May 30, 2007

AMERICAN COMPETITVE SPIRIT: ALIVE, BUT WELL?

By Senator Mike Crapo

"Market forces are already at work moving jobs to countries with less costly, often better educated, highly motivated work forces and more friendly tax policies."-"The Gathering Storm," 2006 National Academies Committee on Science, Engineering and Public Policy report to CongressWarning bells are sounding: â?¢ The U.S. share of global initial public offerings (IPO), where a company makes its IPO outside of its home country (a strong measure of the competitiveness of capital markets)has dropped from 50 percent in 2000, to five percent in 2005. â?¢ Belgium, Canada, Ireland, Japan, Korea and Sweden have a higher share of 25 to 34-year-olds with degrees. â?¢ According to the 2000 U. S. census, 43 percent of those between ages 22 and 34 who reported any college attendance didn't earn a degree.â?¢ In one recent period in the U.S., low-wage employers created 44 percent of new jobs; high-wage employers created 29 percent of new jobs.â?¢ In 2005, American investors put more new money in foreign stock funds than in domestic stock portfolios.â?¢ U.S. 15-year-olds ranked 24th out of 40 countries that participated in a 2003 administration of the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) examination, which assessed students' abilities to apply mathematical concepts to real world problems.Unhealthy capital markets and declines in education act as gale force winds, battering our economic ship. These ill winds drag down other sectors of our economyâ??trade balances, business and personal savings rates (and supportive tax structures), research and development investment, infrastructure improvementsâ??inhibiting innovation and the cycle of economic revitalization. In sharp contrast, in an economy characterized by healthy capital markets and strongly-educated citizens, businesses and industries recreate and reinvent themselves through innovation. Barriers to our national economic prosperity include:â?¢ Burdensome regulations: In total, the federal government issues approximately 4,000 new regulations across all agencies each year. In any sector, these can inhibit economic prosperity and costs are almost always passed on to the consumer. â?¢ Restrictive trade barriers: Reaching bilateral and multilateral trade agreements that include increased market access, stronger Intellectual Property Rights protections, and effective trade remedies laws, can better enable U.S. businesses ability to compete and stay in the U.S. â?¢ Environmental concerns: The public has an interest in ensuring natural resources are not depleted but used responsibly to foster economic growth so that future generations will not be harmed.â?¢ Increasing healthcare costs and the unsustainable status of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid: Egregiously and irresponsibly, we are billing our children for our own retirement and healthcare needs.â?¢ Inadequate infrastructure: Roads, water and wastewater systems and power grids are all systems upon which successful technological innovation and education improvements depend. Our country must respond proactively to eliminate these barriers that threaten our individual and national livelihood. Investing in our country's future is a no-risk venture. John Adams observed, "I always consider the settlement of America with reverence and wonder, as the opening of a grand scene and design in providence, for the illumination of the ignorant and the emancipation of the slavish part of mankind all over the earth." We owe it to our children to keep this vision alive in an ever-changing, ever-challenging world. Our uniquely American indomitable spiritâ??a spirit characterized by competition and prosperity--is no less proud and capable today than it was over two centuries ago. WORD COUNT: 560