Training Our Workforce for the Jobs of Today…and Tomorrow
For over 30 years, we’ve watched as manufacturing jobs disappeared from our local economy. While many point the finger at China, Mexico, and globalization, the truth is that manufacturing jobs that were once the backbone of a thriving middle class are being phased out by machines that work 24/7, never ask for a raise, and don’t need health insurance.
I’ve spent my entire career at the forefront of the world’s economy—working with leading technology companies in the U.S. and China. I understand where the threats are, but I also see where the opportunities going forward exist. Nobody on Capitol Hill has the direct experience or first-hand knowledge to make sure we maintain our global economic leadership while creating good-paying jobs that sustain our communities and our families for years to come.
We can fix this. Michigan has the foundational attributes needed to compete and thrive in today’s economy that runs on advanced technology and automation – we just need to reorient how we approach the problem.
- Leverage our manufacturing skillset, and infrastructure that once put the world on wheels, to attract global growth industries like electric vehicles, robotics and renewable energy
- Keep our educated tradesmen and college graduates in Michigan. We are simply losing too many young, talented graduates of our world-class institutions to places like Chicago, Austin, and Seattle. We need to spend more time listening to our young people, hear what’s important to them, and develop smart talent retention and attraction strategies to keep young people here in and connected to our community.
- Invest in vocational programs and entrepreneurial education which are critical to creating a strong economy here in our district. Only 23% of our district’s residents have a college degree, but our K-12 educational system is overly focused on preparing students for college entrance exams.
Return to Real Fiscal Responsibility that Strengthens the Middle Class
After the worst economic crash since the Great Depression, Michigan’s economy has been on a steady, but too-slow, recovery. As we emerged from the recession and the economy got back on track, our federal government should have been laser focused on “righting our economic ship,” paying down our $20 trillion debt and squaring up our budget. Rather than acting responsibly, they’ve already gone back to the pre-crash mindset, giving huge tax cuts to corporations and billionaires that will blow up our debt.
We need to get Washington back on course. It is crystal clear that it won’t happen if we keep voting the same way and sending the same people back to DC year-after-year. Michigan’s economy grows when the middle class is strong, not when politicians cut back-room deals to help their wealthy donors get wealthier. Keys areas I believe we need to focus on immediately include:
- Close tax loopholes that only benefit corporations and billionaires. Write-offs for private jets don’t create jobs, educate our kids or keep us healthy and safe.
- Simplify the tax code for individuals, and make the individual tax cuts permanent.
- Deregulate smartly to make it easier for small businesses to succeed.
- Use tax incentives that encourage businesses to hire American workers, not robots or ship jobs overseas. The recent tax cut incentivizes corporations to buy more machinery, which today means more robots meant to replace workers. In the same vein, we need to end tax breaks that encourage companies to hire low-wage workers overseas.
Our Physical and Mental Wellbeing: Healthcare
It’s common sense. We’re all only human and, sooner or later, we all get sick. It tears at me when I walk into a diner in Port Huron and see three flyers on a pin-up board, all advertising fundraisers for family members who are in treatment for cancer or other illnesses. We are not and cannot become a community that is okay with others having to choose between medical care, bankruptcy or death!
Like many of us, I had to learn about the shortcomings and inefficiencies of our health care system through a painful, personal experience. My dad, who I thought was the Man of Steel himself, was diagnosed with bone marrow cancer in the spring of 2016 and passed away later that year. Figuring out the complicated web between his private insurance, Medicare and out-of-pocket expenses left my sisters, my mom and me exhausted. The outrageous costs for the dozens of medicines he was taking, along with other drugs, that would have cost thousands of dollars a month had he survived would have bankrupted most people in America. This should not be the stuff American families are focused on while they or their loved ones are sick or battling to live.
We are a great country, and that demands having a great health care system to match. I see two immediate corrections to our health care system that would dramatically lower costs and still be able to cover everyone in our country:
- Break Big Pharma’s grip on Congress. The pharmaceutical industry is so powerful in fact that, by law, Medicare is not allowed to negotiate prescription drug prices to save seniors money. Major companies like Walmart and Apple use their size and purchasing power to negotiate extremely favorable pricing with their suppliers, but our Congress voted to make it illegal to do the same when it comes to the medicine millions of Americans rely upon to stay alive.
