No matter how election results ultimately stack up, the country must come to terms with an issue that will shape our economic destiny: Does America need a national manufacturing policy to be able to compete in the global economy?
Clearly, something must be done to reinvigorate U.S. manufacturing, including the auto industry.
But reaching a consensus on what a manufacturing policy should be and determining the appropriate role for government ultimately will be resolved in the political arena. Yet for too long, Democrats and Republicans have ducked the issue.
Sometimes, our leaders have come close. The decision by the Bush administration to keep General Motors and Chrysler afloat in late 2008 -- despite heat from the Republican political base -- was a tacit admission that the domestic auto industry, including the supply base, is crucial to the U.S. economy and our military preparedness.
That's also why the Obama administration followed suit, raising the taxpayers' stake in GM and Chrysler to $80 billion.
But a last-ditch, ad hoc policy isn't good enough.
The migration of manufacturing jobs to low-wage countries and the growing influx of products from less developed economies have distorted the balance of trade, affecting segments of our economy and society from workers to investors.
America cannot afford to let its manufacturing base erode any further. That means rationally confronting a host of questions about currency valuation, free trade agreements, tariffs, exports, imports and related issues. And doing it now.