There is no task more important for policymakers than ensuring that all Americans can find quality jobs with fair wages. As President, I promise to do everything in my power to make certain the United States will be able to compete in an increasingly globalized world. I will always be committed to building a world-class infrastructure, educating and training (and re-training) American workers, securing for small businesses the tools and funding they need to succeed, developing new green industries, and reinvigorating the manufacturing base of our economy.
A great many of the proudest achievements in our country’s history have been triumphs of infrastructure: the Erie Canal, the Hoover Dam, iconic bridges from Brooklyn to the Golden Gate, the Transcontinental Railroad, and the Interstate Highway System. Such public works projects stand as physical monuments to that great American notion that together we can defy gravity, rise higher, and each one of us go further. But today we too often simply stand and watch as our infrastructure crumbles all around us. From the levees of the Mississippi River to countless bridges and dams across this country, far too many lives and livelihoods have already been lost or forever changed due to our failure to maintain and rebuild key structures that keep people safe and keep our economy moving. Over 66,000 of America’s bridges are structurally deficient. In my home state of Pennsylvania, a full third of our bridges are officially considered deficient. This is a problem we must solve.
I propose a public investment in infrastructure expansion of $1 trillion over 10 years. It has been estimated that failure to spend such funds would cost us 150% of that sum in congestion costs alone due to the results of decaying transportation infrastructure, so it is an investment we can’t afford not to make. I also propose the creation of a national infrastructure bank for loans and credit support for public-private partnerships; a Build American Bonds program; and an expansion of the New Markets Tax Credit for underserved communities.
A national infrastructure bank would finance a wide range of infrastructure projects by providing public loan guarantees to encourage private capital to make market-based investments in partnership with local, state, regional, and federal entities. Beyond roads and bridges, a national infrastructure bank would help prepare our national freight system for the expected 88 percent increase in tonnage by 2035. It would help avoid the $22 billion our economy loses every year due to airport delays and congestion, and the hundreds of millions more caused by interruptions at our inland waterways’ locks and dams. It would allow us to expand our seaports to handle increased imports and exports. This concept is rooted in the recognition that public resources are limited and that securing private-sector partners as investors in our shared national venture — provided there are benchmarks for accountability along the way and fair systems in place to assure public use — will help us make the sweeping upgrades necessary to shore up critical infrastructure across our country.
Finally, we must affirm that in this global economy broadband Internet is as important to our economy as roads and bridges. Research has shown that for every 1% increase in broadband penetration, employment increased by 0.2 to 0.3 percent per year. Unfortunately, millions of rural Americans are still without access to broadband Internet, and those with access in urban areas face higher bills for lower speeds than our global competitors. Access for all to low-cost, high-speed Internet is being hindered by a nationwide duopoly in the market. With over 27 million subscribers, Comcast controls the wired market in 16 of the 25 largest U.S. cities. Their main competitor, Charter (the successor to Time Warner), has over 25 million subscribers, and controls most of the other regional markets. The bottom line is that Washington has been rewarding Internet providers’ poor performance with tax breaks, lax regulation, and sweetheart deals. Rather than coddling the cable companies, we should be holding them accountable for letting us slip from having the fastest Internet to having some of the slowest Internet among developed nations.
After my election to Congress, I was surprised to find that few members of Congress were interested in serving on the Small Business Committee. I was thrilled by the opportunity and quickly became its Vice Chair. I already knew, from my time as the Admiral “CEO” overseeing the Navy’s five-year $350-billion warfare requirements programs, that small business is a “force multiplier” to do their nimble ability to innovate projects and processes with speed and ingenuity. In my service on the Small Business Committee, I learned just how integral small businesses are for creating jobs and growing our economy: 98% of all American manufacturing is done by firms with less than 50 employees; our 28 million small businesses create roughly 70 percent of new jobs; and more than half of our nation’s workforce is employed by firms with less than 500 employees. Yet relatively fewer people are starting small businesses today than in prior generations. In 1977, there were 35 new small businesses created for every 10,000 working-age citizens. By 2009, that number had fallen roughly by half to just 18. This is like keeping our economy’s “star running back” on the bench for half the game.
We must do more to support existing small businesses and incentivize would-be entrepreneurs to start new ones. This will require ensuring better access to capital, relieving regulatory burdens, and encouraging the export potential of small businesses. We can start by creating tax incentives to encourage angel investors and venture capital groups to lend money to people with great ideas. Wisconsin offers a great model: in 2005, it created a tax credit for its residents to invest in startups, and by 2012 the number of angel investor groups had quadrupled. The regulatory burden on small business — studies show that regulations cost small businesses with fewer than 20 employees some 40% more than large firms with 500 employees or more — can be relieved by creating a system of tiers in regulation. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office provides a model for this kind of policy, with reduced filing fees to smaller businesses.
We must also work hard to level the playing field and encourage more people from historically marginalized communities to start small businesses. Studies show that minority small business owners are disproportionately denied credit by banks, making loans from the Small Business Administration (SBA) all the more important. Some 80% of SBA loan applications from minority business owners are for $150,000 or less, and we impose a 2% loan guarantee fee on such loans. When the SBA waived this fee there was a 15% increase in these small loans. By making that waiver permanent we can enable more people to share in our collective prosperity. We should also increase the maximum SBA loan guarantee for rural communities, given the increased costs of operating farms and rural businesses in the context of increased consolidation and globalization. The best way to reinvigorate American industry and manufacturing is by fostering the growth of small businesses.
