Archive for the ‘National security’ Category

Defense Department’s Globalization of Supply Chain Threatens our National Security

Tuesday, July 21st, 2015

Over three years ago, I wrote an article (May 21, 2012), about the release of the Senate Armed Services Committee report on counterfeit parts in the Department of Defense supply chain. The Committee had found over 1,800 cases of counterfeit parts in just the Air Force C-130J and C-27J cargo plane, as well as assemblies used in the Navy’s SH-60B helicopter.

To address weaknesses in the defense supply chain and to promote the adoption of aggressive counterfeit avoidance practices by the Department of Defense and the defense industry, an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012 was adopted in the Senate and signed by President Obama.

Instead of implementing the requirements of the Act, it appears that DOD “has entered a new phase of its centuries-long development, the latest characterized by globalization of supply chains and the inability of U.S. defense contractors and laboratories to drive technological change” according to Richard McCormack, publisher and producer of the Manufacturing & Technology News, May 20, 2015 edition.

In this issue, McCormack reported on comments made by Bill Lynn, CEO of Finmeccanica North America and former Deputy Secretary of Defense from 2009 until 2011, at the April 29, 2015 meeting of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C.

The defense sector and the U.S. military have “moved from being a net exporter of technology to a net importer,” Lynn stated, adding “When their R&D budgets are combined to total a scant $3 billion (or only 1.6 percent of revenue), the five biggest defense contractors — Boeing, Lockheed, Raytheon, L3 and Northrop — would not even make the list of the top 20 global companies that invest in R&D.”

Lynn told the meeting, “Those are things where the commercial industrial base is stronger than the defense industrial base and in many ways the key to maintaining our future [defense] technology edge is to be able to import those technologies into our defense industrial base… Since many of the underlying technologies now reside outside of the United States, DOD has to figure out how to deal with foreign corporations and state-owned enterprises that hold the keys to its success.”

McCormack noted, “The Department of Defense and its major contractors are now dependent on foreign manufacturers for many of the military’s most advanced weapons systems…The defense industry is a shadow of its former self, representing less than 3.5 percent of the U.S. economy, a position that continues to decline as defense budgets reach new lows with no chance of them growing faster than the economy.”

Lynn commented that ” DOD is slowly catching up to the structural change caused by globalization of technology and supply chains. It is wrestling with the regulatory and procurement systems it has in place to monitor and conduct business with foreign suppliers, but it has little time to waste.”

One of these regulations to which he referred is the Buy American Act that was passed by Congress in 1933. It required the U.S. government to give preferential treatment to American producers in awarding of federal contracts. The Act restricted the purchase of supplies that are not domestic end products. For manufactured products, the Buy American Act used a two-part test: first, the article must be manufactured in the U.S., and second, the cost of domestic components must exceed 50 percent of the cost of all its components.

After the end of the Cold War and the subsequent Gulf War, the provisions of the “Buy American Act” were eased to allow purchasing off the shelf commercial parts (COTS) from foreign countries by the Defense Department and other government agencies if they met the same fit and function of parts made to strict military specifications. Previously, parts, assemblies, and systems were required to be substantially made in the United States or in a NATO country, such as Great Britain, France, and Germany.

In the early 1990s, most commercial parts were still being made in the United States, with some outsourcing to the Philippines, Hong Kong, and Singapore, so this change was pretty safe. Permitting commercial parts to replace Mil. Spec. parts probably drove out of business the small companies that catered exclusively to the military and that provided traceability per Military Specifications for parts supplied to government agencies, military contractors, and subcontractors. This was all done in the name of cost savings. Now, however, most commercial electronic components and microchips are fabricated in China.

The President has authority to waive the Act in response to the provision of reciprocal treatment to U.S. producers. Under the 1979 GATT Agreement on Government Procurement, the U.S.-Israel Free Trade Agreement, the U.S.-Canada Free Trade Agreement, the North American Free Trade Agreement, the Central American Free Trade Agreement, and the Korea Free Trade Agreement, access to government procurement by certain U.S. agencies of goods for the other parties to these agreements is granted.

