Technology will fuel the future, and we cannot let other counties control the raw materials that make innovation possible. For years China has controlled the production of rare-earth elements that are used in cellphones, computers, petroleum refining, magnets, and batteries. They have used this leverage as an opportunity to glut or starve global markets, and the US has one mine, the Mountain Pass mine, that can produce large quantities of these elements. We need to ensure domestic production of these metals in order to have the material necessary to create high-value products at home.
We need to bring home more manufacturing, not only of pharmaceuticals, PPE, and other medical equipment but also heavy industry and other sectors. Tax incentives and deregulation would provide a good start. America should continue its leadership in basic research, which may not have immediate practical application, yet often leads to private industry to develop marketable technology. Frequently, this requires government funding for the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, NASA, the Department of Energy, the Department of Defense, universities, and others. These funds have supported the birth of the internet, advancements in shale fracking, MRI machines, and GPS among many other innovations.
Unfortunately, as production lines have moved away, so too have research and development jobs. Surprising as it may be to many, according to a White House Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy study, America’s defense industry lost over 20,000 jobs between 2000 and 2018. We need to move these and other jobs home by creating a flourishing economic climate.