Archive for March, 2014

Manufacturing in Golden State Summit shows how to make California Thrive

Tuesday, March 25th, 2014

On March 19th, over 100 business leaders met at the community center of the City of Brea in Orange County for the “Manufacturing in the Golden State – Making California Thrive” economic summit. The summit was hosted by State Senator Mark Wyland in partnership with the Coalition for a Prosperous America and many other regional businesses and associations. The purpose of the summit was to discuss how our national trade policies and tax policies are harming California manufacturers and what policies should be changed to help them grow and thrive.

After State Senator Wyland welcomed attendees, Michael Stumo, CEO of the Coalition for a Prosperous America, provided an overview of the schedule for the day.

I provided an overview of California manufacturing in which I briefly discussed the history of manufacturing in California, pointing out that California is the 8th largest market in world and ranks first in manufacturing for both jobs and output. Manufacturing accounts for 12.5 % of the California’s Gross State Product and 9% of California jobs. California leads the nation in monies spent on R&D, and California companies received over 50% of all Venture Capital dollars invested in the U. S. in 2011. California’s high-tech exports also ranked first nationwide, totaling $48 billion in 2011.

California dropped to 50th in ranking for its business climate by the Small Business Entrepreneur Council Survival Index of 2013 because of its high personal and corporate income & capital gains taxes, its high gas and diesel taxes, high state minimum wage, high electric utility costs, high workers’ compensation costs, and stringent environmental and air quality regulations.

As a result, California lost over 600,000 manufacturing jobs since the year 2001, which represents 33.3% of its manufacturing industry. I mentioned that all of us had undoubtedly heard the latest ad by Texas Governor Rick Perry touting that 50 California companies had relocated to Texas in the last two years.

I then moderated a panel of the following local manufacturers, who gave their viewpoints of the challenges of doing business in California:

  • Bob Lane, President, laneOPX
  • Dana Mitchell, President, Advanced Mold Technology Inc.
  • Tim Nguyen, President, Alva Manufacturing
  • Nick Ventura, Co-founder

Ms. Mitchell, Mr. Nguyen, and Mr. Ventura highlighted the difficulty in competing against Chinese prices and finding skilled workers. Their other comments provided examples of some of the above-cited disadvantages of doing business in California.

Dr. Greg Autry, Adjunct Professor of Entrepreneurship, Marshall School of Business, University of Southern California, led off the national panel with the topic of “Currency Valuation and National Security Concerns with the Current U.S. Trade Regime.” He began by showing the falsity of classical  assumptions behind “free trade” by Ricardo and Hume ? absolute advantages are non-transferable, there are no externalities, such as pollution and military expenses, trade is in kind, there are no fiat currency distortions, and no strategies that are time constrained.

Autry then discussed the currency manipulation models of Japan and China, showing how China’s currency manipulation affects our national security. While China has adjusted the valuation of their renminbi (yuan) slightly since they drastically devalued it in 1994, it has still not reached the level that it was at that time. To keep their currency valuation low they either keep the dollars they get from their trade surplus in reserve or buy U. S. Treasury bonds. The dollars they earn from our trade imbalance and the interest they earn from buying our debt in the form of bonds has funded the dramatic buildup of their military.

Our technical superiority in military systems will not assure our national security any more than the technical superiority of Nazi Germany’s aircraft and tanks did for them. Economic superiority is what matters. The manufacturing industry of the U. S. out produced Germany during WWII and the Soviet Union in the Cold War. Autry stated, “An economy that builds only F-35s is unsustainable – productive capacity is what wins real wars. Sophisticated systems require complex supply chains of supporting industries. They require experienced production engineers and experienced machinists.” He concluded that we cannot rely on China to produce what we need for our military and defense systems. We should not be relying on Russia’s Mr. Putin to launch our satellites and space vehicles and provide us a seat to get to the international space station.

Next, Michael Stumo presented “Can Consumption Taxes Create Jobs and Help Regain American Prosperity?” He said, “America has no strategy to win… in terms of being a successful producing and exporting nation. Growing exports, expanding two-way trade, and establishing global supply chains makes us losers.Unilateral trade disarmament makes us losers.We should want to win and not be ashamed of pursuing our national interest.”