If the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement is approved, the procurement chapter would require that all companies operating in any country signing the agreement be provided access equal to domestic firms to U.S. government procurement contracts over a certain dollar threshold. To meet this requirement, the U.S. would have to agree to waive Buy America procurement policies for all companies operating in the 10 other countries.

In fact, it was reported by Reuters in January 2014 that “The Pentagon repeatedly waived laws banning Chinese-built components on U.S. weapons in order to keep the $392 billion Lockheed Martin Corp F-35 fighter program on track in 2012 and 2013, even as U.S. officials were voicing concern about China’s espionage and military buildup.

Lynn doesn’t seem to think that there is anything dangerous in allowing more foreign participation in the defense industry, saying “that changing perceptions about foreign involvement in the defense industry are similar to what happened in the U. S. auto sector…Americans and their representatives in Congress were skeptical about foreign nameplates. But as foreign auto companies started building technologies in the United States and hiring American workers, the tide turned…The politicians care about the jobs, they a\care less about the nameplate.”

It is incomprehensible to me to compare what happened to the U. S. auto industry to what is happening to the U. S. defense industry. The whole purpose of the defense industry is to protect our national sovereignty and national security. How can anyone in their right mind want to make our defense supply chain vulnerable to the foreign country, namely China, which has a written plan to replace us as the world’s super power? The Chinese are never going to bu9od plants in the U. S. to make parts for our defense supply chain. They have just stolen our technology to build up their own military power as evidenced by the “uncanny” similarity of China’s newest stealth fighter, the J-31, as well as the Chengdu J-20 fighter jet, to the F-35 Lightning II advanced fighter jet.

Does anyone believe that we will get any parts and assemblies need by our defense industry when China has decided we are so weak that we cannot stop their aggression in Asia. We are not even safe to have parts sourced in Taiwan, South Korea, the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, or Vietnam. These countries would all be targets for takeover by China once they lose their fear and respect for U. S. naval and air power.

When President Eisenhower warned us about the military-industrial complex, little did he know that the military-industrial would be superseded by the consumer-importer complex, which has led to the virtual demise of the military-industrial complex.

Congress must act to strengthen the Buy American Act, not weaken it, eliminate the incentives for offshoring, and provide incentives for bringing manufacturing back to America. We must protect the supply chain for defense and military products and systems, so that Defense Department can fulfill its primary mission of defending our country. If we don’t, we are setting ourselves up for eventual defeat by our future enemies.

 

International Corporate Elite Steamrolls Trade Promotion Authority Through Senate!

Tuesday, May 26th, 2015

Late Friday evening, May 22, 2015, the Senate voted to pass the Trade Promotion Authority (H.R. 1314) by a vote of 62 to 37 to give President Obama the authority to “fast-track” trade agreements through 2018, with an extension to 2021 possible. If this legislation also passes the House, this would mean that the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) and the Trans-Atlantic Agreement may be negotiated and signed without any amendments by Congress and with only a majority vote rather than the supermajority vote required for treaties under the Constitution.

Of the Republican senators, 54 voted yes, four voted no and one did not vote. Fourteen Democrats joined the majority of Republicans in voting yes. According to the Roll Call, they are: Bennet (CO), Cantwell (WA), Cardin (MD), Coons (DE), Feinstein (CA), Heitkamp (ND), Kaine (VA), McCaskill (MO), Murray (FL) Shaheen (NH), Warren (VA), and Wyden (OR). The four Republicans who voted no are: Collins (ME), Paul (KY), Sessions (AL), and Shelby (AL).

Nearly every Democrat or Democrat-leaning organization from unions to the Sierra Club opposed the Trade Promotion Authority, so those fourteen Democrat Senators turned their back on their constituencies and the American working class they claim to support to follow lock-step with the Republicans they accuse of being in the pocket of “big business,” i.e. the large multinational corporations that comprise the membership of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, etc.

There were over 100 amendments proposed, but only ten were allowed to reach the floor for a vote. Three were rejected for discussion or a vote because they were ruled as not being not germane to the topic: Inhofe (R-OK) # 1312 (AGOA), Shaheen (D-NH) SA #1227 (small business), and McCain (R-AZ) #1226 (catfish).

