BERNARD COLUMN: Georgia’s GOP Congressmen- do they want US businesses to be competitive with China?

Published 10:30 am Tuesday, September 20, 2022

By Jack Bernard

Bernard is a retired  corporate executive

Last month, President Biden just signed the “CHIPS” bill, sent to his desk after it passed both the Senate and House. This act provides for the production of highly complicated computer chips (semi-conductor fabrication) by businesses here in the US, as well as related long-term R& D efforts. These chips are the “brains” behind all of our high-tech devices, what makes our software work. 

Although this legislation was passed by a bi-partisan majority in the Senate with 24 GOP Senators voting for it, not one Georgia GOP Congressman (including the one representing this district) voted for the bill. The House vote was 243-187 for the $280 billion appropriation. Yes, that’s a lot of money. And all bills contain a certain amount of intolerable “pork” inserted by both parties to get swing votes. But here’s the key question — was the bill needed, with benefits exceeding costs? And here’s the simplified answer.  

Inexcusably, due to a total lack of strategic planning on the part of both the Trump and Biden administrations (about the only thing bipartisan in DC is incompetence), we have not had an adequate supply of these vital computer chips. 

Inextricably, they have been increasingly made by China, our arch enemy. For the long-term good of our nation, we have got to make these chips in the USA by our businesses … and not rely on foreign sources, especially ones hostile to our interests and values.

Recent history illustrates the depth of the problem. As many Americans know, the pandemic caused major disruptions in the product supply chain. In other words, how items are manufactured and shipped to us. In the case of chips, the pandemic caused real hardships. These hardships were due to a shortage of these chips which are used in all sorts of products (computers, appliances and so on). But they are especially vital in auto manufacturing and national security, for our military. On a more basic level, we all know that used car prices and new car prices have gone sky high in recent years. The chip shortage is the reason behind the increase on prices. 

One particularly good analysis as to why this legislation is needed from a strategic perspective was done by a military think tank . As it notes, back in 1990 we were once responsible for 40% of the world production of chips. But that fell steadily to 12% just 10 years later. To our national shame, 80% of chip production is now done out of east Asia.  And many of our key tech corporations get 90% of their supply from there.

Korea and Taiwan are particularly strong it this regard. What happens if China strikes either one in a show of military power? Putin did just that in Ukraine, causing international oil, gas and grain shortages. What happens to our computers and cars if Taiwan is hit? 

Along those lines, China’s strategic planning has been much better than the USA. The trains run on time in brutal dictatorships. China made chip manufacturing a national priority. 

From my standpoint as a patriotic American, I wish members of both parties would drop their destructive partisanship, for the good of our nation if not their parties. Regarding CHIPS, GOP Senators acted in a bipartisan fashion for the good of America. GOP House members, including our own, did not. And that’s a major problem for our nation, which is under increasing pressure to disregard its democratic moorings for a cult of personality.