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. In the long run, a country can only consume as much as it produces – and Bill knows we need to see “Made in America” again.
For three decades - from the 1970’s until 2001 - U.S. manufacturing employment had been stable at about 17.5 Million jobs – in good times and bad, no matter which party was in charge. During this period manufacturing output more than doubled due to increases in productivity and advances in technology. Then, starting in early 2001, manufacturing employment began a catastrophic drop. From 2001 to 2009, one third of U.S. manufacturing jobs were wiped out.
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.
What went wrong with U.S. Manufacturing? - and how Bill believes we should fix it.
1) 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 was proud to vote for legislation to begin this process.
2) Poorly conceived and badly executed trade agreements.
In all trade negotiations, three things are on the table: Manufacturing, Agriculture, and Financial Services. 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 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 artificially lowers the cost of imported goods made in China by 30-40%, undercutting U.S. businesses and costing our economy jobs. While currency manipulation and the large capital flows it generates produce huge profits for Wall Street, it has been a disaster for U.S. industry and agriculture.
The dream among some of these special interests was 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 currency manipulation must stop.
3) Under-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: Wall Street Reform