Public Investment, Industrial Policy and U.S. Economic Renewal
The U.S. economy faces enormous questions and challenges as it attempts to recover from the collapse of 2008-09. Some of the most pressing questions are a series of longer-term, structural challenges: Can we establish a growth engine driven by something other than financial bubbles? Can we renew the automobile industry and, more generally, reestablish a healthy manufacturing sector? Can we accomplish these various tasks while also rebuilding the economy on a new foundation of clean energy as opposed to fossil fuel energy sources? Addressing these longer-term challenges is the overarching theme of this paper. Following an introductory discussion, in Section 2 we consider the overall evidence on the need for public investment in the traditional areas of transportation, energy, and water management. We then address the issue of financial crowding out. To do this, we examine evidence on how much of the U.S. economy’s financial resources have been flowing into productive private investments over time, as opposed to financial speculation. In Section 3, we then examine the U.S. ad hoc industrial policy, as it has been practiced both at the level of general manufacturing policies, such as with the auto bailouts, and in terms of technology incubation through the Pentagon. We consider ways of channeling these policy tools into supporting a strong technological base on a sustained basis. In Section 4, we bring together our discussions on public investment and industrial policies to sketch a policy approach for supporting the revival of the U.S manufacturing sector, including the U.S. auto industry. In particular, we focus on the prospects for investments in public transportation: —to create an expanding market for U.S. automakers who are willing to convert part of their production lines to manufacturing buses and trains; to lower the costs of transportation for lower-income households; and to help advance the construction of a clean-energy economy in the United States.
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