Stumo described the math about how a consumption tax could reduce our income tax burden, include imports in our tax base, and shrink the trade deficit, and increase U.S. production while maintaining progressivity. He explained that our national Gross Domestic Product (GDP) equals Consumption plus Investment plus Government Procurement plus Net Exports (Total exports minus Total Imports). Because our imports exceed exports, our economy is smaller than it would be if the U.S. balanced trade.

More than 150 countries have a form of consumption tax, either a goods and services tax (GST) or a value added tax (VAT), with an average 17% level. These countries rebate these taxes on their exports, which is a subsidy. The taxes are “border adjustable” because they act as a 17% tariff on our goods sent to other countries.

After NAFTA, Mexico replaced its tariff reduction by establishing a 15% VAT, and Central America did the same, establishing a 12% VAT after CAFTA. Other countries use consumption taxes to offset income, payroll, or other employer taxes to help their manufacturers be more competitive in the global marketplace or to offset other costs like national health care or pension programs.

These border adjustable consumption taxes have been a causative factor in increasing our trade deficits with our trading partners, which was $471.5 billion in 2013, $318 billion with China alone. CPA advocates changes in U. S. trade policy to address this unfairness which tremendously distorts trade flows. The goal of a U. S. consumption tax should be:

  • Neutralize foreign tax (tariff/subsidy) advantage
  • Reduce non-border adjustable taxes: Income and/or Payroll
  • Replace them with border adjustable consumption taxes like a GST
  • Be revenue neutral
  • Be distribution/progressivity neutral
  • Minimize fight over exemptions, deductions, and location of profits

Pat Choate (Economist; Author, Saving Capitalism: Keeping America Strong) covered the importance of protecting Intellectual Property to the future of American manufacturing. He said that the U. S. is the most innovative country in the world, issuing more patents than any other country, and California represents 25% of all U. S. patents. Choate highlighted how our current trade policies do not address patent infringement, trademark counterfeiting, and the outright theft of our trade secrets by China and other Asian countries. The intellectual property clauses of the Trans-Pacific Partnership would exacerbate the problems already created by the passage of the America Invents Act in 2012 converting the U. S. from a “first-to-invent” to “first-to-file” that has hurt our innovation. Any future trade agreement must address intellectual property theft.

The next speaker was Mike Dolan, Legislative Representative for the Teamsters, who has long experience working for Fair Trade (fighting expansion of the job-killing NAFTA/WTO model). If we build and maintain a strong bipartisan mobilization, we can stop Fast Track trade authority from being granted to the President and stop the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) Agreements from being passed. Dolan called the TPP “NAFTA on steroids” said that TTIP is just as bad. Dolan concluded that the path to victory on sensible trade policy is not possible without the Coalition for a Prosperous America and the constituencies it represents — small business, particularly in industries that are sensitive to trade fluctuations, family farmers and ranchers, working families and “trade patriot” activists including Tea Party groups.

Keynote speaker Dan DiMicco, Chairman Emeritus of Nucor Steel Corporation, spoke about “Seizing the Opportunity.” He led off by shocking the audience with facts about the real state of our economy and our unemployment rate. By December 2013, we still had not reached the level of employment that we had when the recession began in December 2007 although 72 months had passed. We lost 8.7 million jobsfrom December 2007 to the “trough” reached in February 2010, but because our recovery has been much slower than the previous recessions of 1974, 1981, 1990, and 2001, the gap in recovery of jobs compared to these recessions is actually 12,363 jobs.  

In contrast to the misleading U-3 unemployment rate of 6.7% for December that is reported in the news media, the U-6 rate was 13.1%.  The government’s U-6 rate is more accurate because it counts “marginally attached workers and those working part-time for economic reasons.” However, the actual unemployment is worse because the participation in the workforce has dropped from 66.0% to 62.8%. In other words, if the December 2013 Civilian Labor Force Participation Rate was back to the December 2007 level of 66.0%, it would  add 7.9 million people to the ranks of those looking for jobs.The manufacturing industry lost 20% of its jobs, and the construction industry lost 19% of its jobs.

