Becoming a nation that builds

Published 9:55 pm Friday, January 9, 2015

Though the start of the new year may not bring with it a completely blank slate, it at least offers an opportunity to recalibrate. We find ourselves considering where we’ve been and what we want to become.

For many people, this recalibration manifests itself in the form of goals. This year as I thought of goals for myself, I also found myself thinking of the goals I would set for our nation. I thought of economic policy goals, national defense goals, goals for our budget, and many others. Those are all important legislative issues that touch mainstays of our society.

But if there were one overarching goal I could set for our country — one that reaches across industries, legislative policies, and national issues — it would be this: To be a nation that builds instead of a nation that repairs.


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America comes from a steep tradition of building. Out of chaos, uncertainty and the desire for freedom, the first generation of Americans built a country based on life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Our history has been sprinkled with stories of incredible builders. Jonas Salk constructed a vaccine for polio and produced a medical breakthrough for humanity. Henry Ford built the concept of a moving assembly line and changed the face of American manufacturing. NASA built the Apollo rocket program — and we put a man on the moon.

Behind those feats was a national government cheering and mobilizing in support of those innovations. We haven’t seen that government in quite some time. Instead of being the entity to help propel innovation, the federal government is holding it back.

There is a simple reason: resource allocation. The federal government is so focused on repairing broken policies that it has little time to think towards the future. Instead of thinking of ways to encourage innovative discovery, the federal government is repairing mistakes in the implementation of the healthcare law, the effects of sequestration, badly strained political relationships, an out-of-control deficit, and a dysfunctional government.

Yet through it all, American individuals and businesses have continued to build. Steve Jobs and his company built a computer, and an iPod and an iPhone and changed the way we communicate. Dr. Francis Collins and his team of scientists mapped and sequenced the human genome and advanced biological knowledge of human health. Larry Page and Sergey Brin built Google and changed the way we look for information.

I believe American individuals and businesses will always look for ways to build a better future for themselves. But imagine what could be done if our goal was for an American government that builds, instead of one that repairs?

What if our government had the capacity to create the best possible environment for innovators, so they could be more agile, creative and efficient? There is a clear way to do this: by giving individuals and businesses the tools necessary to innovate and excel, and by cutting the red tape that is choking vital American industries. The federal government can build America by simply getting out of the way and empowering individuals and businesses to do what they do best.

We could encourage a renewed emphasis on math and science education, so students can maintain a competitive edge as they enter the workforce. We could lift the weight of government bureaucracy off the shoulders of our manufacturing industry to create opportunity for increased global competitiveness, national innovation and American jobs.

We could be on the frontiers of new medical breakthroughs by reinvesting in our medical research infrastructure, putting patients first, and choosing medical innovation over medical regulation. We could put medicine in the hands of researchers rather than bureaucrats.

Here at the beginning of 2015, the most important goal we can set is one that empowers Americans to do what we’ve always done best: to be a nation that builds.

Congressman J. Randy Forbes represents Virginia’s Fourth District, which includes Suffolk, in the U.S. House of Representatives. Visit his website at