I wish Barack Obama wouldn’t frame his big picture talks about the economy as a “competitiveness” issue because competitiveness is a bogus concept (ask Paul Krugman) and since there’s no such thing as competitiveness none of the items in Obama’s competitiveness agenda will improve our competitiveness. This is all especially unfortunately, because I like the content a lot, and especially the felicity with which Obama makes the case for an activist, progressive government as a necessary complement to a vibrant market economy. From his remarks at yesterday’s “competitiveness summit”
If we remain dependent on oil from dictators, we’ll endanger our security, imperil our planet, pay more at the pump, and sit on the sidelines while the jobs of the future are created abroad.
If we can’t give every child in America the chance to get a world-class education, we’ll cripple their ability to make a living in a knowledge-based economy, and watch China and India move ahead in the race for the 21st century.
If we can’t control skyrocketing health care costs, we’ll confront a mounting moral crisis, and a major anchor on the ability of American business to compete.
If we don’t rebuild our crumbling roads, rail bridges and electrical grid, we’ll see our standard of living suffer, while we leave our communities less safe from terror or natural disaster.
And if we don’t invest in and encourage innovation, we could cede America’s historic role as the engine of growth, and progress, and discovery for the entire world.
This is good stuff and insofar as it’s inevitable that politicians address the public’s sort of irrational fears of being “overtaken” by China and India this is the right way to talk about the issue — as something that should inspire us to do better by investing in our citizens’ capabilities rather than cause us to try to shut the world out.