In the face of the climate crisis and environmental degradation, we know that the future of American industry must be green. We also know that green jobs are already growing at a rapid clip. In the energy sector, for every $1 million investment in the oil and natural gas industries, just one new job is created. In the coal industry, just two. By contrast, for every $1 million investment in the wind energy industry, 4.5 jobs are created, and those numbers rise further to 5.4 jobs for solar and 7.4 for biomass. This is largely because more than 1 in 4 green energy jobs are in manufacturing, compared to less than 1 in 10 in the broader economy. These are good, family-sustaining jobs like machinist, sheetmetal worker, welder, and electrician.
One of the biggest drags on the green energy sector is competition with countries like China. Americans invented solar energy, yet China now boasts the world’s largest solar panel industry (and they export 95 percent of their production, including to the United States). The Chinese government offers its solar panel manufacturers low-cost credit, free land and utilities, and discounted materials. They also steal our technology to compete against us. We must work so much harder to protect intellectual property rights that are critically important to manufacturers and small businesses, especially as they develop new green technologies and new sustainable industries. We must do everything in our power to hold our international competitors accountable for their theft of our intellectual property. American businesses simply cannot compete, thrive, and create jobs if lax enforcement in foreign countries continues unabated. This is serious: if China alone were to make a real effort to crack down on intellectual property theft, some 2 million jobs would be added to the U.S. economy.
Our government must help us get back in the game by approving incentives to give the industry the long-term certainty in needs to grow. We can make permanent the Renewable Energy Production Tax Credit (PTC) and Investment Tax Credit (ITC) — both of which are set to expire in five years — which encourage the development of wind, solar, geothermal, closed-loop biomass, and other renewable energy technologies. We should also do more to make small businesses aware of these tax credits, along with the Research and Development Tax Credit, so more businesses will take advantage of them and use them to drive innovation and sustainable development. Our leaders need to stop bragging about their votes to supporter greater R&D and start actually working with small businesses in their districts to make sure they’re claiming the benefits that their big business competitors typically monopolize.
The future is green — but we need our government to make creating green jobs a priority if our country is going to compete with foreign economies.
Education is as important a part of our homeland defense as any counter-terror or missile defense program. In this ever-changing world, we must restructure our national education policy to ensure our workers have all the tools they need to be successful in the 21st century. As President, I will lead our country to make a national commitment to what I call “Training for a Lifetime.” In the military, we constantly train and re-train servicemembers — this explains why the U.S. Air Force runs the largest community college system in the country — because technology changes so rapidly. But while technology might become obsolete, a hard worker never will.
In the United States as a whole, our spending on labor training is .001% of our GDP, the lowest of all developed countries. Yet there are great models around the country that point to ways to improve this situation. In Philadelphia, Wilmington, and Las Vegas, a private non-profit called Tech Impact runs a free 16-week program called ITWorks. The first 11 weeks of the program include education in basic information technology skills, while the last five weeks are an internship with a local company or non-profit, giving trainees some real-life, hands-on experience. So far they have had over 500 young people (ages 18-26) participate, and 75% of participants have found employment after six months, earning an average of $35,000 per year. This free program is supported by foundations, corporations, and state and local governments where it is active. With more support, it could expand further.
In order to improve access to workforce training, we need to implement a wide range of solutions on the federal level, including providing more support for public-private partnerships to increase investment in training infrastructure, more federal funding for state and local training programs, and developing a national apprenticeship program for one-on-one training. When jobs and industries disappear, the government should ensure that workers can access training for the jobs available in their place. If we don’t make workforce training for a lifetime a national priority, our country will not be able to compete with global rivals.
We must also work hard to make higher education available to all who want to go to college. The federal government is projected to make a profit of $127 billion this decade on student loans. The reason for such an excessive figure is that the loan rate is unfairly based on the 10-year Treasury bond. If we instead commit our country to profit-free student loans, it would significantly lower the cost of college. We should also establish a national credit transfer system among accredited colleges. Currently, some 40% of students transfer colleges — in particular from junior or community colleges to 4-year colleges and universities — but nearly half of their courses are not accepted at their new school. A national credit transfer system would save transfer students time and money and get them into the workforce faster.
The economic pain currently being felt by farmers and others due to the ongoing trade war with China is evidence of the importance of good trade policy to the lives and livelihoods of countless Americans. I believe we must not use tariffs as a weapon in geopolitical disputes that have nothing to do with trade policy. Our national economy relies on a stable global economy that functions under predictable rules of engagement. Businesses make decisions every day that will impact their operations for years to come, so they will only take the kinds of risks that lead to greater success when they know they won’t be taken by surprise with sudden tariffs. Good trade policy is good for business.
Trade can also an important source of geopolitical stability, encouraging peaceful coexistence among nations and incentivizing developing countries to improve environmental standards, worker rights, and intellectual property enforcement. In the 21st century, rapidly modernizing countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America will create a huge new global middle class — and in this globalized world they will be looking around the world for products and services. It is imperative that we be in a position to compete with China, our only major economic rival on the global scene, for their business. China is rapidly pursuing economic expansion around the globe — building roads and dams in Africa and Latin America, and farms and factories from Mexico to Australia to Cameroon — but without the same standards for the environment, labor rights, and intellectual property enforcement that our societal norms and values rightly demand.
I believe we lost an important opportunity to shape the future of global trade when we withdrew our involvement from the Trans-Pacific Partnership. While that trade agreement was far from perfect, it gave us the chance to set the rules of engagement across a critically important region, home to some of the world’s most dynamic, influential, and rapidly changing countries. Our withdrawal also sent a worrying signal to our friends and allies in the region that we are not interested in expanding our engagement with them, and that in the absence of US global leadership, China will inevitably fill the vacuum. As President, I will seek to reaffirm our commitment to the Asia Pacific region by re-joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership while improving the agreement to ensure that it serves our people, not merely our corporations. I will make certain that all future trade agreements and trade policy decisions are made principally for the benefit of the American people.