What has become very clear in the 21st century is that Americans are no longer able to compete for jobs in the same way as we have in the past. As a result of this reduced ability to compete, we are suffering from high unemployment, growing income inequality, and a shrinking middle class. Until we tackle the competitiveness problem, we will never address these major issues facing our workers and our country. This is more than a question of economics; it's a question of dignity and justice.
Government has an important role to play in supporting private sector efforts to address this problem, but, in doing so, it must ensure that the benefits of its actions are shared among all Americans, including labor. Once these benefits are extended to everyone, we will be able to improve employment, reduce the gap between the rich and everyone else, and allow the middle class to flourish.
On the other hand, if competing successfully means reducing our standard of living, the middle class will continue to shrink. As a country, our priority must be to build an economy that competes globally while preserving a growing standard of living. To accomplish this, we need to focus on productive jobs. Productive jobs are jobs that require education or technical training or are in industries that benefit from geographic competitive advantages. Growing low-skilled labor jobs -- which feels good in the short term -- does not achieve the goal of restoring the middle class. To grow the middle class we have to create an environment that promotes investment in the industries and jobs of the future, prepare our students and workers for these jobs, and create the infrastructure to level the playing field and allow the United States to compete. Government plays a fundamental, central role in making these things happen.
Congressional candidate John Delaney has a ten-point plan to make us more competitive, improve productivity, and expand the middle class:
1. Improve the focus of our educational and training programs, ensuring that our workforce is properly prepared for careers;
2. Develop national policies that will lay the groundwork for robust growth of competitive and productive jobs in the energy sector, including energy production and efficiency;
3. Create a long-term budget and deficit plan that combines revenue increases and spending cuts to provide consumers, corporations, investors and other governments with confidence that America will have sound and stable fiscal policies for now and the future. This will also allow us to continue to support vital social programs that offer greater investment in America's workforce and protect our most vulnerable citizens from further economic decline;
4. Fund significant investments in communications, transportation, and energy infrastructure that promote long-term economic growth and create jobs today. We should create an infrastructure bank to facilitate these activities;
5. Reform our tax code to simplify the overall approach and eliminate loopholes. This will allow for appropriate corporate income taxes that will encourage businesses to stay in the U.S. and discourage tax avoidance. We must also extend payroll tax cuts for working families and allow the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy to expire;
6. Become a "start-up" economy that invests and fosters innovation clusters and harnesses the entrepreneurial spirit that has led to revolutionary ideas and companies;
7. Ensure that regulations promote competitiveness and protect Americans without stifling innovation. We must also protect intellectual property and enforce trade agreements;
8. Reform our immigration policy to ensure that the same spirit that brought people of all backgrounds to help develop this nation over the past 250 years continues to thrive. We must enact measures like the DREAM Act, which would have provided a conditional path to citizenship for qualified young people who complete a college degree or two years of military service;
9. Encourage community banking and lending to small businesses to support Main Street America and jump-start family wage jobs; and
10. Prioritize policies that promote emerging or renewed industries, including life sciences, green energy, and high-skilled manufacturing.