1-01-2010, Soquel, CA: Poverty and environmental pollutants have a lot in common. Both contribute to adverse living conditions and ill health. The cure may be a prescription for green manufacturing jobs. There are no factories producing complete wind and solar systems in the USA. Major components for solar panels and wind turbines are assembled domestically but are manufactured oversees. In the wake of a job shortage and miles of rusting factories it seems logical for a national initiative to revive the domestic production of goods.
This requires a massive retooling project combined with powerful incentives for industry to come home to Uncle Sam. Our dear uncle seems to be on an oversees cruise at the moment. Ipods are produced in Malaysia, iPhones in China, many LCD TVs from Korea, and the list continues. The former technologies were pioneered in the USA and are manufactured overseas for domestic distribution. We’ve even lost our last Levi’s jeans factory. Apple computer and Levi’s jeans are about as apple pie as it gets! Yet, these companies cannot compete if they utilize domestic production. So, with a burgeoning industry of solar and wind energy production - why not push to have production at home?
Tax breaks and cheap loans are step number one. Current federal incentives often require mountains of bureaucratic paperwork for small and medium sized businesses to obtain loans. This is an important area that needs to be streamlined.
Tax breaks are not enough. The government needs to work with industry to immediately build enterprise zones filled with factories to produce solar panels and wind turbine components. This, coupled with a program to put a solar panel on every sunny roof and wind farms in every state, creates the demand for these products. Current subsidies bring the cost of installing solar in the home down 50% in many areas. Nonetheless, most people will have a hard time coming up with the net cost of approximately $15,000 for a solar system. The federal government and state governments need to bring this price into the $5,000 range to make solar a realistic investment for home owners.
This is an investment and not an entitlement. Rebuilding the domestic manufacturing base creates wealth. If we plant a seed and grow corn we have created wealth. The government can incentivize industry to plant those seeds in domestic energy production to create wealth in our society. US steel and carbon fiber combined with American ingenuity can be tapped to create a wealth of green products needed to revive this economy, fight poverty, and provide for a healthier and self-sufficient society. The return on investment includes a reduction in healthcare costs associated with poverty and environmental pollutants. Another advantage to encouraging local solar energy production is solar’s independence from our aging national grid of power lines.
The power grid issue prevents wind farms from reaching their full potential. Many wind farms are hampered in their ability to transmit power because they will overload the power grid if they activate 100% of their wind turbines. Additionally, the fragility of the grid weakens our national defense by putting local, state, and federal agencies at risk and destabilizes the ability of our communities to function after disasters such as earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, fires, and tornadoes. The power grid needs shovels in the ground now. It seems that the government has an opportunity for job creation that will yield quick dividends.
Domestic manufacturing seems impossible in the face of cheap oversees wages in many factories without restraint from human rights protections and environmental & safety standards. Conversely, some countries provide healthcare coverage for workers unlike US industry which is bootstrapped to health insurance costs. It is reasonable to only allow imports from factories meeting the same standards as the demands placed on their US competitors.
The concept of federally mandating insurance coverage to employers is a well-intentioned yet unfunded mandate that has the potential to hurt the US production of goods. The disconnect with this approach is that jobs are tied to healthcare coverage. Healthcare costs often contribute to an industry moving oversees thereby reducing domestic jobs. Why do we want to burden the manufacturing base with healthcare costs if this may push jobs offshore? No jobs? This leads to poverty, malnutrition, and poor health.
Extending Medicare coverage to all US citizens is one fix. Industry will be freed from healthcare costs. If big government seems too scary with the fears of outrageous tax hikes associated with national healthcare coverage then perhaps the addition of competition may help bring down the costs associated with healthcare. This requires the federal government to repeal anti-trust protections from insurance companies and to provide a public option with competitive pricing. Looking to Congress for a streamlined and efficient healthcare package? On this one, the lobbyists have scored the first touchdown. Right, left, center, whatever the political solution may be… until we, as a nation, pull together and provide some kind of comprehensive healthcare coverage to all US citizens without forcing the burden onto the manufacturing base - we will not see the type of job creation needed to move this economy forward.
Green manufacturing is a great way to test our economic fortitude. The US must combine the knowledge base of US industry and universities with efficient financial structures to support the rebuilding of domestic factories for this to work. Are we to replace foreign oil with foreign wind turbines and solar panels? A sound domestic energy policy is one wherein the US can provide for its own power. Job creation, a cleaner environment, and a healthier populace are the rewards for this effort.
To learn more about healthcare and continuing education issues visit the Healthcare Medicine Institute (HealthCMI) at http://www.healthcmi.com .