- Institute legal barriers between doctors/hospitals and the pharmaceutical and medical equipment companies. This is necessary to remove the financial incentive for doctors to push more drugs or exams on patients and are only prescribing medicines when absolutely necessary.
K-12 Education Reform
It is no secret that Michigan’s K-12 education has fallen behind the rest of the country. While there have been many ideas and discussions, there has not been much action and policy implementation. As your Congressman, I would be committed to working with my colleagues on Capitol Hill on both sides of the aisle, as well as provide leadership to local and state lawmakers, to enact smart policies that give our children the best possible environment to learn.
I believe that part of the reason comes down to politics, but it also comes down to focusing on the right prescriptions to solve the problem. The world is changing, and I believe that students need to be equipped with an education that promote critical thinking and entrepreneurship more than going through the motions of wrote learning and standardized tests. To give our children the best possible environment to learn and grow, we should:
- Ensure that any federal education dollars used outside the public school system are tied to strict, measurable standards. Charter schools tout that they will produce better students, but the results have been mixed. Only those that demonstrate successful outcomes should be allowed to receive public money.
- Resources should be moved towards creating innovative pilot programs that equip teachers to teach their students how to learn as opposed to how to pass a standardized test. These rigid performance measures do a huge disservice to our students and teachers, whether they plan to attend college or not, because they don’t account for different learning styles and they don’t leave room to teach the critical thinking skills that employers will look for in the professional world.
- Empower teachers and school districts to develop EQ, not just IQ, in their students. We are all keenly aware that mental health instability has become an American epidemic. Record levels of teen depression, suicides, mass shootings and drug use are signs of a mental health crisis in America. This can and should be addressed in our schools. Our schools need more counselors, not cops.
Revamping our Infrastructure
Michigan’s infrastructure problems are notoriously bad and have been in the national news for years. Potholes, torn-up roads, inadequate wastewater treatment facilities and dilapidated bridges are physical issues that cause physical slowdowns and delays but bigger, a more vital infrastructure deficiency is unreliable broadband and mobile connections.
For telecommunications, our reliance on reliable, fast and cheap broadband access for much of the district’s residents is lacking. Slow Internet connections and spotty cell service are more than an inconvenience. Now, in 2018, they hurt our ability to stably run our businesses or attract new ones to the district, and they have significant, negative effects on our students’ education.
We need a comprehensive plan to address our infrastructure needs, not just the roads. Our district needs to have proper means of expanding its core infrastructure for the shifting population around Macomb. Additionally, broadband access and stable mobile services are vital necessities if we are to catch up and be prepared for the evolving 21st century economy.
Supporting Our Farming Community
Having grown up on a dairy farm with about 300 acres, I am well aware of the pristine farmland in Michigan’s Thumb (including all the beautiful rocks we had to pick in the fields every spring). We produce over $100 billion worth of agricultural goods each year, employ almost a million people, and export nearly 33% of what we produce. It goes without saying that our farms and farming communities are a vital part of Michigan’s DNA.
Sadly, today we are seeing continued consolidation of our small farmers, similar to many industries in the US. The increasing costs are making the traditional dairy farms prohibitively expensive to run. In the wake of this consolidation, we are seeing increased specialization resulting in farmers’ interests diversifying dramatically from one another. A dairy farm’s needs, markets, and priorities will differ significantly from a beef farmer’s or a crop farmer’s. At the national level, addressing those diverse needs and demands for our farming community is essential to understanding how to help the entire agricultural industry.
It is important that legislators work hand in hand with our farmers to increase global demand for our diverse agricultural products. One key area that can immediately strengthen demand for corn is increasing ethanol production and consumption. By ensuring an even playing field between energy producers, ethanol can help farmers profits, help America obtain increased energy independence and help buffer against volatility associated with foreign demand. Additionally, although international trade has caused volatility and increased competition from abroad, our farmers can take advantage of this growth driver. Agriculture is one of the key areas that has actually benefited from our international trade deals and has been a driver of growth across the US and right here in Michigan. Unfortunately, farmers are paying an unfair price by being used as the primary point of leverage against America in our renegotiations with NAFTA and China. Given that real growth will come from growing demand in export markets like China and Asia for our high-quality agriculture and dairy products, we must ensure that agriculture is a key priority in Congress. There are many ways to expand and diversify our farming industry, but we need the right legislators who truly care about and understand such issues.