Small businesses and Silicon Valley innovation are the keys to re-invigorating U.S. manufacturing. That’s the message of Ro Khanna’s new book, “Entrepreneurial Nation: Why Manufacturing is Still Key to America’s Future.” What are his plans for reviving the economy? Ro Khanna joins us to discuss his job creation ideas and his political aspirations.
On How to Keep Manufacturing in the United States
We do that one, by having an educated workforce with the right skills in manufacturing; we have had cuts in vocational education, cuts in community colleges and don't have the right workforce. We do that buy respecting manufacturing and the trades, the labor unions that are still producing skilled workers and saying that these folks have an important role in our society. People say, "Well, manufacturing is repetitive work," I often say well, "Legal work is repetitive work. You cut and paste documents and then submit briefs, there's some creativity to it but a lot of it is repetitive. The same thing goes with manufacturing, is a lot of the work repetitive? Absolutely. But in modern manufacturing, to operate CNC machines, to be innovating with lean manufacturing techniques on an assembly floor requires creativity." So one is just respecting our manufacturers. And finally I think having the right tax and immigration and regulatory policies to attract manufacturers back to the United States.
On Why Solyndra Went Bankrupt
Well China has the silicon crystalline technology, which is the older technology. And the advance in solar was the CIGS technology, which Solyndra and others used. And the hope was that that would give American manufacturing an advantage. Now what happen was the price of the Chinese silicon crystal fell and they ended up dumping a lot of that into the United States against what would be fair trade practices and that put a lot of competitive pressures on American solar companies. Now that's not the only reason Solyndra failed, but its an untold story, which is the Chinese dumping of cheap solar panels. So I don't think they beat us, in the sense that they're technology is still older and there is a new technology in the United States that should be developed but they are competitive on this older technology.
On China's Currency Manipulation
My view is Paul Krugman's view, that we ought to make a demand, we ought to say that first of all, that they are manipulating their currency, label them a currency manipulator, and ask or demand or [achieve] by bilateral negotiation that they have a free-flowing currency. And the reason is not just because it is going help American workers, but also, in my judgment, it's going to be good for the Chinese people. I mean right now you have a communist government that is favoring elite exporters at the expense of their own consumer welfare and consumer access to products in the consumer purchasing power. And so I think a fair trading regime would not only benefit American workers, but allow Chinese consumers to buy products they need.
On Government Investing in the Private Sector
If you go back in American history, all the way back to Alexander Hamilton, who argued to be a world superpower, we need strong investment from government in infrastructure, in universities, and then Abraham Lincoln, with the community college land grants that set up our community colleges; or Herbert Hoover, as Secretary of Commerce, who invested in aviation, and set up our aviation industry. Or even Ronald Reagan, who through SemaTech helped support the semiconductor industry. We see that there has been a bipartisan tradition in this country of government collaboration with the private sector to create growth, of a government responsibility in supporting education and infrastructure. And you look at our own state, there was no secret with Pat Brown, the secret was education and infrastructure — this stuff isn’t rocket science. And one of my favorite quotes in the book is [from] Richard McGregor, who says, “The problem and challenge for America is not that it needs to be more like China, the challenge for America is that it needs to be more like America.”
Ro Khanna, former U.S. deputy assistant secretary of commerce, attorney and author of "Entrepreneurial Nation: Why Manufacturing is Still Key to America's Future"