Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D.-Conn., the bill's sponsor, said the challenge the nation faces extends beyond a concern over foreign competition on manufacturing to ominous trends in favor of global outsourcing of the services sector, including high-end technology jobs. "Our entire innovation ecosystem is under stress, including the ties between basic research and commercialization, competition for capital and technology, and adaptive business models," he said. "This 21st-century rat race--constant insecurity, constant competition, and constant change--presents an opportunity for all, yet it will be a nightmare for the unprepared."
If the bill is enacted, the panel--known as the Commission on the Future of the United States Economy--would be charged with analyzing the impact of global economic changes on the American economy, including offshore outsourcing, and offering nonpartisan proposals to preserve our innovation infrastructure and create more high-wage American jobs.
Lieberman, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, which oversees government IT policy, said he patterned the commission after the Young Commission of the 1980s that fashioned an effective strategy to confront the challenges the nation faced from the Japanese. Chaired by Hewlett-Packard president John Young, that group of leaders from large and small businesses, labor, and academia led the nation in a dialogue on ways to strengthen the competitiveness of U.S. industry in domestic and foreign markets, said Lieberman, who credited its recommendations and remedies with propelling the unprecedented growth the nation experienced in the 1990s--much coming from America's high-tech sector.
"Today, the challenges we face are exponentially larger and more complex, and the Young Commission vision needs to be reconsidered and refreshed," Lieberman said. "We've entered an information age where intangible assets such as innovation and knowledge are the new keys to competitive advantage. The competitors we now face have world-class engineering and science talent, as well as low wages."
The bill, S.2747, was introduced before Congress went on recess at the end of last week and has been referred to the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee. The legislation requires that the bipartisan commission review the findings and recommendations of previous studies and commissions, analyze current competitive challenges to American companies and workers, evaluate the strategies of other nations for responding to the competitive challenges of the new economic environment, and analyze the impact of those strategies on the future of the U.S. economy.
The commission is charged with making recommendations to foster the skills and knowledge Americans need to prosper in the 21st century, strengthen the entire innovation system, and stimulate the creation of knowledge, inventions, partnerships, and other intangibles to maintain economic growth, income generation, and job creation.