U.S. President Donald Trump's first address to Congress focused on national security, tax and regulatory reform, the economy and healthcare.

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NationSwell Council Members React to President Trump's Congressional Address

The 45th president shared numerous lofty goals in his speech. What should happen next in order to achieve them?

In his debut before both houses of Congress, President Donald J. Trump used traditional rhetoric to reveal his administration’s legislative goals for the coming year. Promising drastic increases in defense spending and replacement of crumbling infrastructure, Trump also spoke about his bold plans for American manufacturing, public education, the coal industry and tax reform.

Here, NationSwell Council members detail how to move forward on these areas of focus.

Manufacturing

The U.S. needs a comprehensive industrial policy that focuses on areas where it has a competitive advantage: Technology-related sectors (IT, biotech, robotics, etc.) and anything that is energy intensive, as we have among the lowest energy costs in the industrialized world and will for the foreseeable future. A significant amount of investment is already taking place in these areas, so there is no need to incentivize companies to do something that they would do anyway.

However, there are things that can be done to ensure that this competitive advantage becomes solidified and tenable over the long-term, while also broadening the manufacturing base in other areas: aligning corporate tax policy around creating jobs, enhancing public-private partnerships that will serve as technology feedlines to small and mid-sized companies and solidify long-term commitments to manufacturing that enable firms to remain competitive while remaining entrenched in their communities, improving internal infrastructure to maximize efficiency, putting resources into vocational education and on-the-job training for manufacturing workers and keeping labor costs in check.
— Alex Skora, president of Estron Chemical, a polymer design company that helps develop environmentally-friendly solutions for the coatings industry.

Public education

President Trump is correct—equity in providing a quality education to all children is the civil rights issue of our time. There are no silver bullets, however. If our goal is to provide an outstanding education to all young people regardless of race, circumstance or geography, school choice alone will not get us there. Just saying that families have choice will not make it so when access to communities and neighborhoods is limited. For the vast majority of young people in this country, we must invest in a strong public education, making the neighborhood school a viable and powerful option.

There are so many terrific innovations in this country that are already moving the needle as we seek to provide an outstanding, accessible education for all—innovations in recruiting, mentoring and training teachers, therefore elevating the profession; innovations in building school culture based on restorative practice, not “push out;” innovations in curriculum that emphasize creativity, problem solving and cultural competency and that provide both “windows and mirrors” to the lives of all our students; innovations in digital learning; innovations in linking school to real-world learning experiences, internships and career pathways. Taken together, these innovations in schools of all kinds will prepare our young people to be 21st century learners, workers and leaders. We need to support a multi-layered approach to creating a great school system in this country, supporting continued innovation and sharing best practices even as we seek to level the playing field for all young people regardless or race, ethnicity or the circumstances of their birth.
— Tim Lord is the co-founder of DreamYard, a Bronx, N.Y.-based organization that builds pathways to equity and opportunity in the arts, and a former public school teacher

 

Coal

There is no long term future in coal mining. We need to be honest about this before the conversation can be productive. We at DSM (“Dutch State Mines”) made the transition from coal mining to other industries including clean energy successfully. We need to invest in training, manufacturing and innovation in new industries—like solar, wind and biofuels—in historical coal mining communities to make sure that residents today, and for generations to come, have a real opportunity at the American dream.
— Hugh Welsh, president and general council of DSM North America

Tax reform

First, to say that “American companies are taxed at one of the highest rates” is not entirely accurate. Yes, America’s nominal corporate tax rate is high but our corporate tax code is riddled with loopholes that make the “effective” tax rate U.S. corporations pay one of the lowest in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. I believe we should all be in favor of lowering the corporate tax rate but only in the event that it becomes a flat tax, thereby leveling the playing field for all U.S. businesses, not just advantaging further the biggest ones who can best game the system.

As for lowering middle class taxes, again, I believe again the answer needs more nuance. The biggest issue in our tax system is not the burden on the middle class, which pays a historically low effective federal tax rate of 19 percent; it’s the fact that richer Americans usually pay a lower effective tax rate, meaning that they aren’t being asked to pay their fair share—a situation that Mr. Trump unfortunately seems to want to exacerbate.
— Andrew Huszar, senior fellow at Rutgers University Business School in New Brunswick, N.J.

 

Ashley is the Managing Editor of NationSwell. Previously, she was the Money Editor at Real Simple. Her work has appeared in Ozy, Good Housekeeping, O, The Oprah Magazine, and more. You can reach her at: [email protected]