One after another, the Republican presidential candidates have come out with strong statements that appear to show support for making things in America and revitalizing American manufacturing. This is because they can read polls and polls show that Americans overwhelmingly want American manufacturing revitalized, are tired of offshoring, understand the importance of fixing trade deficits and want to see things made here again.
Donald Trump gained a lot of traction from the appearance of taking on China. Mitt Romney also talks about how we need to take on China. Rick Santorum has his own “Made In America” plan. But do their actual proposals match up with their rhetoric?
Mitt Romney has strong words about China. For example, last week Romney visited Competitive Edge, an Iowa company that sells promotional campaign items that you can put your own brand or message on. (“We’ve got items for convention give-a-ways, business gifts, direct mail campaign items, fund raising, political campaigns, special events, company promotions, and more!”) At this campaign stop Romney said,
“I’ll clamp down on China that’s been cheating,” Romney said. “They’ve been stealing our intellectual property, our designs, our patents, our know-how, our brands, they’ve been hacking into our computers. That has got to stop.”
“I will stop it if I’m President of the United States,” Romney said.
However, in spite of Romney’s words, many wonder if he is only saying this to get votes. For example, the website for Competitive Edge, the site of his Iowa appearance, says, “Competitive Edge is a major importer of Specialty Products from Asia and Europe.” According to TPM, the president of Competitive Edge “said he doesn’t think Romney’s being completely serious when it comes to his tough China talk.” He explained,
“I think the rhetoric of a campaign is different than the actual application,” he said. “[Romney] will sit down and he will get the right people in, he will take the advice of maybe a Huntsman who will say, ‘this is how to handle China.’” … When it comes to actually governing, Greenspon said he expects Romney will take a much softer approach to China at the urging of his supporters in the business community.
So much for Romney. As with so many of his campaign positions, surrogates explain behind the scenes that he is just saying what he needs to say to get votes, what he will do if he is elected might or might be completely different, there is no way to know.
The plan begins the way Santorum always begins: “Rick Santorum believes that to have a strong national economy, we must have strong families.”
Much of Santorum’s plan is the usual Big Lobbyist and Wall Street-backed Republican stuff about cutting taxes on the rich and getting rid of any restraints on the wealthy and powerful as “pro-growth” policies. Items 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 are actually all the same item: Cut taxes on the rich and their big corporations.
And then Santorum diversifies. Item 13 is get rid of President Obama’s health care reform, with no explanation of how this will help manufacturing. Item 15 includes, “eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood and support adoption” and “eliminate funding for United Nations organizations that undermine America’s interests.” Again, there is no explanation of how these will help manufacturing.
These points are apparently included in a manufacturing plan to reassure the Republican base that he is certifiably nuts, to attract Michelle Bachmann voters.
Some of the items appear to be the result of selling advertising space to lobbyists from various industries.
- The oil industry purchased Item 20: Tap into America’s vast domestic energy resources…
- The big Telco giants purchased Item 21: Unleash innovation in telecommunications and Internet consumer options by getting government out of the way…
- Pete Peterson shelled out for Item 22: Reform Social Security and Medicare…
- The big Wall Street firms that are investing in privatizing education purchased Item 26: Reclaim the role of parents as the decision makers in their children’s education and incentivize the states to promote parental choice…
- Canadian oil companies that want to sell to China purchased Item 28: Approve the Keystone Pipeline…
- Wall Street and promoters of “The Big Lie” purchased Item 30: Phase out Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s government backed role in mortgages…
The plan is not all bad. Santorum accidentally comes up with a few things that would actually help American manufacturing. Of course, they are mostly just more about cutting taxes, but these cut specific taxes on manufacturers, which might help bring some manufacturing back. These are:
- Item 10: Eliminate the corporate income tax for manufacturers – from 35% to 0% – which will spur middle income job creation in the United States and will create a job multiplier effect for workers
- Item 11: Spur innovation in America by increasing the Research & Development Tax Credit from 14% to 20% and make it permanent
Santorum’s Item 32 is important, and I’m singling it out for attention: Strengthen our national security and national defense so that we are not dependent upon our foes or competitors for critical manufacturing, technology, energy and other security needs.
So Santorum’s plan has a few good points but only barely matches the promise of its title. In reality it only offers more of the same policies that boost the 1% at the expense of everything else, even harming smaller manufacturers trying to compete with the multi-national giants.
The plan even offers a number of items that have ravaged our manufacturing base, pushing even more disastrous “free-trade” agreements. And, the plan has the added bonus of a series of unrelated proposals apparently included only as filler and the necessary proof of insanity to qualify him in a Republican primary.
President Obama and Congressional Democrats
As one component of a set of policy initiatives to improve manufacturing President Obama recently set up a new Office of Manufacturing Policy that will have cabinet-level status, reflecting the importance of the manufacturing sector to our economy. The office will coordinate the efforts of different government agencies, such as the Small Business Administration, the Department of Commerce and the Transportation Department.
In May Democrats in the Congress brought out a “Make In In America” package of specific legislative proposals to revitalize American manufacturing. In Democrats’ Plan Makes Jobs In America I described the plan:
Congressional Democrats yesterday unveiled the Make It In America plan for the 112th congress. This is a set of specific, detailed, targeted bills that clearly create jobs and restore our economic competitiveness, beginning with a national strategy for manufacturing. This is very different from the vague, sloganeering, lobbyist-written plan offered by Senate Republicans.
Yesterday House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi unveiled their Make It In America plan “to support job creation today and in the future by encouraging businesses to make products and innovate in the US and sell it to the world through strengthening our infrastructure and supporting investments in key areas like education and energy innovation.”
This Make It In America initiative involves a series of bills that have been introduced for consideration by the 112th Congress. This initiative will create jobs here, grow the economy and reduce the trade deficit, all of which help reduce our budget deficits. Creating jobs and growing the economy reduces deficits by increasing tax revenues and decreasing spending on unemployment benefits, food stamps, etc.
There is a warning here for President Obama and all other candidates of either party running for office in 2012: the public wants to see plans to bring back American manufacturing.
The public understands what the NAFTA-style trade deals have done to our wages, jobs, factories, industries, trade deficit and economy. They hate Wall Street’s quick-buck outsourcing schemes and the trade deals that enabled them, and want American manufacturing revitalized. Supporting Wall Street and trade deals and the quick-buck, offshoring economy harms the country and for that reason is political suicide.
The public wants to go into stores and see “Made In America” again.
Frank Sobatka explains: