Buy American At The Take Back The American Dream Conference

Dave Johnson

At next week’s Take Back The American Dream conference I’m on the Tuesday panel titled Strategy on State Level for Buy America Campaign. Please stop by if you are at the conference.

Buy American in government procurement is not a partisan issue. Polls show that people from the left all the way to Tea Party members feel that during these difficult economic times our tax dollars should be used to help create American jobs.

Even so, you might remember that the 2009 stimulus had a highly-publicized problem. Some Democrats in Congress proposed that there be “buy American” requirements on Recovery Act spending. But some lobbyists from bif multinational corporations convinced elected conservatives to oppose that as “protectionist,” so the provisions were softened. Then, later, conservatives were outraged when stimulus green-energy projects “created jobs in China.”

“Buy American” should be a mandate on all federal, state and local government purchases, consistent with our trade laws. There is no reason our government should be undermining American manufacturers. Our bottom line for federal procurement should be:

  • All federal spending should have “buy America” provisions giving American workers and businesses the first shot at procurement contracts.
  • New federal loan guarantees for energy projects should require the utilization of domestic supply chains for construction.
  • Our military equipment, technology and supply purchases should have increased domestic content requirements.
  • Renewable and traditional energy projects should use American materials in construction.

State-level spending should have similar requirements, and this panel will discuss these, and strategies to getting them in place.

The situation today is that some state-level procurement laws are very weak. As a result, a lot of tax dollars go to purchase goods made overseas instead of goods made in the USA. The impact of this often includes delays or cost overruns such as what happened with the San Francisco to Oakland California Bay Bridge, as well as the loss of jobs and revenue in the US.

The idea that national and state governments should “Buy American” isn’t in any way a partisan issue. If you look at polling you find that Republicans as well as Democrats believe that at least now while we are in economic distress, and trading “partners” are selling to us but not buying from us, our tax dollars should be supporting American companies and jobs.

This conference session looks at 5 model bills to strengthen the efficacy and transparency of domestic procurement laws at the state level. It is a strategy session to (1) share the legislation, (2) talk about strategy, (3) listen to ideas.


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