Unemployment Data Adjusted For Decline in Civilian Labor Force Participation Rate
(Adjusted For Decline from December 2007 Level Of 66.0% to 62.8% in December 2013)

Reported Unemployed U.S. Workers 10,351,000
Involuntary Part-time workers 7,771,000
Marginally Attached To Labor Force Workers 2,427,000
Additional Unemployed Workers With 66% CLF Participation Rate 7,896,000


Unemployed U.S. Workers In Reality 28,445,000
Adjusted Civilian Labor force 162,833,000
Unemployment Rate In Reality 17.5%

We got in this position from 1970 until today because of failed trade policies allowing mercantilism to win out against true FREE Trade. We bought into wrongheaded economic opinions that America could become a service-based economy to replace a manufacturing-based economy. Manufacturing supply chains are the Wealth Creation Engine of our economy and the driver for a healthy and growing middle class! The result has been that manufacturing shrank from over 30% to 9.9% of GDP causing the destruction of the middle class. It created the service/financial based Bubble Economy ( scheme type financial instruments.)

In addition, we have had 30 years of massive increases in inefficient and unnecessary Government regulations. These regulations, for the most part, in the past have been put in place by Congress and the Executive Branch. However, today they are increasingly being put in place by unelected officials/bureaucrats as they intentionally by-pass Congress.

American’s prosperity in the 20th century arose from producing more than it consumed, saving more than it spent, and keeping deficits to manageable and sustainable levels. Today, America’s trade and budget deficits are on track to reach record levels threatening our prosperity and our future.

Creating jobs must be our top priority, and we need to create 26-29 million jobs over the next 4-5 years. There are four steps we can take to bring about job creation:

  • Achieve energy independence,
  • Balance our trade deficit,
  • Rebuild our infrastructure for this century.
  • Rework American’s regulatory nightmare

We need to recapture American independence through investment in our country’s people, infrastructure, and energy independence, and by reversing the deficit-driven trends that currently define our nation’s economic policy. In conclusion, DiMicco said, “Real and lasting wealth IS, and always has been, created by innovating, making and building things — ALL 3 ? and servicing the goods producing sector NOT by a predominance of servicing services!”

Now is the time for all Americans to put aside their political differences and work together to restore California to the Golden State it once was and restore the United States to the land of opportunity it once was.

CPA’s Legislative Fly-in was a Resounding Success!

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014

Last week, I attended the annual Coalition for a Prosperous America’s legislative fly-in to Washington, D.C. for the second time. My fellow CPA members and supporters came from California to New England and from Washington State to Florida, and we met with over 100 Congressional and Senate offices. As chair of the California chapter, I headed up one of the two teams from the western United States, and my team met with Congressional staff and one Congressmen at a dozen offices. It was obvious that CPA’s influence is growing as we had more scheduled appointments than last year, and our appointment times were twice as long.

We delivered the message that balanced trade needs to be at the forefront of our national strategy. We now have a trade deficit with 88 countries, and our trade deficit with every one of our trading partners is worse than it was prior to concluding trade agreements with these countries. In 2013, we had a trade deficit in goods of $703.2 billion and services, but because we still have a trade surplus in services, our deficit in goods and services went down to $471.5 billion. One problem with services is that many of the services we now export are services being performed for American manufacturers that have set up manufacturing plants in other countries. An additional problem is that over 40% of our trade deficit is with China alone, and this is unsustainable.

Since our U. S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is the sum of Consumption plus Investment plus Government Procurement plus Net exports (exports – imports), our trade deficit reduces our GDP. For example, in 2011, our GDP was $15,094.4 trillion, and our trade deficit shaved 4% off our GDP (14% share of GDP for exports minus 18% share of GDP for imports.)

“Our members reported a major improvement this year in congressional willingness to reconsider bad trade policy,” said Michael Stumo, CEO of the Coalition for a Prosperous America. “We were effective in countering the relentless efforts by the wealthy special interest groups who work hard to offshore our industries, our jobs and our sovereignty. The Administration’s efforts to push outdated, economy-killing concepts of trade policy has been stonewalled by the left and the right in Congress. Now they are in disarray.”

“It has become impossible to defend the current neo-liberal trade policy which ignores balance of trade,” continued Stumo. “We will start pushing that concept harder this year as we work with Congressional allies.”

I was happy to see that Congressional offices showed a heightened sensitivity to preserving states rights, American national sovereignty, and legislative branch authority over trade. The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) being negotiated would allow foreign tribunals to pass judgments on “investment agreements” between the U. S. federal government and investors from TPP nations. This would make the laws and policies of the 50 states to be subject to  international tribunals rather than our Congress and judicial system.

Also, the TPP would create binding policies on future Congresses as it pertains to patent and copyright laws, land use, food and agriculture, and product standards. It would also govern our nation’s policies concerning natural resources, the environment, labor laws, and government procurement policies, along with financial, health care, energy, telecommunications and other service sector regulations.

“Congress is increasingly loathe to transfer its authority over trade and domestic policy to the executive branch and give up its right to full transparency and amendments,” said Stumo. “Trade negotiators have steadfastly refused to pursue balanced trade, a fix for currency manipulation, and multiple other changes to fix the mistakes of the past.”

I have written the following four articles in the past year that were published on the Huffington Post regarding the dangers of the TPP as currently negotiated:

The Trans-Pacific Partnership Would Destroy our National Sovereignty” (March)

Why the Trans-Pacific Partnership Would Hurt American Manufacturers” (May)

The Trans-Pacific Partnership Trade Agreement Would Harm Our Environment” (July)

Why we must stop Fast Track Authority from being granted” (January 9, 2014)

In addition to pointing out the harm that has been caused by our current trade policies and what is wrong with the TPP, we presented CPA’s “Principles for a 21st Century Trade Agreement:  Fixing Past Mistakes,” which advocates trade strategies that would create “Smart Trade not Dumb Trade.” Congress should require that future trade agreements provide:

Balanced Trade:  Trade agreements must contribute to a national goal of achieving a manageable balance of trade over time.

National Trade, Economic and Security Strategy: Trade agreements must strive to optimize

value added supply chains within the U.S. – from raw material to finished product – pursuant to a national trade and economic strategy that creates jobs, wealth and sustained growth. The agreements must also ensure national security by recapturing production necessary to rebuild America’s defense industrial base.

Reciprocity: Trade agreements must ensure that foreign country policies and practices as well as their tariff and non-tariff barriers provide fully reciprocal access for U.S. goods and services. The

agreements must provide that no new barriers or subsidies outside the scope of the agreement nullify or impair the concessions bargained for.

State Owned Commercial Enterprises: Trade agreements must encourage the transformation of state owned and state controlled commercial enterprises (SOEs) to private sector enterprises. In the interim, trade agreements must ensure that SOEs do not distort the free and fair flow of trade –

throughout supply chains – and investment between the countries.

Currency: Trade agreements must classify prolonged currency undervaluation as a per se violation of the agreement without the need to show injury or intent.

Rules of origin: Trade agreements must include rules of origin to maximize benefits for U.S. based supply chains and minimize free ridership by third parties. Further, all products must be labeled or marked as to country(s) of origin as a condition of entry.

Enforcement: Trade agreements must provide effective and timely enforcement mechanisms, including expedited adjudication and provisional remedies. Such provisional remedies must be permitted where the country deems that a clear breach has occurred which causes or threatens injury, and should be subject to review under the agreements’ established dispute settlement mechanisms.

Border Adjustable Taxes: Trade agreements must neutralize the subsidy and tariff impact of the border adjustment of foreign consumption taxes.

Perishable and Cyclical Products: Trade agreements must include special safeguard mechanisms to address import surges in perishable and seasonal agricultural product markets, including livestock markets.

Food and Product Safety and Quality: Trade agreements must ensure import compliance with

existing U.S. food and product safety and quality standards and must not inhibit changes to or improvements in U.S. standards. The standards must be effectively enforced at U.S. ports.

Domestic Procurement: Trade agreements must preserve the ability of federal, state and local

governments to favor domestic producers in government , or government funded, procurement.

Temporary vs. Permanent Agreements: Trade agreements must be sunsetted, subject to renegotiation and renewal. Renewal must not occur if the balance of benefits cannot be restored.

Trade negotiators agree to language based upon expectations and judgment in pursuit of national goals.

