Reviving American Manufacturing
As a businessman who started a manufacturing company that now provides hundreds of good-paying jobs right here in the Midwest, nothing is more important to Bill Foster than the health of manufacturing in America.
As a Democrat, Bill Foster is proud that U.S. Manufacturing Jobs have Increased Under Every Democratic Administration since FDR -- and angered at the Loss of Manufacturing Jobs that Has Occurred Under Every Single Republican Administration.
In 2001, manufacturing employment began a catastrophic drop. From 2001 to 2009, one third of U.S. manufacturing jobs were wiped out. Although manufacturing employment is recovering under President Obama, the damage done during the Bush years will take decades to repair.
This job loss was across the board – from rust belt industries to hi-tech manufacturing. During this time, the auto industries imploded and Silicon Valley recently saw its last integrated circuit foundry close.
As a businessman who started a company that now provides hundreds of good manufacturing jobs in the Midwest, Bill Foster is angered at the misguided policies that brought about this collapse. In Congress, Bill has been a strong supporter for restoring a balance to our economy that recognizes the importance of manufacturing—for reasons of both our economic health and for our national security.
Why do U.S. Manufacturing Jobs Always Rise Under Democrats and Fall Under Republicans?
1) Democrats will stand up against abusive trade practices. When a foreign trading partner engages in abusive trade practices like "dumping" manufactured good at below their production costs, Democratic presidents have proven far more willing to stand up and fight for American jobs. In contrast, Republicans often treat this as an opportunity to bust trade unions, lower wages, or increase the profitability of their multinational campaign contributors. A recent example of this was the refusal of the Bush administration and the Republican majorities in Congress to respond to the massive currency manipulation by China in the early 2000's.
2) Democrats will take tough votes in tough times to ensure the survival of U.S. manufacturing. The vote for the Automobile bailout -- a vote taken in the depths of the financial crisis, when the public was scared and angry and polling was running 70-30 against the auto bailout, and shortly after the CEO's of the Big Three Automakers had flown to Washington in their private jets to beg for money even as they had steered their companies to the edge of bankruptcy. There is a long list of brave Democrats -- myself included -- who lost their seats in Congress after taking these and other brave votes to save our economy. And yet, without those votes, three million American manufacturing jobs would not exist today.
3) Democrats understand the importance of a fair and rules-based business environment, and stable and respectful international relations, to export manufacturing and economic growth. The Trump Administration's spurious public intimidation of U.S. manufacturers, and Trump's erratic and inconsistent promises, are no substitute for stable well-structured incentives that promote U.S. manufacturing.
4) Democrats understand the connection between manufacturing and national security. Under the Republican philosophy that the only duty of a CEO is to maximize shareholder profits, if a company can make more money by substituting a cheaper foreign component, they should go ahead -- even if this comes at the cost of destroying U.S. industries like electronics or shipbuilding that are crucial to our national defense. Democrats hold a wider view of corporate responsibility -- to their workforce, to our national defense, our national economy, and to our environment.
5) Democrats will Fight for Tax Code that incentivizes U.S. manufacturing and keeping profits onshore.
How Bill Foster believes we should fix U.S. Manufacturing
1) Eliminate Tax Incentives to Move Jobs Offshore.
Although overall U.S. income tax rates are the lowest in 60 years, the tax code is still littered with misguided and indefensible incentives that encourage companies to ship American-jobs offshore. Many of these were enacted due to lobbying by large corporations whose business plans were to move manufacturing operations offshore, and paid high-powered lobbyists to obtain beneficial tax breaks for doing so.
These tax incentives to move jobs offshore have to be dismantled – carefully and quickly – and Bill has been proud to vote for legislation to begin this process.
2) Stop poorly conceived and badly executed trade agreements.
In all trade negotiations, four things are always on the table: Manufacturing, Agriculture, Financial Services interests, and diplomatic considerations. Bill believes that for decades, the United States was ill-served by trade agreements influenced by special interests and their lobbyists who pushed forward the priorities of Wall Street and short-term diplomatic interests at the expense of U.S. manufacturers, workers, and farmers.
The most glaring example of this was allowing China to join the WTO without an agreement that China stop manipulating its currency. Currency manipulation has artificially lowered the cost of imported goods made in China by 30-40%, undercutting U.S. businesses and permanently destroying U.S. manufacturing jobs. While currency manipulation and the large capital flows it generates has produced huge profits for Wall Street, it has been a disaster for U.S. industry and agriculture.
The dream among some of these special interests, that the U.S. should give up on manufacturing and become Bankers and Financial Services salesmen to the world, has turned into a nightmare. Trade agreements should be renegotiated to emphasize U.S. manufacturing and agriculture – and Chinese and other foreign currency manipulation must stop.
3) Restore the Emphasis on Manufacturing in American Education and Culture.
Educational excellence in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) is crucial to success in a dynamic modern manufacturing economy. See Bill Foster’s positions on Education.
The problem is also cultural. Henry Ford and Thomas Edison were once heroes to ordinary Americans because of the products they invented and manufactured. A large and growing fraction of the students from top Universities now head to careers in Wall Street Finance instead of the real economy. It’s been decades since a leader in the manufacturing world has been recognized as a hero in our popular culture.
The key to U.S. Manufacturing is to get the next generation of students interested in building things.
One of the things Bill is most proud of in Congress is his sponsorship of Fab Labs. These are a set of state-of-the-art rapid prototyping equipment, located in storefronts and schools throughout the country, where kids and adults can drop in, design their own parts on a computer, and then have completed parts built and in their hands within minutes. Kids use the computers and equipment to design and make everything imaginable – jewelry, furniture, motors, models, or robots – using this true “workplace of the future”.
NEXT: The Financial Crisis