On Tuesday, the Senate will be able to enact legislation that would pour $ 52 billion into chip research and incentives for building manufacturing plants in the United States. Lawmakers must approve the bill and bring it to the president’s table as soon as possible.
Huge subsidies for a thriving industry can be hard to swallow. But Congress really had no choice. In China, Singapore, Taiwan, and Europe, governments are pouring in large amounts of semiconductors. And if Washington doesn’t compete, the decline in the nation’s share of semiconductor production could decline even further. In 1990, 37 percent of the world’s chip -making capacity resided in the United States. Now it’s only 12 percent.
That’s a national security concern. Without a steady supply of chips at home, our economy and our military prowess are put at risk.
The House approved semiconductor spending in February, putting it in a larger package aimed at countering China’s growing economic and technological power. And the Senate passed a narrower version of the bill last year.
But the law is weakening. And domestic manufacturers are laying plans for new semiconductor plants that are underway in places like Ohio and Texas as they await word from Congress.
Dragging the process too long, companies warn, and they go overseas.
Not that the $ 52 billion dollars in research and production incentives have slowed the passage of the broad -based economic competition law that has been halted by Congress for months. Among other things, Republicans opposed parts of the House version that favored unionization and increased assistance for workers lost to offshoring.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who is excited for a victory before the midterm election, has indicated willingness to move to a slimmed-down bill that would pair semiconductor subsidies with a tax credit from another bipartisan chip-manufacturing bill.
Other elements of the larger economic competition package could also be placed, in what some lawmakers call a “chips-plus” bill. But it is not clear who.
There is much to be included.
A provision, for example, would create a new office of the Department of Commerce tasked with prioritizing the kind of supply chain shocks- in semiconductors and other products- that have damaged the American economy in the recent past. ohay months. Officials will check the availability of goods and services in real time, allowing the industry to prepare for growing gaps and Washington to stock up on components that could be short-lived.
“Without that kind of intelligence -gathering activity,” said Todd Tucker, director of industry and business policy at the Roosevelt Institute., a left-leaning think tank and nonprofit, “the government would be flying blind.”
Solving the semiconductor problem could be Job One. But the lack of chips over the past couple of years has also brought many broader lessons.
Lawmakers should also take the opportunity to better prepare the country for the next major disruption – be it a climate event or a war or another pandemic.
The editorials represent the views of the Boston Globe Editorial Board. Follow us on Twitter at @GlobeOpinion.