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Silicon Valley Congressman Ro Khanna Visits Valley, Sees Hope for America but Senses Anger

Americans in Ohio and Pennsylvania are angry about an America that has left them behind, Silicon Valley’s Congressman said Wednesday.

U.S. Rep. Ro Khanna represents California’s 17th District, the wealthiest in the country with a 2021 median income of $157,049. The 17th is home to the headquarters of tech giants such as Intel Corp. and Apple Inc., and it is the only district with a majority Asian-American population.

Khanna, a four-term Democrat, is touring Ohio and Pennsylvania to get a first-hand look at the aftermath of the loss of industry.

The contrast between what he has seen and his home district is dramatic. On Wednesday, Apple shares hit an intraday record of $189.90. On Tuesday, Lordstown Motors, a maker of electric vehicles in Ohio, declared bankruptcy.

Some Americans feel that life was better one or even two generations ago, he said. Khanna stopped at the headquarters of the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corp. in Bethlehem to hear about how the Lehigh Valley has bounced back, while other areas languish.

“We made a huge mistake in this country, to let so much of our manufacturing leave,” Khanna said. He said the loss of industrial jobs hurts communities and at the individual level can lead to a loss of personal identity, divorce, and suicide.

Khanna said the Lehigh Valley is an example of how regions can recover after a big loss, mentioning Bethlehem Steel Corp. The defunct steel firm poured its “last cast” in its namesake city in 1995.

The congressman was present when President Joseph Biden signed the Chips and Science Act, promoting the semiconductor industry, into law. Khanna said a “Clean Steel Act” to boost that industry while using green energy is needed.

The tour through what some call “The Rust Belt” has been eye-opening for Khanna, but it is not all new to him. He was born in Philadelphia to immigrants from India and lived in Bucks County, where he attended Council Rock High School. He later attended the University of Chicago and Yale University’s law school.

Khanna heard about how the LVEDC worked with other groups and businesses to improve the Lehigh Valley economy, and said that could be a model for America.

“What we lack in this country is that kind of national strategy,” he said, mentioning steel again. In 2021, the U.S. was the world’s biggest importer of steel and China was the world’s biggest producer.

During the discussion led by LVEDC Chief Executive Don Cunningham, Khanna heard from labor, including Paul Anthony, business manager of IBEW Local 375; management, including Michael Cacace, vice president for corporate tax at B. Braun; and government including, Sunny Ghai, Chairman of Upper Macungie Township’s Board of Supervisors and a veteran of several technology companies.

Anthony talked about how students are encouraged to consider trades, while Ghai discussed the warehouse industry, which he acknowledged has good points and bad points. He also pointed out something that may not be known even to locals, that his township is a high-tech hub.

“We have some of the best chip designers in the world here in Upper Macungie,” he said.

Khanna is promoting what he calls “a manufacturing Renaissance” that will require government and private effort.

That focus is not just about workers. He said he would examine how the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act affects corporate investment. That act cut corporate taxes but also changed rules for the depreciation, or write-off, of some business investments.

The 2017 act gradually phases out the deduction, leading to higher tax bills on spending.

“That’s created massive tax bills for us,” said Damien Sibilla, chief financial officer for Tyber Medical, a maker of orthopedic implants that has its headquarters in Hanover Township, Northampton County.

B. Braun’s Cacace said said tax policy should be simpler and more consistent “to allow people to make long-term decisions and capital investment” without rules changing.

Khanna said he opposed the 2017 tax bill.

“In my view, it was tax cuts for wealthy individuals,” he said.

U.S. Rep. Susan Wild, D-Lehigh Valley, was also part of the discussion and said the 2017 tax law hurt workers by limiting deductions for equipment and reduced the deductibility of some state and local taxes.

There are many Americans without advanced education or training in trades. For them, Khanna, an avowed progressive, proposed three things: health care, child care at a reasonable cost, and a living wage.

“Everyone should have health care from the day they are born,” he said, adding, “We need to do better in terms of getting people child care, the costs of child care are outrageous in this country.”

A livable wage should be guaranteed, he said, mentioning baristas and restaurant workers.

“Nobody in America should work a 40-hour week and not be able to support their family,” he said.

Source: WFMZ News