The Hatch (R-UT) (substitute) amendment #1221 was approved without any description or discussion by a vote of 62 yes to 37 no.

The Flake (R-AZ) amendment #1243 to strike the extension of the Trade Adjustment Assistance program (TAA) failed 35 yes to 63 no. The Trade Adjustment Assistance was originally a separate bill and was added to the Trade Promotion Authority to “sweeten” the deal to gain Democrat votes. Trade Adjustment Assistance is a federal program to reduce the damaging impact of imports. The current program features four components for workers, firms, farmers, and communities.

The Brown (D-OH) amendment #1251 purpose was to require the approval of Congress before additional countries may join the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement because the TPP is a “docking” agreement in which other countries may be added after it is signed and in effect. In his comments in support of this amendment, Senator Brown specifically mentioned the need for Congress to approve the addition of China to the Agreement. Unfortunately, the amendment failed by a vote of 47 yes to 52 no.

The Stabenow-Portman amendment #1299, whose purpose was, “To make it a principal negotiating objective of the United States to address currency manipulation in trade agreements,” failed by a vote of 48 yes to 51 no.

The Hatch amendment #1411 was agreed to by a vote of 70 yes to 29 No without any description or discussion.

Two Amendments had already been considered on May 21st:

  • Lankford SA 1237 passed by a vote of 92 to 0 to establish consideration of the conditions relating to religious freedom of parties to trade negotiations as an overall negotiating objective of the United States.
  • Brown SA #1242 failed by a vote 41 to 45 to restore funding for the trade adjustment assistance program to the level established by the Trade Adjustment Assistance Extension Act of 2011

Of equal importance, the Warren amendment #1327 failed to pass by a vote of 39 Yes to 60 No. Its purpose wasTo prohibit application of the trade authorities procedures to an implementing bill submitted with respect to a trade agreement that includes investor-state dispute settlement” [ISDS].

This is the chapter of the TPP that allows foreign corporations to bypass the domestic legal system to use to fight laws they don’t like. International Tribunals, not U.S. courts, would decide on lawsuits between the U. S and “investor” companies in member countries. Foreign “investors” could file lawsuits against city, state, and federal agencies for laws and regulations they feel infringe on their “expected future profits.” They can also sue for compensation for the loss of these “expected future profits.”

In her comments to introduce the amendment, Senator Elizabeth Warren mentioned that over 100 law professors had sent a letter to Congress and the Obama administration urging them to not include the ISDS in the TPP. I discovered that she was quoting from theAnalysis of Leaked Trans-Pacific Partnership Investment Text by Lori Wallach of the Citizen’s Trade group” that was released on Wednesday, March 25, 2015. You can download the leaked chapter at https://wikileaks.org/tpp-investment/

This 13-page analysis includes this paragraph: “A March 2015 letter signed by 139 U.S. law professors urges congressional leaders and the Obama administration ‘to protect the rule of law and our nation’s sovereignty by ensuring ISDS is not included” in the TPP, stating, “ISDS threatens domestic sovereignty by empowering foreign corporations to bypass domestic court systems and privately enforce terms of a trade agreement. It weakens the rule of law by removing the procedural protections of the justice system and using an unaccountable, unreviewable system of adjudication.’ A May 2012 letter signed by former judges, law professors and other prominent lawyers from TPP nations warns: ‘the foreign investor protections included in some recent Free Trade Agreements (FTA) and Bilateral Investment Treaties (BIT) and their enforcement through Investor-State arbitration should not be replicated in the TPP. We base this conclusion on concerns about how the expansion of this regime threatens to undermine the justice systems in our various countries and fundamentally shift the balance of power between investors, states and other affected parties in a manner that undermines fair resolution of legal disputes.”

This analysis is well worth reading to become fully informed of the dangers of international tribunals adjudicating cases instead of our domestic legal system. Two of the most dangerous features of the ISDS chapter are:

  • “Foreign investors alone would be granted access to extrajudicial tribunals staffed by private sector lawyers who rotate between acting as “judges” and representing corporations in cases against governments, posing major conflicts of interest.”
  • “Foreign tribunals would be empowered to order governments to pay unlimited cash compensation out of national treasuries.”

