The U.S. has to produce more and consume less. A handful of companies and unions -- yes, unions -- are showing us how.
President Obama is cobbling together a new jobs package for September, but it won't be enough to revive the economy. Instead of offering another grab-bag of micro-initiatives, the administration needs to embrace a different model for growth that stimulates production rather than consumption, saving rather than borrowing and exports rather than imports.
This strategy emphasizes investment in the nation's physical, human and knowledge capital--infrastructure, skilled workers and new technology. That's a better way to raise U.S. wages and living standards than a new jolt of fiscal stimulus.
Getting consumers spending again will boost demand, but much of it will leak overseas via rising imports, stimulating foreign rather than U.S. production. In a world awash with cheap labor, where technology gaps are narrowing rapidly, a wealthy society like ours can thrive only by speeding the pace of economic innovation and capturing its value in jobs that stay in America.
The shift from a consumer-oriented to a producer-centered society won't happen without a new partnership between labor and business--and a shift in outlook among workers themselves. Organized or not, U.S. workers should think of themselves first and foremost as producers rather than consumers. They have a compelling interest in keeping the companies they work for competitive, and in supporting a new economic policy framework that enables investment, entrepreneurship and domestic production. This reality points to new relations between workers and companies, and new political alliances.