Labor: Trade agreements must include enforceable labor provisions to ensure that lax labor standards and enforcement by contracting countries do not result in hidden subsidies to the detriment of U.S.-based workers and producers.

We CPA members also delivered a petition signed by over 80 liberty groups across the country objecting to Fast Track and the Trans-Pacific Partnership on constitutional grounds. “Tea Party and other liberty organizations have learned how American sovereignty is at risk as we transfer domestic authority to international governance systems and tribunals,” continued Stumo. “They are not fooled by phony free trade claims as a rationale to permanently give up our sovereignty.”

After this legislative fly-in, the outlook is more promising that CPA will be successful in forging a new consensus on trade and economic policy that balances trade, creates jobs, grows our economy and protects American sovereignty. It was a pleasure to take advantage of my rights as a citizen to express my opinions and those of an organization of which I am a member to our elected representatives. You can help ensure that this success happens sooner than later by supporting the Coalition for a Prosperous America.

Bill to Address Skills Training is Stalled in Senate

Tuesday, March 4th, 2014

In the past 15 years, the manufacturing industry has evolved from needing low-skilled production-type assembly workers to being highly technology-infused. It’s no secret that manufacturing companies are now struggling to fill the gap for workers trained with the specific skills needed for today’s advanced manufacturing jobs.

To address this problem and provide training that the youth and the unemployed need to secure jobs, the House passed the Supporting Knowledge and Investing in Lifelong Skills (SKILLS) Act (H.R. 803) in March 2013, which was authored by Higher Education and Workforce Training subcommittee chair Virginia Foxx (R-NC). The SKILLS Act would revise and reauthorize job training, employment service, adult education and literacy, and rehabilitation programs currently provided under the Workforce Investment Act (WIA), which has not been reauthorized since its enactment, and is now nearly a decade overdue for reauthorization. The Skills Act would eliminate 35 existing programs and consolidate funding into a single Workforce Investment Fund.

Several governors and workforce training leaders praised the bill:  New Jersey Governor Chris Christie stated, “By streamlining federal workforce training programs, the SKILLS Act would reduce the administrative burden that current law places on the states. It also provides states with the needed flexibility to tailor job training programs, acknowledging that the needs of New Jersey are surely different than those of other states.”

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett stated, “The SKILLS Act restores 15% state set-aside funding to support innovative strategies statewide and locally…In addition to providing flexibility and encouraging innovation, the restored state set-aside also supports the needs of our most vulnerable citizens.”

Florida Governor Rick Scott stated, “H.R. 803 proposes a market-driven approach to talent development designed to prepare individuals seeking employment for the jobs of today – and the jobs of tomorrow…Increasing the business representation on state and local boards improves our alignment with market needs.”

Dr. R. Scott Ralls, president of the North Carolina Community College System, noted that it is “important that reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act streamlines programs, limits administrative overhead, and enables state and local flexibility to design systems that meet the legislative goals in the most effective and efficient manner. Simplifying the system and moving past the myriad of multiple program titles and funding streams is a fundamental step.”

 Todd Gustafson, executive director of Michigan Works—Berrien-Cass-Van Buren, noted, “Eliminating the 19 federal mandates on representation will further strengthen business engagement. Requiring two-thirds of board members to be employers will enhance the shift from a supply side designed system to a demand or market driven system.”

The Senate version of this bill is S. 1356, the Workforce Investment Act of 2013, and on December 19, 2013, a Motion to proceed to consideration of the measure was made in the Senate.

During an executive session in the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions in August 2013, Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa delivered the following statement on S.1356, (quoted in part): “It requires states to develop and submit one unified plan to the Secretary of Education and the Secretary of Labor, covering all of the programs authorized under WIA – job training, adult education, employment services, and vocational rehabilitation – streamlining administrative processes at the state level in a thoughtful way. It eliminates several unfunded programs and provides for an innovation fund that will help the system to identify and replicate the most effective strategies for workforce development. It also includes provisions to support better data and evaluations that can be used across all core programs, including common definitions and performance indicators.”

