The Commission on the Future of the U.S. Economy Act: S. 2747

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Introduced by Senator Joseph Lieberman (D., Conn.), this
creates a Commission on the Future of the
U.S. Economy to craft a strategy to confront our economic challenges.
Athena Alliance was deeply involved in developing the key ideas and crafting this legislation.
The Commission is similar to the 1980’s President’s Commission
on the Industrial Competitiveness (the Young Commission), which proved
to be a successful mechanism for confronting the issues of its time.
But the current problems are fundamentally different compared with 20
years ago.

As Senator Lieberman says, “Today, the challenges we face are
exponentially larger and more complex. We’ve entered an information
age where intangible assets such as innovation and knowledge are the
new keys to competitive advantage. These intangibles – including
worker skills and knowledge, informal relationships that feed creativity,
new business methods, and intellectual property — are driving
worldwide economic prosperity. In an age where these knowledge-based
assets are difficult to patent or copyright, intellectual property rights
are difficult to enforce, and information crosses borders freely and
instantaneously, the first Young Commission doesn’t give us all
the answers.”

These challenges echo those set forth in our publication “Competitiveness
”. They include:

  • the fusion
    of manufacturing and services into complex networks and the rise
    of new business models;
  • the need to
    go beyond quality and productivity to address issues of increased
    customization, speed, and responsiveness to customer needs;
  • the broad nature
    of the innovation system that encompasses basic research, technological
    development, venture capital, new product development, design and
    aesthetics, new business models, and the development of new markets;
  • the need for
    new and better ways of fostering the types of skills needed in a
    knowledge and information economy; and,
  • the challenge
    of unlocking the value of underutilized knowledge assets.

The legislation explicitly
recognizes that we are becoming an information and knowledge economy
(or, as I like to put it, the I-Cubed – Information, Innovation
and Intangible – Economy) and that both science-based research
and informal creativity are key factors in the innovation system. It
also explicitly recognizes the importance of information, knowledge,
and other intangible assets in driving economic prosperity, including
worker skills and know-how, informal relationships that feed creativity
and new ideas, high-performance work organizations, new business methods,
intellectual property such as patents and copyrights, brand names, and
innovation and creativity skills.

The Commission is directed to broadly explore these new challenges,
and is specifically charged with developing policy recommendations for:

  • transforming the education and training process into a true system of
    life-long learning;
  • upgrading skills of the United States workforce to compete effectively
    in the new economic environment, including mathematics and science skills,
    critical thinking skills, communication skills, language and intercultural
    awareness, creativity, and interpersonal relations essential for success
    in the information age;
  • promoting a broad system of innovation and knowledge diffusion, including
    non-technological ingenuity and creativity as well as science-based
    research and development;
  • fostering the development of knowledge and information assets in all
    sectors of the United States economy, particularly those sectors of
    the economy in which rates of productivity and innovation have lagged,
    and in United States companies of all sizes, particularly small and
    medium-size companies;
  • developing jobs that are rooted in local skills and local knowledge
    assets in order to lessen displacement resulting from ongoing global
  • improving access to, and lowering the cost of, capital by unlocking
    the value to financial markets of underutilized knowledge assets;
  • strengthening the efficiency and stability of the international financial
    system (taking into account the roles of foreign capital and domestic
    savings in economic growth);
  • developing policies and mechanisms for managing the increasing complexity
    of globalization;

  • adjusting to the impacts of global demographic changes in the United
    States, other developed countries, and developing countries;
  • improving economic statistics and accounting principles to adequately
    measure all sectors of the new economic environment, including the value
    of information, innovation, knowledge, and other intangible assets;
  • improving understanding of how the Federal Government supports and invests
    in knowledge and other intangible assets;

The Commission
shall submit a report to Congress by March, 1 2006 (or 18 months after
its first meeting, whichever is later) regarding the competitive challenges
facing the United States with conclusions and specific recommendations
for legislative and administrative actions. Made up of 17 voting and
5 non-voting members, the Commission would have the power to hire
staff, conduct hearings, request information from government agencies
and commission outside studies. $10 million is authorized in appropriations
to fund the Commission’s activities.