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America needs modern industries

Eric Janszen, founder of iTulip.com

TEXT OF INTERVIEW

Kai Ryssdal:
Once the electoral dust settles in Washington, Congress and the new president are going to sit down and try to figure out what to do about the economy.
Already there's talk of a second stimulus package. Probably not one, though, that'll put money directly in taxpayers' pockets.
More than likely it'll be a government spending plan.
To create new jobs and drive economic growth that way.
Eric Janszen is the founder of iTulip.com.
He's also the author of an article in the most recent Harper's magazine in which he calls for a broad re-industrialization of the American economy.
Welcome to the program.

Eric Janszen: Thanks for having me, Kai.

Ryssdal: What are the steps to this re-industrialization?

Janszen: We need to start top down with an objective to say reduce the energy intensity of our economy, by 50 percent over the next 10 years. So, it has to lower the energy intensity of our economy so that we don't need to spend as much money on oil, and other forms of fuel. And we also have to increase the efficiency of our economy, so that goods and services and people are moved around at a lower cost. So, for example, instead of saying, "Oh let's borrow a few hundred million dollars and write a check to everybody so they can make one last trip to the Home Depot," take that money and use it to invest in broadband access to every home, so that every homeowner and household is now more efficient as a participant in the U.S. economy.

Ryssdal: When you say re-industrialize then, do you mean improve the infrastructure in this country? Or get it back to where it was 50, 40 years ago where we were the manufacturing and industrial engine of the world?

Janszen: Well, industry is different today than it was then. U.S. industry, modern industry is Google. Modern industry is also the most efficient vehicles that can be used to move people around in this country. And that also includes public transportation. So, it's an investment in efficiency. It's a reduction of subsidies to industries that do not improve our competitive position in the world--such as property. And it's a complete focus on reinforcing our core competencies as a nation to make us more competitive.

Ryssdal: But of course that takes money in and of itself.

Janszen: One of the challenges is where is the money going to come from. Because if we are already spending, as you've probably noticed, hundreds of billions of dollars on bailouts for financial institutions. Ninety-five billion dollars in tax credits to try to restart our old automobile industry. And what we have to be mindful of is if we continue down this ad hoc path, we're going to find ourselves years down the road without really significant, basic improvements in our nation's competitiveness. But we're going to find ourselves saddled with a lot of debt.

Ryssdal: Let me get your sense of the financial system as it works in this country today and how that might lead, or help, get us to some kind of re-industrialization that you've been talking about.

Janszen: One of the strengths of our financial system is that it's extremely creative. And, it's gotten us into a bit of trouble, creativity and banking as we found out recently don't always go well together. On the other hand, creativity in financing is going to really help us over the next five or 10 years to help figure out how to fund these projects.

Ryssdal: So, what's it going to take to make this happen?

Janszen: Well, it's going to take strong leadership. If we have leadership in this country that is thinking in terms of making long-term investments in our nation's competitiveness, then all the other steps of logic follow from that. If there are simply politically expedient ad hoc responses to the crisis that we are in, the we are going to wind up in an even worse position than we're today.

Ryssdal: Eric Janszen is the founder and CEO of iTulip.com. Mr. Janszen, thanks a lot for your time.

Janszen: My pleasure, Kai.

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