Washington Ignoring Real Problems in Front of Us
Encouraged by Carl Pope of the Sierra Club, I spent time recently with The Wall Street Journal's report on its annual ECO:nomics conference, published in March. Right off, the Journal's account emphasized that China is "grabbing clean-technology market share not because of its cheap labor ... but through strong mandates and subsidies to build a new export industry." Ahem, those words "mandates" and "subsidies" don't come out of free market playbook.
The report quoted Mark Pinto, the executive vice president of Applied Materials Inc., who said that in solar power, the U.S. is "neither the largest in manufacturing nor the largest market." He added: "That's very unusual."
Do we really want to lose this market?
On his blog, Pope cites another corporate leader who attended the conference, Andrew N. Liveris, the chairman and chief executive of Dow Chemical Company. "Around the world," Liveris writes in his book "Make It in America," "countries are acting more and more like companies: competing aggressively against one another for business and progress and wealth. ... Meanwhile, in the United States, we operate as if little has changed."
I won't pretend to agree with all of the CEOs' views on tax or regulatory policy. But it is striking that so many of them are pragmatists, not ideologues. They understand that government efforts to promote national prosperity need to go way beyond taxes and deficits.
You might recall an observant politician who noted earlier this year that "South Korean homes now have greater Internet access than we do. Countries in Europe and Russia invest more in their roads and railways than we do. China is building faster trains and newer airports. Meanwhile, when our own engineers graded our nation's infrastructure, they gave us a D."'
A few months later, the same politician said: "We don't have to choose between a future of spiraling debt and one where we forfeit investment in our people and our country."
That would be President Obama, and you wonder: Is there any chance at all that he can move our national conversation to the task of "winning the future"?
E.J. Dionne's e-mail address is ejdionne(at)washpost.com.Copyright 2011 Washington Post Writers Group