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This Week in Washington

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I've said before that the danger in us not manufacturing things here at home goes much deeper than job loss; it seeps down into our nation's defense and our ability to protect ourselves. For far too long, we've seen the unfortunate results of bad trade policies harm our industries here at home. We've seen the devastation wrought by NAFTA and CAFTA on our factories and mills, and the towns that once bustled around them. We've seen the ways in which continued failed and unenforceable policies have left little room for economic recovery in too many of what were once strong, American industries. Luckily, we've been able to take some steps to preserve and protect many elements of these industries, but the underlying problem still poses additional risks to our economy and our standing in the world.

A recent report released by the Alliance for American Manufacturing further shows that increased outsourcing of jobs not only endangers our economy, it also places us at a further security risk throughout the world. The report was co-authored by Tom Ridge, the first secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and Robert B. Stephan, a former Assistant Secretary for Homeland Security for Infrastructure Protection. The report shows an honest picture of the path we put our nation on when we abandon domestic manufacturing. As we see more of our factories and industries move overseas, our nation becomes less and less capable of responding to our own critical needs. With the loss of domestic production comes a reliance upon the country to which those industries and capabilities have moved, be it textiles or furniture or even key components of our defense manufacturing.

When I think of the hard work and sacrifice that went into growing our industries and building our nation--our roads, schools, hospitals and businesses--it's alarming to know that as of today, China supplies the world with more than half of the steel used annually. We've seen textiles used to outfit and equip our troops and Homeland Security officials that are made in Mexico and Vietnam. When we rely on other nations in such a fashion, we sacrifice more and more of our independence and ability to respond in times of need. While this is certainly eye-opening, the report does lay out a framework for a two-step solution, and it's the very same plan I've heard from so many of you, and one I've been fighting for since I first came to Congress.

First, we must continue to invest in restoring what the report calls our nation's "lifelines"-- the electrical grid, dams and railroads, and public water and sewer systems. When we invest in the infrastructure that helps expand opportunities for businesses, improves schools and hospitals and helps bring market access to areas that may otherwise not have had it, we give people the tools and environment they need to do what they know how to do best: work hard and create success. I've often said that our government's proper role in job creation is to create an environment in which businesses can be successful, and then get out of the way. There is no substitute for hard work, innovation and wise investment. Government should encourage, not discourage, these attributes. Infrastructure investment can do just that, and help lay a foundation of "lifelines" across our nation--from urban centers to rural regions.

The next step is one that I heartily support: Use American manufactured materials and American labor to create these lifelines. We can do it with our own concrete and steel and glass and aluminum, even textiles and wiring. Our district alone is home to many industries from glass manufacturers to concrete plants and forests that produce wood used across the construction industry. Our area is also rich with the second half of that solution: American labor. The people of our district have deep family roots in our mills and factories. When we put our people to the challenge, they can do it better than any nation, they just need a fair shot and an honest opportunity. This is what you and I have been fighting for, together, from day one. And this is exactly what I believe our nation needs.

While this report takes a hard look at where we stand in the world in the face of the demise of many industries that helped build this nation, it is extremely helpful in showing the precise areas we need to improve and fix in an effort to get back on the right track. It also stresses the obvious ways we can fix our economy through the use of American products and the application of American ingenuity. We can easily identify the problem; it's just a matter of taking direct steps towards the solution. I'll continue to advocate for the solutions that put us back to work, and I hope more of my colleagues will join me in support of these efforts. Keep sending in your good ideas and your beliefs for what you know will help our nation. The solutions to the problems we face aren't going to come from Washington, they're going to come from the American people, and I'm glad we're continuing to keep this fight alive. It is an honor to be your partner in the fight to get America back on the right path.


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