Of all the issues surrounding this year’s presidential election, fluid power is decidedly not at the top of list. Nonetheless, the outcome could have a long-term effect on the industry’s success. From onshoring to research to workforce skills, here’s where the candidates stand on several key issues.
Manufacturing. President Trump’s second-term platform embraces the goals: “Create 10 million new jobs in 10 months, and create 1 million new small businesses.” His actual record is mixed. Annual manufacturing job gains from 2016 to 2019 matched those from 2010 to 2015. That growth stagnated last year in part due to punitive tariffs and was decimated by Covid-19, although there has since been a modest recovery. His “America First” initiatives include mandating essential medical products be produced domestically. Business growth and investment policies are primarily tied to unspecified tax benefits, such as credits for reshoring certain jobs. He’d eliminate the Manufacturing Extension Partnership program.
Joe Biden’s “Made in All of America” plan promises $400 billion in federal spending for products, materials and services made in the U.S. He seeks to “retool and revitalize” American manufacturers to modernize aging factories, invest in new equipment and reduce carbon footprint. Specifics include new small-business credits, quadrupled funding for the Manufacturing Extension Partnership and creating a national network of free incubators and innovation hubs.
Infrastructure. Biden’s $1.7 trillion energy and infrastructure plan commits to purchasing American steel, building materials and construction equipment. It will create “millions of jobs” rebuilding roads, bridges, water systems, electricity grids and broadband networks. Further, it will upgrade six million buildings and homes; and invest in carbon-free energy generation, a “green” auto industry, zero-emissions public transportation and climate-smart agriculture.
Trump promised a $1 trillion infrastructure package in 2016 that has yet to materialize. He recently proposed $2 trillion in infrastructure spending to help the economy recover from the coronavirus-induced recession. The campaign plan calls for building the “world’s greatest infrastructure system,” with stated goals to rebuild crumbling roads and bridges, “win the race to 5G” and improve rural internet access.
Science and technology. Trump aims to launch a Space Force, establish a base on the Moon and send a manned mission to Mars, which would likely require more R&D spending for NASA and DoD. The administration has proposed cuts to most other federal research, stating that commercial application of research should be industry’s responsibility. Some economists argue that greater public investment in basic R&D could help boost productivity and economic growth.
Biden would target $300 billion toward R&D and “breakthrough” energy technology, including an Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H) and for Climate (ARPA-C) and major increases in federal R&D spending for the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, DoD and DARPA. And he supports allocating funds in areas like 5G, advanced materials, AI, battery technology, biotechnology and electric vehicles.
STEM. Biden plans to support career and technical education (CTE) for high school students and establish free community college/business partnerships that offer industry-recognized credentials and apprenticeships — to expand STEM careers in tech and manufacturing. Biden would also change current immigration policies, such as exempting recent Ph.D. STEM graduates from visa caps.
Trump’s 2021 budget seeks to defund STEM education offices at NASA and the NOAA and cut similar programs at other science agencies — while launching a $150 million STEM initiative for minority institutions. A $2 billion CTE grant program would encourage organizations to “develop, implement, and expand high-quality CTE programs, particularly in STEM fields, including computer science, that drive innovation and economic growth.” He would also increase fees and restrict qualifications for H-1B visas, to “prepare American workers for jobs that are currently being filled by foreign workers, especially in STEM fields.”