KOKOMO  — Flip on any television channel and they will be staring you in the face, United States Senators, Republican and Democrat alike, who apparently have nothing better to do with their time than pontificate on the absurd and engage in political bickering. It is enough to make you sick, but with Covid-19, we’re sick enough already.  

Not all Senators have crawled into the mud for the daily wallowing about in front of the cameras. One in particular, Indiana Sen. Todd Young, has been devoting his entire time in public service to thinking about the big picture.

Perhaps it is because of his former work as an intelligence officer in the United States Marines Corps that Sen. Young has taken a thoughtful and forward thinking approach to the nearly out-of-control menace of China.  Analyzing strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats is the hallmark of intelligence work and Young has excelled at bringing those skills to his career in government. While some of his Senate colleagues spend endless hours trying to reverse the 2016 Presidential Election, Young is squarely focused on the future. To Todd Young, China should dominate our national groupthink.
Since his first days in the United States Senate, Young has not been bashful about calling out China for their long-term strategy to dominate the world, both militarily and economically. Young understands that China is immensely patient and always plays the long game in regard to what is best for its national interests. While our government and corporate leaders were thinking about quarterly profitability and stock options, China’s leaders were clearly concentrated on making the United States economically dependent on their country. We are now living with the results of this strategy.

Young rightfully knows that you cannot make the realities of the last 30 years disappear, but you can plan for the future so that we do not repeat the mistakes of the past. Let others worry about petty partisan political squabbling, Young is laser focused on making sure that the United States reinvents itself to deal with the revealed reality of a truly sinister China.

Recently Sen. Young published an Op/Ed piece in the Washington Examiner discussing what America needs to do now as we move forward from the Covid-19 crisis. Young utilized his experience of serving on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee and the Finance Committee to craft an idea for the future direction of our country called the National Innovation Strategy. Just as the United States has a cohesive National Defense Strategy that brings all of the disciplines of government together with a common focus on defense, Young envisions a similar strategy tying all of our governmental institutions to a cogent and comprehensive strategy revolving around the economy. It is a complex concept to design, wrapped around a time-tested philosophy of having all your horses pulling together in the same direction.

Young’s plan would assure that strategies regarding trade, critical investments, intellectual property, frontier technologies, artificial intelligence, quantum computing, advanced energy technologies, battery storage, bio pharma and supply chain issues would receive a comprehensive review and then form a bipartisan consensus on cohesive strategy moving forward. Young believes that our strategy could be shared with our economic allies and make the National Innovation Strategy a global one.

Young acknowledges that the United States has made great strides recently by optimizing our tax code and streamlining regulatory code. He applauds the diligent work of the Administration with forging effective free trade agreements while at the same time implementing defensive economic countermeasures regarding Huawei, tightening export controls and improving foreign investment rules.

Young’s National Innovation Strategy calls for investment in 10 key technology areas over a five-year period. Young asks that $100 billion of Federal government funds be partnered with an additional $100 billion in private funding be married together for a substantial and effective investment in the technology of the future. Young’s plan would also invite investment by allied foreign governments and sovereign wealth funds to leverage funding to perhaps $800 billion to $1 trillion over the next ten years.  

In an online interview with the Hudson Institute, Young answered a question regarding two possible objections to his plan regarding the fact that the United States is already a leader in innovation and that there are some economic purists who believe government should keep its nose and money out of innovation planning. Young answered, “It is a fair point that we are indeed the most innovative, creative, dynamic large economy in human history and I think that is something to celebrate and to harness. I don’t believe we are harnessing it to the extent we can.”

Free markets only work because of the parameters that our legal system and our other institutions put around them. You need to have enforceable contracts and property law, you need to have a society in which people trust one another. There are a host of things you can put in place that help catalyze the level of growth and the level of innovation; patent protection, for example.

So much of the innovation that occurs among our creative class, among our doers and dreamers and entrepreneurs and innovators is innovation that meets near- term consumer demand and provides a return to investors quarterly. And so I think that is, if not a market failure, it’s a market shortcoming because there are unrealized opportunities in the longer term. If we make collective investments, we won’t enjoy individually the near-term dividends from these investments, but we’ll all benefit in the longer term.”

In regard to government involvement in forging the direction of innovation, Young stated, “For those that worry about the slippery slope from a free market system to a state capitalist system to collectivism, I want to acknowledge that.  We must study history including economic history. We know that our country has made a number of strategic bets that have paid back in spades historically and that in order to be responsible public servants, we operate on a slope that some would characterize as slippery.  Let’s be honest with our constituents, indicate that it’s essential we make some of these bets as other countries make them, point to historical examples that teach us that things have worked in practice and that we can infer that they work in theory.”

Young went on address our biggest rival going forward. He began by referencing a book by Paul Kennedy, “The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers,” which he had read in high school. Kennedy predicted that China would delay making huge investments in its military and instead devote its resources to technological innovation. By focusing their essential resources on R&D and the development of their backward economy, China was able to rise from the ashes of Mao’s Cultural Revolution. Only recently has China geared substantial investments toward bringing their military up to a level approaching our standards.

Young believes we need to make sure we are making the requisite public investments to maintain our level of economic growth, knowing our population won’t approach the Chinese population and to harness our innovative spirit most effectively. Whereas China relies on a handful of Chinese Communist Party leaders to identify strategic technologies, the United States has the benefit of the countless innovators and entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley and Boston. He noted that some of those innovation leaders live and work in Indiana and beyond.  

The senator also noted that we have the best research scientists and institutions in the world and that by scaling up our existing talent, our core competencies and by making investments with a longer term objective in mind, we can maintain our competitive advantages.

Much as the United States dramatically prospered from our goal of landing a man on the moon and investing both our financial and human resources to get there, Young expects the same sorts of return from a myriad of known and unknown technologies. While he talks in terms of investment and returns, Young knows that the ultimate goal of his National Innovation Strategy is continued economic strength and national security. These should be objectives that rise above partisan warfare.

Todd Young has proven himself to be a thoughtful, creative and dedicated senator. He knows that you don’t get to where you want to go by focusing on the white lines in the road ahead of you but by concentrating on the horizon.  Instead of injecting himself into every combative partisan battle, Young has risen to the level of statesman.  

Instead of forcing himself into the public limelight, I see him called into the national public eye by his dedicated and effective work on behalf of all Americans. 

Dunn is the former Howard County Republican chairman.