American ingenuity is lining the pockets of foreign manufacturers, who quickly produce and market new U.S. inventions.
By beating the U.S. to the punch with its own discoveries, other nations are undermining America's dreams of replacing declining smokestack industries with high-tech manufacturing plants.A new study released this week by the Council on Competitiveness, a group of 151 chief executives from industry, organized labor and higher education says that "Silicon Valley is not so far removed from Detroit."
The report predicts that only a concerted effort by government, business and industry will halt the nation's soaring trade deficit and return production of American-inspired goods to U.S. companies.
It shows that markets pioneered and once dominated by American firms have shriveled dramatically in the past several years. For instance, in 1970, U.S. companies produced 90 percent of the world's phonographs, but by 1987, they produced only 1 percent of the total.
Marked declines have also occurred in the production of color televisions, machine tools and telephones - all products that were once made almost exclusively in America, and which now are the mainstays of foreign manufacturers.
The report says the key to success in developing new technology for the marketplace is speed and teamwork - two traits that major American research and development enterprises, many laden with layers of bureaucracy, don't possess.
It also calls on the next president to create a Cabinet-level post for his national science adviser, to coordinate all government policies relating to research and development, and recommends reform of government regulations to streamline the commercial use of new technology.
The report comes on the heels of another study by a Massachusetts economist, which details a $10,000 wage and benefit gap between workers in declining industries, such as steel and mining, and those in growth businesses like restaurants and health services.
Together, they provide a stinging scenario for Americans' future standard of living.
Such figures ought to spur renewed efforts by leaders in the public and private arenas to help recapture the preeminent position the United States once enjoyed in all sectors of the world marketplace.
The first fruits of American ingenuity need to be kept where they belong - at home.