The single biggest issue affecting our global competitiveness is our complete and utter failure to address Trade Mercantilism which dominates global trade and has for 30 years. Typically we only focus on one side of the global trade equation and that is exports and export mercantilism or trade barriers and not on the even more disastrous impact of import mercantilism, or predatory trade practices.
The sad truth that is constantly and deliberately overlooked is that if we can’t compete at home because of blatant and total disregard for the Rules of Free Trade, then we have even less chance of competing in the offending countries hone markets. Only Government to government interaction can ensure the trade game is not rigged and in this regard we have failed miserably since we first allowed our desire to help the world recover from WW2 (Japan, Germany) to become an EXTREME GLOBAL ENTITLEMENT. Which then was allowed to be duplicated by the Koreans, Chinese, Indians and others on a smaller scale. They all saw how well it worked for the Japanese and Germans and in particular in the case of China, the size of the impact was 10,000 times as negative.
The demise of our manufacturing sector and our global competitiveness has been compounded by the tax issues you mention and massive increases in burdensome regulations of all types, in all areas of our economy, that our global competitors the costs of which don’t contend with.
The skills gap and shortfall is a “red herring” not that it is not real but it is due to the don’t let my kid become an engineer, welder, electrician, scientist etc., because there are no jobs because manufacturing is dying. Also because in the world of rapid change of the last 30 years there is always a skills gap that we are playing catch up on, even when things are going “good”.
Finally we and our economic health and our future global competitiveness are the victims of a false business model perpetrated on us by countless financial “engineers”, schemers and academics and that is that we could be a nation that moved away from a model of making things to one of services and create real and lasting wealth. Instead what we got from this weak kneed, easy money notion was one financial engineered BUBBLE after another and no real wealth creation and the destruction of our Middle Class. Bubble 1- Savings and loan crisis; Bubble 2- Dot com; Bubble 3- Worldcom, Enron, Tyco; Bubble 4-Real Estate; Bubble 5- financial Ponzi collapse; Bubble 6- building as we speak based on something for nothing Fed easy money/retirees zero interest rate earning power/ government give a ways creating an ever bigger “dependent class”.