By Congresswoman Ashely Hinson and Sen. Marco Rubio
Iowans understand the importance of being able to make goods in America. Over the years, communities like Dubuque have felt the consequences of manufacturing jobs being outsourced to overseas competitors like China. Shuttered factories and storefronts have meant precious jobs lost, fewer Americans able to provide for their families and less opportunity.
Iowans also understand how important domestic manufacturing is to America’s greater national wellbeing, too. Each day, people across our country depend on quality agricultural products from the state. Iowa’s farmers put food on the table for millions of Americans — even as flooding, disease, corruption and more threaten far less secure food supplies abroad.
The presence of a safe, stable and domestic food supply is essential to our food security and, by extension, our national security. Despite some fears early on in the pandemic, Americans saw firsthand just how important it was to have access to our own food supply even as COVID-19 was shutting down borders and slowed trade.
Today, policymakers need to take lessons from our food supply and apply them to other critical industries.
Take manufacturing as an example. As the United States outsourced its industrial base, our country has not only lost good, well-paying jobs, but we’ve also grown increasingly reliant on foreign nations to supply us with things like even the most basic prescription drugs.
Now, America imports nearly 80% of the pharmaceutical ingredients used to produce generics and other types of drugs.
That means fewer jobs in communities across America, but also a massive vulnerability to our national security. It’s a problem that the pandemic has made all too clear.
After the virus’ initial outbreak, countries across the world scrambled to find drugs, personal protective equipment, medical supplies and other products useful for fighting the pandemic. The issue for everyone was that China has devoted the last several decades to dominating precisely these kinds of industries. For example, as soon as nations began closing their borders, Beijing was able to turn all of its personal protective equipment production inward, leading to massive shortages of items like masks and gloves here in America. As the pandemic raged on, we ran into supply problems with other drugs, as well.
Why was America — the greatest nation the world has ever known — left scrambling in the early days of one of the most terrifying crises in recent memory? Well, the answer is because elites on Wall Street eagerly sent supply chains abroad to make a quick buck without action from policymakers in Washington to stop it! Across the nation, we’ve largely outsourced our industrial capacity to foreign competitors, including China. America is in a perilous position as a result.
As federal lawmakers, it’s on us to right this wrong and strengthen our nation. We can start by applying the lessons Iowa has for us on food supply resilience elsewhere. It’s why we need to encourage companies that make medical devices and pharmaceuticals abroad to come home to the U.S. We can do this by bolstering domestic manufacturing and regional economic development in a sustainable manner, including through federal incentives and reduced regulatory burdens. It’s also why we need to ensure that underserved areas of the country are a part of this discussion – including rural Iowan communities that have suffered in the wake of deindustrialization and outsourced jobs.
A state like Iowa — already home to over 20,000 jobs in the biopharmaceutical sector — should be able to serve as a manufacturing hub. And there’s no reason the federal government shouldn’t move to shore up America’s biopharmaceutical sector against the Chinese Communist Party’s ambitions.
It’s time for policymakers to apply the lessons of our food security system, defend the interests of the American people and begin the critical work of rebuilding our domestic pharmaceutical industry, so our nation can provide greater opportunities for good jobs and be better prepared for the next crisis.
Hinson has represented Iowa’s First Congressional District since January. Rubio has represented Florida in the U.S. Senate since 2011.