If the Senate passes S. 1356, the measure would then move to conference, a process by which the House and Senate each appoint “conferees” to reconcile the differences between the two pieces of legislation in an effort to produce a version that could gain enough support for passage in both chambers.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, the programs covered by these bills are currently overseen by the Departments of Labor and Education and provide grants to state and local governments as well as to private and nonprofit organizations to provide specified services. Those programs received discretionary funding of $5.5 billion and mandatory funding of $3.1 billion in 2013.

The National Skills Coalition has prepared a side-by-side comparison report on the occupational training and adult education and family literacy provisions1 in the House and Senate Workforce Investment Act (WIA) reauthorization proposals with current law. The 41-page report goes into considerable detail in comparing the current law with the Skills Act and S. 1356.

One of the differences between the House Skills Act and the proposed Senate bill is the composition of the membership of the State Board. Under current law, the membership is composed of:

  • Governor
  • Two members of each chamber of the state legislature, and
  • Representatives appointed by the governor, including: Business representatives, Chief elected officials (representing both cities and counties where appropriate),Labor representatives, and Youth organization representatives

Representatives of individuals and organizations with experience and expertise in the delivery of workforce investment activities including chief executive officers of community colleges and community based organizations, lead state officials of mandatory partner agencies, and other representatives and state agency officials that the governor may designate.

In contrast, the Skills Act requires thattwo-thirds of board members be representatives of the business community”  and “eliminates requirement that local board include representatives from local educational entities, labor organizations, community-based organizations, economic development agencies, and one-stop partners.” It maintains “the governor, chief elected officials, a state agency official responsible for economic development and other such representatives as the governor should designate to serve on the board.”

The Senate bill, however, revises current law for State Board membership as follows: majority of representatives must be employers or representatives of business or trade associations; at least 20 percent must be representatives of labor and CBOs or youth serving organizations, and adds representatives of a joint labor-management program or apprenticeship program as a required partner.

Judy Lawton, CEO of The Lawton Group, past president of the San Diego Workforce Investment Board and current Chair of the Adult Programs Committee, provided me with the following comments regarding the Skills Act: “The San Diego Workforce Partnership completed their Five (5) Year Plan more than a year ago and rolled it out to the public shortly thereafter. It is very comprehensive, well thought out, and definitely streamlines practices and procedures and strategic thinking along the lines of programs and program delivery methods. At our last Adult Programs Committee meeting, we recommended apprenticeship programs to the full Workforce Investment Board through the collaborative efforts of local Union leaders, business leaders, educators, and skills trainers. As for the Boards being comprised of 2/3rd business people, I’m not so sure. The WIB is already mandated by law to have 51% business and that community is well represented. The Unions belong at the table as they are becoming more involved with the necessary apprenticeship programs, and their presence is welcomed.”

The current law requires a unified state plan that is based on a five-year strategy, while the Skills Act requires a three-year plan, and the Senate bill requires a four-year plan.

Both the Skills Act and the Senate bill maintain the current law with regard to the establishment of the One-Stop Delivery System for services and the delivery of services, but have different plans than the current law for infrastructure funding.

A major difference of the Skills Act compared to current law and the Senate bill is that it repeals the Youth Activities section of the current Workforce Investment Act. It also repeals:

  • Native American programs
  • Migrant and seasonal farm worker programs
  • Veterans’ workforce investment programs
  • Youth opportunity grant program

The National Skills Coalition sent a four-page letter on March 4, 2013 to the Committee on Education and the Workforce Committee of the House of Representatives expressing their grave concerns about eliminating the above programs and explained their additional reasons for opposing the passage of the SKILLS Act. The other reasons for their opposition are too complex for me to attempt to summarize. As usual, the “devil is in the details,” so I highly recommend that readers check out the links to the report and letter that are herein provided.

 San Diego Workforce Partnership President Peter Callstrom provided me with the following word of caution:  “The Workforce Investment Act (WIA) is long overdue for reauthorization. There are competing visions with respect to how to best go forward: reauthorize as is, or reconstruct through the ‘Skills Act’ – or some combination of both. The WIA works well and thousands of individuals have, and continue to be, supported in their careers. Where, and how, we go from here is important. In the end, we all want local control in order to address our unique needs. As the local Workforce Investment Board (WIB), we welcome any solution that results in more resources for Our region led by Our residents to support Our workforce. Let’s hope that politics doesn’t get in the way of that.”

Well said, Peter.