To Tackle America's Greatest Challenges, Follow Detroit's Lead
I've traveled to Detroit on business for more than 25 years, and the signs of the city's recovery are becoming apparent. Although the city has a long way to go, you can feel the increasing energy and spirit of cooperation that businesses, government and nonprofits have to increase economic growth and create greater opportunity for all. The city has exited bankruptcy, fixed thousands of streetlights, and improved emergency response times and started to reduce blight.
Full credit goes to Mayor Mike Duggan, a Democrat, and Gov. Rick Snyder, a Republican. They are trying new ideas and modifying plans as they go along, never pointing fingers or worrying about taking credit.
The collaborative approach fosters an environment where individuals and businesses, large and small, have growing confidence to invest and build. JPMorgan Chase is proud of its 80-plus years serving Detroit and, most recently, of the company's $100 million commitment to help bolster the city's recovery.
Detroit's collaborative approach to problem-solving is instructive. With less partisanship and more partnership, leaders in Washington can follow the Motor City's lead to tackle five areas of pressing national concern. Finding creative ways to address them would substantially boost economic growth and create more opportunity for more Americans, particularly in low-income households.
First is the need for more—and smarter—investment in America's roads, bridges, tunnels, ports and airports. Physical infrastructure is a natural job creator in the near term and establishes conditions for long-term growth. The federal government and all of our major cities and states should have five to 20-year intelligent infrastructure plans driven by what we really need—not the political wheeling and dealing that ends up building bridges to nowhere. Detroit's M1 rail line—a 3.3-mile streetcar line to connect many of the city's economic, housing, cultural and health-care hubs that will be ready for passengers in the Spring of 2017—is a great example of the public and private sector leveraging each other's resources and expertise.
Second is an immigration policy long overdue for reform. We need a non-politicized approach that properly protects the borders, provides for a true path to citizenship for law-abiding, undocumented immigrants, and allows smart, ambitious and hardworking people to remain here as contributors to the country's economy.
It is alarming that approximately 40% of the men and women who earn advance degrees in science, technology engineering and math at American universities are foreign nationals with no legal way of remaining here even when many of them would choose to do so. Sens. John McCain and Chuck Schumer proposed detailed legislation in 2013 that would allow them to stay. The government’s chief actuary has estimated their proposal would increase real GDP by 1.63% and create 3.3 million jobs over 10 years.
The third area of pressing concern is public education. Only about 60% of students in high-poverty areas, including cities, graduate from high school, according to the nonprofit America's Promise Alliance. Many who do are not equipped with the skills to be successful in the workforce or college.
A 21st-century education system would require high schools, community colleges and business to work together on the development of courses, certificate programs and other training that provide graduates with the skills necessary to flourish in today's—and tomorrow's—economy. In Detroit, JPMorgan Chase works with employers, educators and nonprofits to structure courses and training programs that lead to employment. One example is the workforce program of Focus: Hope, a nonprofit, to train machine operators for good-paying jobs in Detroit’s new factories, like Detroit Manufacturing Systems.
Fourth, U.S. trade policy should embrace global markets and international cooperation. The passage of trade-promotion authority is a great example of political leaders putting partisanship aside on behalf of the greater good.
The trade agreements being negotiated with Europe and Asia are projected by the White House and the European Commission to increase U.S. GDP by 0.4% a year once they are fully implemented, and economists project the agreements will create more than one million new jobs in the U.S. by 2027. But American cities including Detroit, whose exports of motor vehicles and power equipment are crucial to Detroit's economy, could benefit from more trade agreements like this.
Finally, the U.S. needs to address its fiscal problems. The growing economy has temporarily hidden the problem, but the level of debt created by entitlement spending will ultimately become unsustainable and crowd out investments in infrastructure, education, research and development, our military and other vital initiatives.
High corporate taxes are, at the margin, driving capital and businesses overseas. The individual tax system is complicated, inefficient and unfair. The 2011 Simpson-Bowles Commission’s recommendations would have fixed a lot of these problems and promote the growth of the economy and jobs. And there is bipartisan understanding in Congress that the tax system needs reform.
Despite these challenges, America's future has never been brighter. The U.S. has the best universities, hospitals and businesses on the planet, and our people are the most entrepreneurial and innovative in the world, from the factory floor to the executive suite. We have by far the widest, deepest and most transparent capital markets, and a citizenry with an unparalleled work ethic and “can do” attitude. And we will have the best military in the world for as long as we have the best economy.
Detroit is an example of what can be done when we put partisanship aside and work together to spur growth and create jobs. But let’s not wait for things to get worse, like we did in Detroit. Let’s assure that America's bright future is as good as it can be—and exceptional for centuries to come.
This piece originally appeared in the Opinion section in the Wall Street Journal and Mr. Dimon's Influencer platform on LinkedIn.