Senator Warren also mentioned that even the CATO Institute, a champion of free trade, had recommended removal of ISDS from the Trade Promotion Authority legislation. The report she referenced is Free Trade Bulletin No. 57, “A Compromise to Advance the Trade Agenda: Purge Negotiations of Investor-State Dispute Settlement,” by Daniel J. Ikenson dated March 4, 2014. The CATO Institute is a well-known American libertarian think tank, so its recommendations should have had some influence on Republicans in the Senate, but evidently did not. Instead, the vast majority of them chose to follow their cue from the international corporate elite behind this treaty.

Ikenson wrote that there are “practical, economic, legal, and political reasons to expunge ISDS from current trade negotiations.” He presented “Eight Good Reasons to Drop ISDS from TPP and TTIP, which you can read in full at the above link.

Since there was very little information on the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement in the major media prior to its introduction in the Senate and the failure of the first cloture vote on May 12th, it is imperative that freedom-loving organizations make Democrat and Republican Representatives in the House aware of the facts about the damage the TPP would do to our country.

America now stands at a crossroads, whether Americans will remain in control of their destiny or will be forced to bow before foreign tribunals and have even more of their jobs shipped overseas. If we are to protect our national sovereignty and our jobs, we must stop this legislation in the House by flooding their switchboards!

Members of the manufacturing task force of the California chapter of the Coalition for a Prosperous America of which I am chair have done their part by visiting the offices of all 33 of the southern California Representatives in the past year. The final hour is near. Let your Representative hear your voice! If you don’t know who your Representative is, click here.

What would be the Impact of the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement?

Monday, April 20th, 2015

Last Thursday, Senators Hatch, Wyden, and Ryan introduced “The Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015,” which is the Trade Promotion Authority bill that would grant President Obama “fast track” authority for the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement.

The TPP agreement has been in negotiation since 2010 between the United States and 11 other countries around the Pacific Rim: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam. The TPP would cover 792 million people and 40% of world’s economic activity. It is a “docking agreement” so other countries could be added, and India, China, and Korea have expressed interest in joining the TPP.

There has been no involvement by Congress in the writing of the Agreement; instead, 600 corporate advisors have worked with the U. S. Trade Representative and his staff to write the more than 1,000 pages of the Agreement. Members of Congress did not even have access to view the Agreement until last year, and they cannot take any staff with them and are not allowed to take pen, pencil, paper, or a camera when they go view it at the U. S. T. R.’s office.

This Act would give Constitutional power over trade to the President and take it away from Congress. It would allow the Executive Branch to conclude negotiations and sign the Agreement before a vote by Congress. It allows only 45 days for committee analysis and only 15 days to bring it up for floor vote. It allows only 20 hours of debate by Congress and eliminates amendments, filibuster, and cloture. It requires only simple majority vote in the Senate and House whereas the U.S. Constitution Article 1, Section 8 Treaty clause requires 2/3 vote of Senate. The TPP would remain in effect until 2018, but could be extended to 2021.

What is missing in the TPP

 The TPP does not address any of the “predatory mercantilist” actions that our current trading partners are using that have created the enormous trade deficit that I wrote about a few weeks ago. These policies are: currency manipulation, “border adjustable” taxes called Value Added Taxes (VATs), which are a tariff by another name, government subsidies for State-Owned Enterprises, and “product dumping” by manufacturers in one country at below their cost to produce to destroy competition in another country.

Over 20 countries, representing 1/3 of global GDP, are engaged in currency wars” by undervaluing their currency. These governments work with their central banks to manipulate the currency value in order to provide a competitive advantage to boost exports and impede imports. China’s currency is estimated to be 25-40% undervalued. As Paul Volcker, former Secretary of the Treasury, has explained, “In five minutes, exchange rates can wipe out what it took trade negotiators ten years to accomplish.” Foreign government intervention in foreign exchange markets is manipulation, not free trade.

