By Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA)
The American people and our economy have come a long way from the recession President Obama inherited seven years ago. We went from hemorrhaging 700,000 jobs a month, to an unprecedented 73 consecutive months of private sector job growth. More than 14 million jobs have been created. Unemployment has been cut in half. The stock market has recovered. The auto industry was rescued. And we’ve invested in exploding American industries like advanced manufacturing and solar.
Yet despite these positive economic signs, economic anxiety remains high. Why?
Our economy is in the midst of a massive technological transformation. As technology disrupts industries, incredible opportunities and new jobs are created. For example, the App Economy – which did not even exist 10 years ago – now accounts for 1.6 million direct and indirect jobs. 45 million Americans have offered some kind of good or service through the gig economy.
In just the last decade we’ve witnessed global-leading advancements in advanced battery technology, wind and solar, driverless vehicles, drone technology, advanced manufacturing, genomic medicine, and the Internet of Things. We’ve seen the creation of companies like Facebook, Uber and Spotify revolutionize the way we live. I often joke with my young staff, they probably don’t remember what a CD is, let alone a vinyl record.
But as new industries and jobs are being created or automated, others are made obsolete, leaving millions of Americans behind and millions more anxious that they are about to be left behind. Too many of our fellow Americans feel fundamentally unmoored in today’s economy. How can I find my footing in a world and economy changing so rapidly? The skills I learned yesterday are obsolete today and the skills I learn today may be useless tomorrow. And this anxiety is not limited to blue collar workers.
Take the “Suburban Office Economy” voter, for example. They have a decent job but still feel squeezed every month. Aside from a bigger screen on their iPhones, they might not see how the technological transformation of our global economy has improved their household’s economy. What can we do for them?
As a nation, we can respond in one of two ways. We can try to block the transformation that’s happening. We can build walls, we can blame immigrants, and we can stifle new industries with needless regulation. We can withdraw from global trade because we fear competition.
Or we can do what Americans have always done. We can work to shape and harness the incredible opportunities of the future to create good-paying jobs and ensure that all American families can reap the benefits.
The House New Democrat Coalition’s American Prosperity Agenda offers a blueprint for America’s 21st Century Innovative Economy. We believe that an agenda for shared economic growth is more productive than a mere recitation of economic grievance. We believe our role is to give every American the tools to take full advantage of the 21st Century Innovation Economy, not to resurrect a 20th century economy that is long gone. That is the approach we must take to allay the legitimate anxieties felt by so many Americans.
So what does that economy look like and how do we get there?
It begins with the policy pillars of the Innovative Economy. We need a modern tax code to encourage growth, jobs, and investment. We need policies to make it easier for innovative companies to access capital. We should expand export markets through progressive trade agreements that raise standards across the globe. We need to pass comprehensive immigration reform and expand STEM education programs to retrain our workforce. And we need to make long overdue investment in infrastructure and R&D to stay ahead of the innovative curve.
This agenda will give every American the opportunity and the tools to become a full participant in the 21st century Innovative Economy. It’s what our nation needs to stay competitive in the global economy of this new century.