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The focus on American prosperity

Published June 25. 2011 09:01AM

I believe that the real issues in America today are the economy, unemployment, an overcommitted military and possibly immigration. Right now politicians are ignoring these issues as they do not want to be deemed purveyors of doom. When some of the Republican candidates for president attack opponents, they choose issues that polarize the electorate, rather than the real issues that face our nation. Two of these polarizing issues are abortion and gay rights.

This week Jon Huntsman declared that he would like to run for president. He was immediately attacked for refusing to sign a pro-life document, called The Susan B. Anthony List. This requires the signatories to appoint pro-life judges and cabinet members. Mitt Romney also chose not to sign this document and was similarly attacked by the other candidates. Both Romney and Huntsman have stated that they are committed to the pro-life cause but do not want to focus solely on this issue in their selection of candidates for political appointments.

Romney and Huntsman recognize that there are many dedicated people who are either pro-life or pro-choice, who can be part of an effective administration. We cannot staff our government solely with pro-life people nor can we staff it solely with pro-choice people. The same holds true for gay rights. We need people in government who can do the job rather than people who support or don't support gay rights.

We need people who can restore our economy and put America back to work. I believe that President Obama has been as bad or worse than President Carter from an economic and employment standpoint. Just as Reagan followed Carter, we need a strong leader who can take hold of our economy and turn it around.

We need a candidate, Republican or Democrat, who can encourage businesses to create the jobs we need. We need a candidate who will enforce legal immigration and find an acceptable solution for illegal aliens.

Two Mormons are in the race to become the Republican nominee for president. According to a recent poll, 22 percent of the American voters will not vote for a Mormon because of their religion. I remember when America would not vote for a Roman Catholic candidate. John F. Kennedy was our first Roman Catholic president. His words, spoken during his race to become the Democratic nominee for the presidency, are as powerful today as they were when he spoke them at the Southern Baptist Conference on September 12th, 1960:

"I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute where no Catholic prelate would tell the President (should he be a Catholic) how to act and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the President who might appoint him or the people who might elect him."

"For, while this year it may be a Catholic against whom the finger of suspicion is pointed, in other years it has been, and may someday be again, a Jew or a Quaker or a Unitarian or a Baptist. It was Virginia's harassment of Baptist preachers, for example, that led to Jefferson's statute of religious freedom. Today, I may be the victim but tomorrow it may be you until the whole fabric of our harmonious society is ripped apart at a time of great national peril." (

Barack Obama is our first black president. I thought that when Obama was elected it demonstrated that we no longer used race or religion to filter presidential candidates. Obviously, when it comes to Mormons, we still have a significant number of voters who cannot accept that one of the founding concepts of this great nation was freedom of religion. This election is not about race or faith; it is about getting the right candidate into the Oval Office.

Jobs will be a critical factor in the upcoming election. Over the last few decades as the Environmental Protection Agency implemented anti-manufacturing regulations, factories and factory jobs moved overseas. To mask the real impact of this transition, the information age became the buzzword. Get rid of carbon producing manufacturing jobs and focus on jobs in information technology.

The Internet, e-mail, social networking, and automated business processes improved our lives. In the beginning of the transition, many Americans worked as highly paid information technologists. They programmed the new websites, implemented electronic commerce and moved entire businesses onto the Internet.

Over time, companies realized that moving information technology jobs overseas could dramatically reduce labor costs. Thanks to high-speed network connections, the investment required to move information technology positions overseas was minimal. As a result, the information age has fizzled in America, but is expanding rapidly in Asia.

When we moved our manufacturing overseas, new factories had to be built. It was very expensive in the short term to move production to Japan, China or India. Some countries offered incentives such as lower taxes to reduce the upfront costs of building a new plant. Once the plant was up and running, the labor savings quickly enabled the company to recover their costs and make a profit. In addition to lower manufacturing costs, there was also workforce stability.

When manufacturing moved overseas, the unions did not move with them. Asian companies are less likely to suffer strikes and labor disruptions than their American counterparts. The combination of lower infrastructure costs and labor stability was the death knell for the manufacturing era in America.

The highly touted information age was just a deflection. High tech jobs are very portable. In addition, our failed education system has resulted in the inability of the American graduate to compete with their Chinese or Indian counterparts. Americans are great innovators and are able to invent many new products, but those products will likely be built in Asian factories. Despite spending billions of dollars each year on education, our students rank 14th in reading skills, 17th in science and a 25th in mathematics. South Korea is the overall winner.

I believe that jobs follow an educated workforce. It is no wonder that both the manufacturing and information age jobs migrated overseas as our grades dropped.

To secure a future for our grandchildren, we need to ensure that America's schools produce graduates that can compete internationally. The US Department of Education currently has a budget of $69.9 billion. In Pennsylvania, the budget for Kindergarten to Grade 12 public schools is an additional $8.6 billion. I believe it is time to measure the success of our educational system by the performance of our graduates against our international competitors. We need to produce the best graduates whether they are doctors, scientists, architects, lawyers, plumbers, carpenters or electricians.

It is also time to address our unfavorable balance of trade, which is approximately $900 billion a year. This means that we import $900 billion more in goods than we export. This large trade imbalance increases the amount of money we must borrow to pay our bills. In 2008 our national debt as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP) was approximately 40%. While this is not a good number, our current percentage of debt is 70% of GDP. ( Clearly our economy is sinking. It is time to start building factories here in America. A good place to start would be to ensure that all of the critical components in our military and weapons systems are made in the United States. We are completely dependent upon overseas providers for the circuit boards used to control everything from our refrigerators and automobiles to our weapons guidance systems.

We can start with electronics and move into automobiles, appliances, clothing and food production. By emphasizing "Built in America by Americans" we can create the jobs we need to employ our people and prevent another nation from holding us hostage for critical manufactured goods. As we build more here, we can export it. Over time this will create the trade surpluses that we last enjoyed in 1975. Yes, it has been 36 years since we had a trade surplus!

When we look at the long-term effect of moving production overseas, we can clearly see the correlation between closed factories and the deficit. I believe the future of national security is based on oil independence, educational superiority, and the return of the American manufacturing powerhouse.

Our misguided politicians continue to avoid the real issues by focusing on whether or not someone signed the pro-life declaration. It is time for them to understand that we want the return of American prosperity of the 1960s, 70s and 80s, not the high unemployment and deficits of 2011.

© 2011 Gordon Smith All Rights Reserved

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