Rep. Norcross: Why we need an American-made economy | Opinion

By Donald Norcross

“American made” isn’t just a slogan. Behind these words are millions of good-paying jobs for hardworking families. I have been saying for years that the best social program is a good-paying job. For generations, a simple idea has defined the American Dream: that if you work hard and play by the rules, you can make it in America. Today, too many working families feel that dream slipping away. But we can bring that dream back into focus with an American-made agenda.

We have faced serious challenges in the last few years. The pandemic threw a wrench into the global supply chain, causing a shortage of critical products like the semiconductors used in our cars, phones, and household appliances. Too many goods were in short supply because decades of tax policies rewarded corporations for outsourcing manufacturing jobs. In turn, these shortages created an affordability crisis for our families here at home.

American workers have been left behind with stagnant wages even as companies make record profits and the ratio of what a CEO makes compared to their average employee has ballooned to 324-to-1. This huge CEO wage gap is unprecedented in American history. From the 1940s through 1970, the wage gap stayed around 30-to-1. Between 1970 and 1989, the CEO wage gap surged to 58-to-1, which was significant at the time but looks quite modest compared to today’s numbers.

I’m leading the fight to advance an American-made agenda precisely because I refuse to accept the continued outsourcing of jobs for excessive CEO profit. At a time when we’re all eager to return to normal, I want our new normal to be better than ever – one where the hardworking men and women of South Jersey and across the country have a real shot at the American Dream.

I spent years working as an electrician and as a union representative fighting for better wages, health care, and retirement security for working people. I know that when we invest in the American worker, we are investing in America’s future and growing our economy in a way that benefits everyone. That is what the American-made agenda is all about. And by putting working people at the heart of federal policy, we have begun to make big strides to advance this agenda.

In April, I began working on a bipartisan bill to invest in American manufacturing and job creation as one of the U.S. House of Representative negotiators. Our efforts resulted in the CHIPS and Science Act, a $280 billion package to supercharge America’s competitiveness in the global economy, including $52.7 billion to boost the manufacturing of semiconductors here at home. President Biden signed the bill into law last week.

For years, New Jersey’s manufacturing sector was shrinking and good jobs were dwindling. But we have begun to reverse that trend by investing in new industries made in America and even better, Made in New Jersey. The growing offshore wind industry in South Jersey is one example.

I recently visited the Paulsboro marine terminal where local workers are building the manufacturing site for the steel monopiles that will act as foundations for offshore wind turbines. Soon thousands of workers will be manufacturing these monopiles in South Jersey. By investing in local manufacturing, we’re not only creating good jobs that grow the local economy, but we’re also laying the foundation for long-term clean energy production that will secure our energy independence and make our grid more resilient.

That’s why I worked with my fellow New Jerseyan Rep. Bill Pascrell to introduce the Offshore Wind Manufacturing Act, which flips the script on corporate outsourcing of American jobs. Our proposal will reward companies for creating jobs right here in New Jersey. I’m proud to report that these incentives were included in the Inflation Reduction Act, which makes the largest investment in clean energy in our nation’s history.

Of course, every job created requires a worker to fill it. That’s why I secured $500,000 for a clean energy jobs training program at Rowan University. As we build the 21st-century economy, it’s critically important to invest in our workforce today. That’s why I secured provisions to boost manufacturing with Buy American” standards and guarantee a $15 minimum hourly wage for the federal contractors in our annual defense national defense bill.

Investing in the American worker is good for families and good for our economy. It allows us to fix our supply chain and increase the availability of everyday items like washing machines, cars, and smartphones. It creates good-paying jobs that offer dignity in work and retirement. At the end of the day, that’s what the American-made agenda does — invest in the American worker. Let’s breathe life back into the American Dream by making and buying it in America.

U.S. Rep. Donald Norcross represents the 1st Congressional District, which includes Camden, most of Camden County and parts of Burlington and Gloucester counties.

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