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Rep. Ro Khanna

Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) speaks during an June 23, 2022 interview in his office. (Photo: Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc. via Getty Images)

Ro Khanna Lays Out New Vision for American Manufacturing and Economic Progress

"Embracing a New Economic Patriotism plan isn't just about jobs. It's about unifying Americans—from the coasts to the heartland—with a shared purpose."

Brett Wilkins

U.S. Rep. Ro Khanna on Wednesday amplified his vision for what he calls a "comprehensive set of policy actions designed to restore American manufacturing and technology leadership" while centering respect for the "workers who will help our country achieve that goal."

In what some observers view as a messaging test run ahead of a potential presidential bid in 2024 or beyond, Khanna (D-Calif.) published a Boston Globe opinion piece laying out details of his New Economic Patriotism Plan.

Khanna's plan has three main planks.

"The federal government must partner with the private sector [by financing] factories at zero-interest loans and commit the purchasing power of the federal government to support American-made products and materials like batteries, electric heaters, steel, and aluminum," the congressman wrote.

Additionally, "the departments of Commerce and Education should work with companies, community colleges, and universities to invest in the next generation of workers," while "the federal government should provide grants to support new manufacturing process innovation and productivity enhancements so that we can bring back manufacturing of major consumer goods like refrigerators, microwaves, and pharmaceuticals."

"As part of this vision, the president should set a bold goal to achieve a trade surplus again by 2035," Khanna asserted. "This is a proxy and metric for new industry, exports, and good-paying jobs. Germany maintains nearly 25% of its workforce in manufacturing jobs by investing in export industries to counteract the decline from imports and running a trade surplus. "

"Coordinating these efforts will take work, and the government can't do it alone," he continued. "To scale up this vision, it should create a National Economic Development Council to bring together different agency heads, economists, and business and education leaders."

"Embracing a New Economic Patriotism plan isn't just about jobs," Khanna added. "It's about unifying Americans—from the coasts to the heartland—with a shared purpose. Together, we will build the prosperity that is foundational to become the world's first truly multiracial democracy."

Khanna's vision—which reminded some observers of the Plan for Economic Patriotism unveiled by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) during her 2020 presidential run—comes amid a debate among Democrats about who will bear the progressive torch after Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Warren exit politics.

"Khanna has quickly risen to the top of progressives' preliminary draft lists as an appealing alternative to Sanders, whose presidential campaign he co-chaired and with whom he still enjoys a close relationship," Hanna Trudo, senior political correspondent for The Hill, wrote Wednesday.

"The California congressman has fine-tuned Sanders' populist vision to address the nation's income inequality as voters continue to rank the economy as their top concern," she added. "He has made the argument hit home by focusing on innovation in industrialized parts of the country that he believes don't get enough attention, including in struggling areas of the Midwest and some cities."

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