Value Added Taxes (VATs) range from a low of 10% to a high of 24%, averaging 17% worldwide. The U. S. is one of a handful of 159 other countries that do not charge a VAT. This means that American products that are exported are an average of 17% more expensive when imported by a country that adds a VAT. In reverse, foreign imports are an average of 17% less expensive because the U. S. does not charge a VAT. Thus, we reduce tariffs through our trade agreements only to have our trading partners add a tariff by another name to the cost of our products that we export. This gives other countries an unfair competitive advantage in the global marketplace.

We have all read news stories about “product dumping” cases against U. S. industries, such as the tires, steel, and solar panel industries. With regard to government subsidies, the best example is how Foxconn was able to get Apple’s business for manufacturing the iPhone, iPad and now the iWatch because the Chinese government gave them the land and built the building for them.

What is wrong with the TPP?

 The TPP overrules prior acts of Congress and destroys our national sovereignty. For example:

 Buy American Act made Null and Void: For the manufacturing industry for which I play a role, the most adverse effect would be that the U.S. would have to agree to waive Buy America procurement policies for all companies operating in TPP countries. What this means is that the TPP’s procurement chapter would require that all companies operating in any country signing the agreement be provided access equal to domestic firms to bid on government procurement contracts at the local, state, and federal level. There are many companies that survived the recession and continue in business today because of the Buy American provisions for defense and military procurement. The TPP could be a deathblow for companies that rely on defense and military contracts, such as the U. S. printed circuit board industry. Most of the commercial printed circuit manufacturing was already offshored to China and South Korea years ago.

Product Labeling: Country of Origin Labeling, labeling of GMO products, and “organic” labeling could be made illegal because of being viewed as an “illegal trade barrier.” Even the health warnings on tobacco products could be viewed as an “illegal trade barrier.”

Many TPP countries are farm-raising seafood using chemicals and antibiotics that are prohibited in the U. S. and farmed seafood from China is being raised in water quality equivalent to U. S. sewers. According to Food & Water Watch, around 90% of the shrimp and catfish that Americans eat are imported. They warn, “The TPP will increase imports of potentially unsafe and minimally inspected fish and seafood products, exposing consumers to more and more dangerous seafood.”

Bill Bullard, CEO of R-CALF USA (Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America) has stated “that fast food restaurants are not required to disclose the origins of their beef and even when restaurants say the beef is “U.S. Inspected,” it is as likely as not to be imported.” When we were in Washington, D. C. together last month, Mr. Bullard told me that the increased importation of sheep and lamb from Australia and New Zealand could wipe out the American sheep ranching industry.

The California Farmers Union recently sent a letter to Rep. Davis Valadao (R-CA) stating, “Passage of the TPP would lead to a flood of dairy imports from New Zealand chronically depressing U. S. dairy producer prices…Agricultural imports will rise dramatically under the proposed agreement…The Agreement further poses a threat to the food security that we have long enjoyed as a nation because imports will replace U. S. produced agricultural products.”

Investor State Dispute Resolution: ISDR is designed to allow foreign corporations to bypass the domestic legal system to use to fight laws they don’t like. International Tribunals, not U.S. courts, would decide on lawsuits between “investor” companies in member countries and the U. S. Foreign “investors” could file lawsuits against city, state, and federal agencies for laws and regulations that may infringe on their “expected future profits.” They can also sue for compensation for the loss of these “expected future profits.” Thus, the TPP would infringe upon states’ rights as state and local governments have the constitutional authority to enact rules governing many areas covered by the TPP. But, they will no longer have the freedom to do so in the many regulatory areas covered by the TPP.

The TPP includes hundreds of pages that govern the policies of states concerning non-trade domestic policy and state and local officials would be bound to comply with much of the Agreement’s rules and regulations.

Space doesn’t allow me to cover all of the things that are wrong with the TPP with regard to non-trade issues, such as patent and copyright laws, land use, as well as policies concerning natural resources, the environment, labor laws, health care, energy and telecommunications.

