An Agenda for the New Manufacturing "Czar"

by Howard Wial | September 9, 2009

Wikipedia CommonsOn Labor Day, President Obama appointed Ron Bloom, head of the administration’s auto industry task force, as his manufacturing “czar.” A former United Steelworkers staffer, Bloom recognizes the importance of high-wage manufacturing to the U.S. economy and to the well-being of the Great Lakes metropolitan areas that have been its center for more than half a century. But his experience is mainly in structuring financial deals. Does he understand the non-financial obstacles to reviving American manufacturing? If he is to help the administration craft an effective manufacturing policy, he’ll need to advocate for the following policies:

We shouldn’t expect miracles from a manufacturing “czar.” Although some criticize the president for creating unaccountable centers of power in “czars,” the real problem with them isn’t that they’re too powerful but that they aren’t powerful enough. With no budgets, few staffers, and no real authority over federal agencies, they’re not in a position to move mountains. What we can expect from Bloom is that he’ll use his position as a bully pulpit to advocate for high-wage manufacturing policies within the administration. What we can hope from President Obama, in appointing a manufacturing “czar,” is that he’ll take Bloom’s recommendations seriously.

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