U.S. Representative Sandy Levin
(Washington D.C.)- U.S. Rep. Sander Levin (D-Royal Oak), a senior member of the House Ways and Means Committee, today released the scorecard of his Federal Manufacturing Agenda checklist indicating the President only mentioned three of the issues and fully addressed just one of them during his State of the Union Address. Levin released the Federal Manufacturing Agenda to try once again to encourage the President to acknowledge the challenges facing the manufacturing sector and finally take action. Levin pointed out that the President didn't say the word "manufacturing" once throughout his State of the Union Address.
"The Bush Administration continues to sit on its hands when it comes to proposing real action for manufacturing -- action to address the manufacturing jobs crisis," said U.S. Rep. Levin. "As the engine of the middle-class in this country, and an important component of economic growth nationwide, the Bush Administration's failure to take action to reduce health care and energy costs, and level the global playing field, is extremely concerning since the U.S. has lost 2.8 million manufacturing jobs during his tenure."
The President marked off one item on Levin's checklist by finally supporting making the Research and Development tax credit permanent, by stating: "propose to make permanent the research and development tax credit to encourage bolder private-sector initiatives in technology." Manufacturing companies are the largest user of the federal Research & Development Tax Credit, which provides a proven incentive for new U.S. investment. However, he failed to offer similar support for the Advanced Technology Program, which invests in cutting edge basic research that has helped create manufacturing opportunities in areas like low-cost digital mammography, to name just one success story.
"The President's call for making the R&D tax credit permanent will only help if he can encourage his Republican allies in Congress to support his position," continued Levin. "What has always blocked action are the upside-down tax policies of this Administration, which have contributed to record deficits."
Earning another half-mark for his attention to alternative energy sources by announcing the Advanced Energy Initiative "...a 22-percent increase in clean-energy research -- at the Department of Energy, to push for breakthroughs in two vital areas. To change how we power our homes and offices, we will invest more in zero-emission coal-fired plants, revolutionary solar and wind technologies, and clean, safe nuclear energy."
However, President Bush failed to address the rising cost of gas prices and the consolidation of oil refineries. America is more dependent on foreign oil under the Bush Administration and while consumers and businesses are struggling with high gas prices, the energy companies are raking in record profits.
The President also earned a half-mark by stating that: "we need to encourage children to take more math and science, and to make sure those courses are rigorous enough to compete with other nations." Although just last year, his Republican allies in Congress have shortchanged the Tech Talent Act, which strengthens post-secondary education to increase the numbers of degrees in math, science and engineering by one-third.
See below for Levin¡¦s Federal Manufacturing Agenda:
FEDERAL MANUFACTURING AGENDA
ACTION #1: Recognize the manufacturing jobs crisis and the challenges facing manufacturing.
The United States has lost 2.8 million manufacturing jobs since 2001, with no improvement in sight. Manufacturing-dependent states are disproportionately likely to have high unemployment rates, with manufacturing states reporting seven of the ten highest unemployment rates in the country. In part because of manufacturing sector weakness, real wages for the average worker fell by 1.3 percent last year. The Bush Administration has ignored repeated pleas for a manufacturing action plan. The President should admit to the continuing problem and begin to address it.
Our overall trade deficit continues to worsen despite falling global tariffs, as non-tariff barriers like currency manipulation, customs requirements, technical standards, and discriminatory taxes keep our products from entering overseas markets. The Bush Administration has responded to these practices weakly rather than specific action aimed at tearing down these impediments. The President should stand up for U.S. manufacturing interests overseas by challenging unfair trading practices at World Trade Organization and other bilateral trading forums, and should endorse legislation calling for a chief trade prosecutor whose sole focus is enforcing U.S. rights under free trade agreements.
ACTION #3: Ensure that U.S. manufacturers have a level playing field when they sell goods here at home.
For many manufacturers, U.S. trade laws provide the first line of defense when foreign competitors flood the U.S. market unfairly with their products injuring domestic manufacturers. The Administration has opposed many of our efforts to prevent illegal dumping and subsidizing practices. The President should be proactive in both using and strengthening our trade laws, including finally using special safeguards in the China agreement which were intended to prevent China from flooding the U.S. market. The Administration must also prevent attempts to weaken U.S. law at the World Trade Organization. The Administration should appeal WTO decisions overturning U.S. trade laws in all cases of judicial overreaching and switch to an aggressive offense to strengthen U.S. laws during multilateral negotiations.
ACTION #4: Stand up for American workers when negotiating trade agreements.
U.S. trade agreements should be designed to level up, and not down. The Bush Administration has refused to include meaningful and enforceable basic labor standards in the text of U.S. trade agreements. For U.S. manufacturers, the benefits of this action are two-fold ¡V basic labor provisions will (1) ensure that they are not competing with workers whose rights are suppressed and (2) lead to the creation of strong middle classes and consumers in overseas markets that can afford to buy U.S. products.
ACTION #5: Help small manufacturers compete globally by giving them access to technologies and processes that improve their productivity and their products.
Last year, the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) served 16,448 small businesses nationwide. In Michigan alone, MEP helped create or retain almost 2,000 jobs and almost $190 million in sales, yet President Bush proposed cutting funding for this program. The President should rescind his proposed cuts and support expansion of this effective program.
U.S. manufacturing companies have a long history of providing high-quality health coverage for their workers and their families, resulting in a healthier and more productive workforce. But differences in national health and retirement systems mean that many of their global competitors enjoy the workforce benefits without the costs, putting U.S. companies at a serious disadvantage. The Bush Administration's only answer to rising health care costs has been to propose shifting more of the burden to employees. The President should take action to reduce the cost of health insurance and make the market more efficient by taking federal responsibility for catastrophic health costs.
The sustained high level of oil and sharply increased gas prices have driven up energy and raw material costs for manufacturers and reduced consumers' ability to buy from them. Rather than continuing their policy of awarding billions of dollars in tax breaks to profit-rich oil and gas companies, the President should take direct action to lower prices. That action would include punishing price-gouging oil companies, reducing energy waste by promulgating new efficiency standards for furnaces, and investing in clean and sustainable fuel alternatives like wind, solar, and hydrogen power.
Manufacturing companies are the largest user of the federal Research & Development Tax Credit, which provides a proven incentive for new U.S. investment. The Advanced Technology Program (ATP) invests in cutting edge basic research that has helped create manufacturing opportunities in areas like low-cost digital mammography, to name just one success story. The President should endorse permanent extension of the expanded R&D tax credit, and support preserving and expanding the ATP.
The Bush Administration's policy has allowed the U.S. to fall behind in math, science, and engineering, three areas critical to continuing product development in the manufacturing sector. Two-thirds of the jobs created in the next decade will require post-secondary education and training, yet the administration recently helped orchestrate close to $12 billion in cuts to student aid. In its last budget, the Administration continued its lack of commitment to worker skills by proposing over $412 million in cuts to job training programs. The President should reverse his support for cuts in skills development and instead work to make education and training more affordable and available, preparing workers to take U.S. manufacturing to the next level.