Except for the large multinational corporations that participated in writing the Agreement and are its beneficiaries, there is something for everyone to hate. Opposition to the TPP cuts across party lines ? there are Democrats, Republicans, and Libertarians opposed to many of the “leaked” provisions of the TPP. Organizations from the left to the right are opposed to the TPP as negotiated. It will hurt the 98-99% of American manufacturers who had no place at the table in writing the Agreement. It will hurt American consumers and American workers of all ages. It will harm our environment and put our food and water safety at risk. But, most of all it will destroy our national sovereignty. Now is the time for you to write, call, or email your Senator and Congressional representative to urge them to vote “no” on granting Fast Track authority.

San Diego is a Hotbed of Innovation

Tuesday, December 16th, 2014

On Thursday, December 4th, CONNECT held its 27th Annual Most Innovative New Product (MIP) Award dinner to honor San Diego companies that had launched innovative new products within the last year. There were more than 700 attendees at the event held at the Hyatt Regency La Jolla at Aventine, led by Mistress of Ceremonies Maureen Cavanaugh of the Midday Edition of KPBS. There were 102 nominations that were narrowed down to 24 finalists by 100 judges, culminating in eight new MIP winners. The 2014 MIP Award winners selected were:

Aerospace & Security Technologies

CyberFlow Analytics for FlowScape – The “platform enables Advanced Threat Protection through a sophisticated Anomaly Detection system and has been designed in a modular fashion in alignment with cloud computing principles and runs entirely in the context of virtual machines…the system involves a series of connected multi-model ‘analytics engines’ that contain hundreds of mathematical predictors that can machine learn network communication transmissions and identify odd anomalous behavior across an entire network…[It} is scalable to handle big data network and application flows through cloud-ready virtualized analytics engines.”

The other finalists were: Cubic Defense Applications for Halo Array, 3D Robotics for IRIS, Space Micro, Inc. for IPC7000, Image Processing Computer.

Communications & IT

Cubic Transportation Systems for NextBus Fleet Management Application – The “application is a modular, mobile gateway for connecting passengers and public transport operators to valuable real-time travel and operations information. For passengers, this means knowing exactly where their next bus is so they know how long their wait time is. For operators, it is a cost-effective, high-quality and reliable application to keep buses on schedule and drive efficiencies in their services.”

This award shows that long-established company can still develop an innovative new product. Cubic Transportation System is “the leading provider of revenue collection management systems and services worldwide” and is one of three business segments of parent company, Cubic Corporation. Walter J. Zable founded Cubic Corporation as a small electronics company in San Diego in 1951, and he remained involved in the management of the company as CEO until his death in 2012 at the age of 97.

The other two segments are:

Mission Support Services is “an industry leader in providing comprehensive support services for all echelons of national militaries and security forces in the U.S. and allied nations.”

Cubic Defense Applications is “the leading provider of live air and ground combat training systems worldwide, a key supplier of virtual and immersive training systems, communications and electronics products, and an emerging provider of cyber technologies and global tracking solutions for commercial and national military customers.”

I started working at Cubic Defense when I was 19 years old for the Chief Scientist, Chief Physicist, and a Staff Engineer in the Marketing Department. The latter had previously developed the geodetic SECOR satellite surveying system, the first of its kind to produce a direct coast-to-coast measurement of the United States long before the Global Positioning System was developed. He was on the fast track for advancement and was promoted to Marketing Manager three years later, and I moved up with him as his assistant at age 22. When I started my own manufacturers’ sales rep agency in 1985, both Cubic Transportation and Cubic Defense became customers for companies that I have represented over the years.

The other finalists were: DVEO division of Computer Modules, Inc. for Ad+EAS Serter™ and Tricopian, LLC for FuelRod.

Diagnostics & Research Tools

Organovo, Inc. for 3D Human Liver Model – “Organovo’s Bioprinted Human Tissue Models are multi-cellular, dynamic, and functional 3D human tissue models for preclinical testing and drug discovery research. Created using proprietary 3D bioprinting process, the tissues remain viable and dynamic for extended time in vitro and exhibit key architectural and functional features that mimic key aspects of the natural 3D tissue environment. Biochemical, genomic, proteomic and unique histologic endpoints can be assessed over time.”

