testing, the U.S. response to the global crisis would certainly have been hampered.

“What was left of the U.S. manufacturing ecosystem was central to the U.S. response,” Fuchs said.

Fuchs emphasized that the lack of investment and “situational awareness” in industries integral to the future, such as semiconductors, could have grave consequences, and the U.S. could be at risk of “flying blind” if it does not have the ability to make these types of products. As Fuchs put it:

“The U.S. must create the supply chains of tomorrow, not fix the supply chains of yesterday.”

William E. Spriggs, Professor of Economics at Howard University and Chief Economist for the AFL-CIO, concurred, highlighting the importance of specific industries, such as the production of semiconductors, to strengthening America’s place in the global marketplace.

“We need to renew our commitment to being ahead on that game – this, this is key to manufacturing,” Spriggs said.

Growing American manufacturing and reshoring supply chains will not only strengthen America’s national and economic security, it also will help rebuild industrial communities.

In his opening remarks, Committee Chairman Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) described what American manufacturing once meant to communities:

“Those jobs allowed generations of Americans to build a middle class life. Workers innovated on the shop floor, propelling our economy to new heights and allowing us to lead the world in developing new industries.

“Beginning in the 1970s and 1980s, we stopped making things here… All over America, companies were moving production elsewhere, in the name of, quote, ‘efficiency’ – efficiency being business school speak for lower wages.”

Brown expressed frustration at the fruits of outsourcing our labor:

“It left us reliant on other countries – too often, our economic competitors. It exposed us to supply shocks. And it gutted our middle class.

“Ohioans and workers in historic industrial towns in all our states felt it first. Now the whole country is feeling it in the form of higher prices, empty shelves, and months-long waits for products people need.

“We need to make more things in America.”

You can watch the full committee meeting here.

Be sure to tell your Members of Congress to support including new trade tools in the Bipartisan Innovation Act to ensure American workers and manufacturers can compete on the global stage.