Do you want to build an economy? Well, you can make burgers, or you can make things—and making burgers, warns the former CEO of steel giant Nucor, is a fast track to immiseration.
For the last 30 years, writes DiMicco, the United States has followed a course whereby jobs have fled the country for cheaper labor markets while our own economy has been converted from manufacturing to service. “We went out of our way to dismantle what made this country great,” he writes, “while other countries around the world are building their way to greatness.” Even as DiMicco was propounding arguments on Capitol Hill for the creation of 200,000 high-paying jobs per month over a five-year span, Congress was finding ways to hobble so-called free trade, cutting deals with the corporate giants that allowed them to outsource their operations at no penalty and regulating incoming manufacturers to such an extent that they boarded up shop and returned to their home countries. The infrastructure crisis is fast crippling the nation, and everyone knows it except, it seems, Congress, which is reluctant to spend a dime if it means raising taxes on the wealthy or on corporations. “I wouldn’t even classify infrastructure spending as ‘spending,’ ” writes the author, who’s no one’s idea of a squishy liberal. “It’s a public investment that pays dividends for decades”—and, he adds, every dollar of infrastructure spending adds $1.59 in gross domestic product. A no-brainer? Well, he suggests, a lack of brains is what has gotten us into a mess that can be fixed only by building our way to solvency—a seeming impossibility since Congress once again refused to build a “buy America” plank into the last series of stimulus packages.
Common-sensical—perhaps too much so for policymakers to stomach—and plainspoken. Free trade absolutists and corporate apologists will hate it, but as for the rest, it’s worthy of much discussion.