President Obama is pushing for a free-trade agreement with Korea claiming that it will create new jobs in the United States. It wont. The same argument has been made for every free-trade agreement that we have entered into from NAFTA to the free-trade agreement with Vietnam. Every single one of these free-trade agreements has cost the US thousands of jobs. The number of jobs lost to these faulty agreements totals more than three million good paying jobs.
Obama can use the power of the purse, the power of executive orders, legislation, the bully pulpit and leading by example to create million of good American jobs. For example, the US is the only auto manufacturing nation that purchases most of its government-owned cars, including police vehicles, from overseas. The ubiquitous Ford Crown Victoria and the Chevy Impala are both manufactured in Canada.
The good news is that Ford is replacing the Crown Vic with the new Taurus, and this high-quality, high-tech car is made in the US. The US government and every state and city government should replace their aging police vehicles with the new Taurus or other American-made cars.
Obama is correct in promoting green jobs to rebuild our depressed economy. The problem is that we make very few green products in the US. Currently, China is dominating the solar panel industry because of cheap labor and currency manipulations. China pegs the yuan to the dollar, refusing to let it float. This is not free trade, this is fixed, unfair trade. We should slap a large tariff on Chinese solar panels, wind turbines and energy-saving light bulbs so that the nascent American green industry can develop and thrive.
At the same time, the US government should provide incentive grants to US manufacturers to produce energy-efficient light bulbs, whether they are LED (light-emitting diodes) or another technology. Currently, all compact florescent lights are made in China. We cannot allow the US to be dependent on China for electric lights.
Exposed above-ground power lines are a sign of a third-world country. Many parts of the US have 50-year old above-ground power lines. In Florida, these wires are destroyed by hurricanes and tropical storms every few years. Nearly every year, in California, above-ground power lines cause devastating, and expensive, fires. Everywhere these ugly power lines destroy beautiful scenery and are unreliable. If we commit the nation to burying our power lines over the next decade, we will simultaneously beautify the nation, create millions of jobs and make our power supply safer.
I dont believe that President Obama is aware that Army and Navy exchanges, known as PXs, directly purchase clothing for sale to military personnel and their families from sweat shops in poor nations. These exchanges look more like Wal-Marts than the showplaces of American-made products that they should emulate. With the stroke of a pen, by executive order, President Obama can change this.
At our beloved national parks, one of the greatest American treasures, stores and hotels sell Yosemite sweatshirts that are made in Pakistan and Yellowstone T-shirts that are made in China. These stores are located on US government property, property that was bought and paid for by American taxpayers. By executive order the President could require that all clothing and other souvenirs sold at US national parks be made in the US.
Does the President know that most American flags are imported from China? The Founding Fathers would roll over in their graves if they knew that the symbol of our independence was being made by a communist nation. HR 1082, the Genuine American Flag Act was introduced to require that all American flags be made in the United States. President Obama should support this bill.
I recently visited the historic USS Midway in San Diego. This ship is now a museum, but it still owned by the US Navy. The gift shop on the Midway sells Midway hats and souvenirs that are all imported. President Obama could, by executive order, require that all souvenirs sold at US military installations be made in the United States.
American colleges, private and state institutions alike, licenses companies to import T-shirts and other souvenirs. The US government provides grants to nearly every institution of higher learning in the United States. College logo apparel is a billion dollar business that formerly employed a hundred thousand workers in the US. The US government, by legislation, could require every university receiving federal funds to license only US manufacturers to make its licensed souvenirs.
In the past 10 years Canada has taken away thousands of apparel jobs from the US. These jobs are manufacturing suits, shirts and dress clothing. The primary reason is that Canada has no duty on European fabrics that are used to make this clothing, while the US has a high tariff on the same European fabrics. For example, Nordstrom has shifted most its private label clothing to Canada from the US. Once the tariff on European fabrics is eliminated, these jobs should come back home. Congress should repeal the tariff on European fabrics and bring thousands of jobs back to the USA.
The United States is outsourcing many of its jobs, including jobs that expose American consumers to identity theft and compromise medical records and medical care. Congress should prohibit the outsourcing of jobs that allow credit card information of American consumers to be processed offshore. Similarly, Congress should prohibit the transmission of X-rays and medical records to India and other countries where doctors not licensed in the US are giving medical advice to Americans.
The health care bill should end the advantage that Japanese and European automakers now have because of the way that health insurance is financed. American auto manufacturers suffer from a $1,000 plus per car disadvantage because Japan and European nations pay for health care from general revenues. We can correct this unfair advantage by giving American manufacturers a tax credit for health care expenditures.
Another incentive for job creation is to change the way that we tax payrolls. We should institute an exemption for the first $20,000 of income from all taxes. For example, Social Security taxes should start at $20,000. No one earning $20,000 per year can afford to pay more than $2,000 a year in payroll taxes.
Now we dont charge Social Security tax on incomes over $106,800. While adding an exemption, we should remove the cap and impose a tax on those earning more than $106,800. Bill Gates and Warren Buffett should not pay a lower Social Security tax than Joe Six Pack. This will make the US more competitive in manufacturing and increase jobs, while at the same time strengthening the social security trust fund.
For too long the US government has given away American jobs, by bad trade deals, and by allowing cheap labor to produce truly American products, from the American flag to UCLA sweatshirts. The President, and Congress, can rebuild American industries with green jobs, apparel jobs and manufacturing jobs, while strengthening our middle class that has been devastated by the current recession.
Joel D. Joseph is chairman of the Made in the USA Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicating to promoting American-made products. Email JoelDJoseph@gmail.com.
From The Progressive Populist, December 15, 2009
News | Current Issue | Back Issues | Essays | Links
About the Progressive Populist | How to Subscribe | How to Contact Us