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June 24, 2015 | by Steve Lawrence

Dan DiMicco on Investing in the Economy

Why we do not have to accept a “new normal” of sluggish growth or the “myth” of free trade

You all know that Dan DiMicco is a man worth listening to. In September, the former chairman and CEO of Nucor will keynote the MSCI Forecast 2016 conference in Chicago. You will want to hear what he has to say about the “myths” of free trade, the so-called “skills gap,” and his flat rejection of a “new normal” slow growth, services-based economy.

DiMicco is clear: The national policies and priorities in place now, are rooted in what he brands a “bipartisan disaster” and “no leadership from the president.” The result, he said in an interview with MSCI Edge, is that “we’ve seen our economic might ebb and watched in disbelief as a huge gap has developed between the haves and have-nots.”  This, he says, is also due to “the tyranny of short-term thinking,” and business operating values based solely on next quarter results.

DiMicco’s agenda for reviving the economy and social fabric of this country is specific and strong. That agenda, in his public talks and a new book, is also a powerful and convincing argument for political advocacy. We cannot accept any talk of a “new normal” slow-growth economy, which he calls “irrational defeatism.” And manufacturing must be the new heart of the economy, not service and financial industry jobs.

“We need to return to the fundamentals of being a nation that innovates, makes and builds things,” he writes in his new book American Made: Why making things will return us to greatness. He calls for a powerful federal program that invests—he flatly rejects the word “spending” here—in infrastructure to create the kind of jobs that will bring the nation to life again. “This is not spending. It is an investment, a proven expenditure that pays back handsomely in global competitiveness, good jobs and economic strength,” he told MSCI Edge. “We lost jobs in two main sectors in the recession: manufacturing and construction. But the way you revive this economy is by putting those manufacturing and construction people back to work. They still have the useful skills they had before the recession and we need them now.”

“The way you revive this economy is by putting those manufacturing and construction people back to work.”

As for our nagging national debt and the argument that we need to address it with less government spending and more austerity? “Yes we have a debt problem,” DiMicco said, “but we can’t put the cart before the horse. We have got to put people back to work first, and get this economy going again.”  

We will not be able to do that, he said, if we continue to negotiate trade agreements as we have in the past. We have allowed China and other foreign governments to subsidize their manufactured exports without providing the same support here at home.  “Look at the data and the results,” DiMicco said. “We need trade agreements that create jobs in the U.S. Instead, with all these agreements we have steadily lost jobs.

“Our most recent trade agreement was with South Korea, and in the last two years our deficit with the Koreans is up 72 percent,” he said. “And have these agreements created more jobs than we have lost in this country? Absolutely not.”

But how do we break the gridlock that has all but paralyzed policy and the economy? “I don’t mean at all to hold the Congress blameless in this,” DiMicco said. “But at the end of the day the leadership responsibility rests on the shoulders of the president. We have needed a strong leader, hell-bent on bringing people together. We have simply not had that. The job for the next president is to bring this country together.”

Learn more about the Forecast 2016 conference.

 

The views expressed by sources in this article are their own and not those of MSCI.