By Representatives Steny Hoyer, and Eddie Bernice Johnson
For families still struggling to get by, the holiday season is a time for hope that the coming year will bring new opportunities. While our economic recovery has seen significant progress, there is still much more to be done to get Americans back to work and expand our middle class.
However, a serious impediment to doing so exists in the form of the fiscal cliff. That combination of automatic tax increases and arbitrary spending cuts, if allowed to hit on January 1, would significantly undermine Congress's ability to invest in moving our recovery forward, creating new opportunities, and working toward sustained job growth.
If we don't prioritize spending or bring in sufficient revenues, programs that expand our economy and protect the most vulnerable are at risk. Indiscriminate cuts to those kinds of programs would damage the economy even further, and make it harder for millions to achieve the American Dream.
We're concerned that, unless we reach a big and balanced deal, items like House Democrats' "Make It In America" plan will not become reality. This jobs plan invests in innovation, education, and infrastructure in order to help our businesses and workers compete in the global economy. This is the type of jobs platform our nation needs to build a lasting, strong economy, and it represents the kind of investments we believe are worth prioritizing as we get our fiscal house in order.
For example, recognizing the need to graduate more students well prepared for skilled jobs in advanced manufacturing, Make It In America legislation places a particular emphasis on furthering science, technology, engineering, and math -- or "STEM" -- education in America. It includes bills like the Broadening Participation in STEM Education Act, which was introduced in April and would authorize National Science Foundation grants to help bring more students from underrepresented groups into STEM learning programs.
Right now, our overseas competitors are producing more engineers and scientists than ever before. We ought to be making it easier for students to learn the basics of science and math, use those foundational skills to advance in secondary and post-secondary courses, and graduate ready to find jobs that won't be shipped overseas. A STEM-prepared workforce will also help us attract new business development to our shores. We hear regularly from advanced manufacturers determined not only to design a product here but also to "make it in America" -- only to discover they have trouble finding enough workers and managers here with sufficient STEM training.
Also central to Make It In America are the need to invest in research and development and a permanent extension of the research and development tax credit, which will help companies continue innovating. This private sector innovation, building on previous federal investments in R&D, has traditionally been a driving force for new product development and commercialization with wide economic benefits, not limited to new job creation.
Along with funding for STEM education, R&D, and pro-innovation tax incentives, Make It In America legislation focuses on patent enforcement, export assistance, and infrastructure investment, which are all aimed at tapping into America's greatest economic strengths: a culture of entrepreneurship and the most productive workforce on Earth.
But little of this plan will come to pass unless Congress makes the hard decisions necessary to set our priorities. Everything must be on the table, and reaching a compromise will necessitate difficult choices. But it will be far better to find savings through careful prioritization than by allowing painful and arbitrary cuts to hack away at programs so many Americans rely on to avoid hardship and pursue economic advancement.
We must end the uncertainty currently plaguing the private sector and leading companies to hold back from investing in growth -- and the only way to so is to remove the specter of the fiscal cliff by achieving a big and balanced solution to deficits.
Our country needs a deficit solution that will set us on a course back to the fiscal discipline that prevailed during the Clinton administration, when we achieved a budget surplus and created millions of new jobs. Families and small businesses in Maryland, Texas, and every other state are waiting for Congress to take action to prevent the fiscal cliff, hoping for an end to the uncertainty that has held back business investment and that has stoked fears of severe domestic spending cuts.
If Democrats and Republicans want to accomplish our goal of enabling all our people to make it in America, the best way will be to work together to achieve a big and balanced solution to our deficits. In doing so, we can make this season one not of uncertainty but of real progress and renewed hope.