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Dec. 24, 2020, 10:07 a.m. EST

Here’s exactly where Biden will find common ground with moderate Republicans

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By Peter Morici

Joe Biden won the presidency but the Democratic Party—at least the more radical wing that strongly influenced his  platform —didn’t won the hearts and minds of Americans.

Sentiment is growing for pragmatic problem-solving and re-emphasizing  shared American valuesTicket splitting   down the ballot  and  statewide propositions  would seem to indicate  ordinary voters are mostly moderate . And would welcome a cooperative relationship between the Biden administration and a Republican Senate, should the GOP prevail in the Georgia runoffs.

The first order of business should be to enlist Republican leaders in  selling Americans  the necessity of vaccines. I’d like to see Biden and Senate Leader Mitch McConnell taking their shots together and encourage Americans to avoid crowded spaces, accept contact tracing and quarantining, and become  more cautious about travel .

Disappointing jobs reports  indicate the recovery is flailing, and the growing number of long-term unemployed indicates that many of the jobless have been laid off in industries that won’t reawaken to their previous vitality. Cities such as  New York  will restructure as much of the work from home becomes permanent.

A $1 trillion stimulus package won’t restore employment to its pre-pandemic levels, and the emphasis of his choice at the  Labor Department  will be critical. Political energy and money are always limited, and placing priority on apprenticeships and workforce training would do the president-elect more good with voters than  overly aggressive reregulation of the employer-employee relationship .

At the Justice Department antitrust division and Federal Trade Commission, the reverse may be true.

Both Republicans and Democrats have expressed strong interests in  curbing Big Tech  but to win voter sympathy, privacy rights and fostering ideological evenhandedness, as well as election security and market dominance, will win him the most plaudits. And regulators must be surgical so as not to undermine international competitiveness.

Americans have made clear they are sympathetic to the plight of immigrants but are  not interested in open borders . They are sympathetic to the goals of Black Lives Matter but  not replacing police with social workers  and racial quotas.

Biden should task Vice President-elect Kamala Harris with hammering out compromise legislation with moderate Republicans on immigration and police reform. Let her demonstrate she has the skills to govern—not just to prosecute.

In so many ways, the easiest path to winning a national election is to pander to nostalgia for a lost industrial age and union jobs—complain China is stealing and robots are killing good jobs. The hard fact is, as we crack down on China, manufacturers  are mostly moving   elsewhere in Asia and Mexico .

American voters will support green industries. That’s why businesses everywhere court customers by boasting of plans to reduce carbon footprints, and  America’s largest electric utilities are aiming to become totally carbon free . All despite Donald Trump’s climate change denial.

The Asians and Europeans are way ahead on electric cars, crafting national strategies to build out  the next generation of portable energy—hydrogen —and robotics. But don’t believe the  Green New Deal narrative  that subsidizing those industries can  strengthen organized labor .

EVs are simpler  than gas-powered automobiles and require  fewer workers to make and maintain . Solar and wind power are becoming competitive over the lifetime of equipment. Capacity may be expensive to install, but it needs a lot fewer workers to keep going—gas turbines require constant drilling, fracking and the laying of steel pipe to keep fuel flowing.

While we have been fighting among ourselves about the face of the future, China and others have been embracing it. Despite a cheap labor advantage, it has  50% more robots per dollar of factory output , and the Koreans, Japanese and even the Italians are ahead too. Chinese drivers can choose among 138 EVs, the Europeans 68 but the Americans only 17 .

Biden needs to give America an industrial policy because as in war, the Chinese, Japanese and Europeans have national strategies to supplement their private sectors.

China’s research and development efforts are growing faster  than ours.  Federal support as a share of R&D spending has been falling for years , while whoever is president complains about  Beijing’s subsidies for companies like Huawei .

An American industrial policy must be a competitiveness policy, and not impose rigid racial and gender goals. If it does, American  businesses simply won’t find enough engineers  and will fail.

It seems American university presidents are better at  indoctrinating undergraduates  with critical race theory and  purging conservative faculty  than enrolling minorities and women in STEM programs.

Peter Morici is an economist and emeritus business professor at the University of Maryland, and a national columnist.

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