The U.S. needs economic patriotism

It’s time for America to ensure its companies are as patriotic as its citizens.

For decades, U.S. corporations and the U.S. government have operated with the same singular goal: increase company value for their shareholders.

This philosophy works great for private equity investors and hedge fund managers, but not so much for manufacturing workers whose jobs continue to be shipped overseas by the thousands.

Under both Democratic and Republican presidents, the United States’ core economic agenda has failed its people. The ideas that everything will be fine as long as the GDP is high and unemployment is low are just not true.

Today, the U.S. economy produces 20 trillion dollars in wealth and the stock market seems to break a new record every other day. Yet America’s labor participation rate is equal to that of Columbia and the life expectancy for U.S. citizens has declined in each of the past 3 years.

Corporations making billions in profits is great, but only if the citizens share in that wealth. What does GDP growth matter if a factory job that used to support a family now pays minimum wage? What does a booming stock market matter if Americans are dying by suicide and drug overdoses at record rates?

The goal post for economic success should be the health, stability, and happiness of the American worker. It should not be the bottom line of large corporations who couldn’t care less whether they hire a manufacturing worker in Michigan for a $50,000 salary or relocate their plants to Vietnam where they can pay workers a dollar an hour.

U.S. companies can’t have it both ways. If you want to share in the American dream and sell your products to the American people, you owe the country economic patriotism in return. That means hiring workers in American factories and treating those workers with dignity and respect.

Leadership in Washington should construct aggressive trade agreements and tax policies that incentivize companies to stay in the United States and punish companies that ship jobs abroad and suppress domestic wages.

This critique of U.S. businesses is not an attempt to disavow capitalism, nor is it an endorsement of the kind of costly, quasi-socialist programs being promoted by many Democratic presidential candidates.

The simple fact is that capitalism has been the most successful economic system ever implemented and the U.S. economy has produced the most prosperous society in the history of human civilization.

But capitalism is not flawless. And the government should intervene when the success of the free market does not mirror the success of its citizens.

Ultimately, all economic policy should be results-driven. Protectionist trade and tax policies should be implemented because they save jobs, even if they breach the unwritten rules of capitalism. After all, the free market exists to benefit society, not the other way around.

To just sit back and hope that the private sector will change their ways or that the invisible hand of unregulated capitalism will solve the complex economic problems in America today is not only unrealistic, but it is also unpatriotic.

David Gordon is a sophomore majoring in business.