One Last Pitch before You Vote
This is my last blog posting before the election next Tuesday, so I thought I would offer a few final comments about the proper role of politics in our economy. You can call this my competitive philosophy for government. As I have stated emphatically in earlier postings, I contend that the ultimate goal of U.S. national policy should be long-term productivity growth. I do not mean to say that this should be merely our long-term manufacturing goal, nor is it just our long-term economic goal, but rather that it is the primary objective of all legislation, regulation, and policymaking that is proposed or implemented on the federal level. For everything that happens in Washington, we should ask the question, "Does this make us more productive in the long run?"
Our economy is our "ecosystem." It is how we obtain food and shelter. It is how we raise our young, tend to our elderly, and create wealth. And in order for us to continue to increase our level of prosperity, we must continually improve our competitiveness. Social Security, Medicare, universal healthcare, and national defense are all noble ideas. But if we do not create sufficient wealth, we will not be able to afford to maintain them. In other words, our economy is the engine that pulls the train of society. Many of these other programs that the politicians and special interest groups seem to argue about continually are just cargo we are trying to haul.
Stable, high-paying jobs are created by a robust economy, not politicians. Candidates who promise to create jobs and voters who demand that the candidates make these promises are missing the point. To achieve the goal of a steadily growing economy we need politicians and citizens who are dedicated to the task of enriching our business ecosystem.
So what would this ecosystem look like? It would be a thriving network of resources that includes: diverse suppliers; skilled workers; educated consumers/citizens; access to capital; and world-class transportation, communications, and energy infrastructures. At some point during the past generation we started to neglect our ecosystem. And to be honest, it has sustained some damage over the past 20 years. The downturn in household incomes, the widening skills gap, and the enormous budget deficits at all levels of government are all evidence of this.
But we still have the tools and the skills to rebuild our ecosystem. The only real question is whether or not we have the will to do so. It will require that all of us get more involved at a local level. The business, labor, education, and government leaders at the state and local levels should not rely on Washington. It will also mean that all of us need to make more enlightened decisions about worker training, executive and worker compensation, and new investment in plants and equipment.