Welcome Scott Paul (President, Alliance for American Manufacturing), Harold Meyerson, (The American Prospect, Editor at Large) (HaroldMeyerson.com), (Twitter) and Carl Pope (co-founder Sierra Club) (HuffingtonPost) (Twitter), and Host Dave Johnson (Campaign for America’s Future) (Seeing The Forest) (Twitter)
Many people think that discussions of manufacturing and trade are boring, dry and old-fashioned. But these are two of the things that drive an economy, and right now the stakes could not be higher. So keep reading.
A country “makes a living” in the larger world economy by making (or growing) things and selling them to other countries. Other countries see making things to sell in the world to be a national priority and so they set up policies to help their companies and industries be more competitive. We don’t. We used to, but now we just don’t. Instead, our currently-dominant “you are on your own” ideology forces our companies and industries to compete on their own against the resources of entire countries. That is one of the main reasons our economy is having such a hard time. A good measure of just how badly we are losing in this world trade competition is our enormous, humongous trade deficit. Every dollar of that trade deficit is a dollar drained from our economy, and from job-creation and from wages.
Right now it is difficult but not impossible to make things in America. The deck is stacked against you. Our trade policies, tax policies and currency policies all work against companies that want to make things here. When we try to set up policies to help our companies, there is great resistance. For example, when the “stimulus” was being debated there was an attempt to get strong “Buy America” provisions in the law, so our tax dollars were not just sent out of the country to stimulate the economies of our competitors. Lobbyists for multinational companies – like the Chamber of Commerce – objected, arguing that protecting American tax dollars and jobs and companies was “protectionist.” Fearful of being accused of protecting American jobs and companies, this requirement was softened.
In the years since the stimulus, of course, every effort to fix our economy and American competitiveness has been obstructed in the House (Hastert Rule) and Senate (filibusters), while pressure to enforce rules against currency manipulation gets nowhere with the administration.
The book ReMaking America (edited by Richard McCormack, with chapters by ten experts in various fields) offers a prescription for policies to help restore America’s manufacturing competitiveness. Three of these authors are with us today to discuss the problems manufacturers face, and their ideas about how our country can recapture competitiveness and nurture vital manufacturing ecosystems.
With us today are Scott Paul, Carl Pope and Harold Meyerson.
Scott is President of the Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM), a non-profit, non-partisan alliance of some of America’s leading manufacturers and the United Steelworkers. AAM put this book together, and Scott wrote the concluding chapter of ReMaking America, “The Blueprint for ReMaking America.” Scott writes about the attitudes many Americans have that manufacturing is dirty, low-skilled, depressing, and not needed and how this led to the policies we suffer today. He describes the barriers in the way of a manufacturing resurgence, including research, coordination, trade policies and their effects, credit problems, and educational deficiencies. All of these could be addressed with national (even regional) policies to coordinate solutions to these, with government working to get all the ducks (tax, trade, education, credit, etc.) lined up for manufacturing hubs and ecosystems (including infrastructure investment) so manufacturers can again grow and prosper here.
Carl Pope is former Executive Director of the Sierra Club. Carl’s chapter is titled, “Energy Manufacturing: The Linchpin For America’s Future”. In an earlier discussion of the book Carl summarized the energy component of the manufacturing puzzle as follows,
The fundamental challenge if we take climate change and sustainability seriously is that everything we have built in US in last 200 years we must modernize or replace in the next 30. We need to rebuild a new America. This is not just an economic imperative, it is an ecological imperitive. … We spend roughly 300 billion a year importing oil and exporting jobs. The only way to solve energy problem is to shift to clean energy and source the clean energy here. … If we transition to clean energy it will be easy but not automatic to source the supply chain in the US. … [Continuing to use] fossil fuels means we must be a third-world power in 50 years. The Chinese are not going to do that if we want to stay in the game we have to do that ourselves.
Harold Meyerson is the Executive Editor of the America Prospect and a columnist for the Washington Post. Harold’s chapter is titled, “A Manufacturing Renaissance for Whom? (Workforce Empowerment.)” In the same earlier discussion Harold summarized,
A large growing number of American workers in well-paid manufacturing jobs are now hired on to low-paying jobs, partly due to lower-wage and anti-union states.” A study by Boston Consulting Group noted wage stagnation in the US and wage increases in China. Compare to Mississippi, this is positive for US. “But going down to Mississippi wages does not signal a bright future for American economy.” “A leading example of higher pay and benefits is Germany. Their companies have preserved the highest level of manufacturing in home markets, have offshored less-skilled jobs. There is an increasing tendency for German companies to locate jobs here in the South for cheap labor. This is not realizing the promise of manufacturing.
So let’s get started. Welcome Scott, Carl and Harold.
[As a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments to the book and be respectful of dissenting opinions. Please take other conversations to a previous thread. - bev]