In addition to the MIP award, the life science magazine The Scientist’s selected Organovo’s ex Vive 3D human liver tissue for the seventh place spot of the top 10 innovations for 2014.

The other finalists were: bioTheranostics, Inc for Breast Cancer Index (BCI) and Edico Genome for DRAGEN Bio-IT Processor.

Mobile Apps

Rock My World, Inc. for RockMyRun – this is a mobile app that takes biometric data from smart phones and fitness wearable devices “to adjust the tempo of the music you’re listening to in order to match your pace or motivate you to push just a little harder.”

The other finalists were: GreatCall for Urgent Care and Visual Mobility Inc. for SEENiX.

Pharmaceutical Drugs and Medical Devices

Topera, Inc. for Topera’s 3D Mapping System – the system “consists of the FDA cleared and CE marked RhythmView™ Workstation and FIRMap™ Catheter, which are used in combination for the identification and localization of the sustaining mechanisms of cardiac arrhythmias such as atrial fibrillation, atrial flutter, atrial tachycardia, and ventricular tachycardia.”

On October 30, 2014, the Chicago-based healthcare company, Abbott announced it would acquire Topera “with all outstanding equity for $250 million upfront with potential future payments tied to performance milestones.”

The other finalists were: Bioness for Vector Gait and Safety System and Diazyme for 25-OH Vitamin D Assay for Clinical Chemistry Analyzers.

Software

CloudBeds for CloudBeds – It is an operating system for hotels to “provide the hotel with an automated website, booking engine, Facebook presence, revenue management platform, distribution channels, rate and package manager, and light-weight property management system. The system “automates many of these functions so that an hotelier can focus on its guests instead of managing its property and selling its rooms.” Their “goal is to continue to help streamline connectivity between small hotels and their customers using the latest innovations in software — improving their operational and communication efficiencies.” Their focus is on “the large developing world marketplace.”

The other finalists were: Intific for NeuroBridge 2.0 and Raken, Inc. for Raken.

Sport & Active Lifestyle Technologies

Electrozyme LLC for ProFit SE Real-Time Sweat Electrolyte Sensor – this is world’s first wearable personal hydration monitor that can asses assess fluid and electrolyte loss in a real-time non-invasive way to determine if it’s time to rehydrate, what to rehydrate with, and how much to rehydrate.

The other finalists were: Bast Surf for Bast and Cardiff Skate Co. for Cardiff Skates.

Sustainability

Solatube International for Solatube SkyVault Series – the patented technologies of the Sky Vault series combines breakthrough optics with progressive engineering to enhance light capture, focus light over greater distances, or spread light evenly throughout a space.

I wrote about Solatube in the second edition of my book because they “reshored” by returning manufacturing from China to their plant in Vista at the end of 2011, partially because of the risk of intellectual property theft of their proprietary technologies, in addition to increasing costs and difficulty in managing their offshore manufacturing.

The other finalists were: Blue Wave International, Inc. for ClearWaveAir and Measurabl for Measurabl.

Two other awards were given at the event: CONNECT’s Distinguished Contribution Award for Life Sciences Innovation was awarded to philanthropist T. Denny Sanford received, and the Distinguished Contribution Award for Technology Innovation was awarded to Dr. Robert S. Sullivan, Dean of the Rady School of Management, University of California, San Diego.

From inventors being educated and mentored through the San Diego Inventors Forum to entrepreneurial teams developing technology based products being assisted and mentored through CONNECT’s Springboard program, San Diego is a hotbed of innovation. “Since the inception of the program in 1993, more than 3000 scientific and technological breakthroughs have been guided through the process of innovation to commercialization. Together, these companies have raised over $ 1.4 Billion in capital.” To me, this makes San Diego the “Silicon Beach” of California.

“Manufacturing in Golden State Summit Highlights Threats to Prosperity”

Tuesday, October 28th, 2014

On October 16th, about 130 business leaders met at the conference facilities of AMN Healthcare in San Diego for the third “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 a long list of other regional businesses and associations. The purpose of the summit was to discuss how several national and California policies are threatening the growth and prosperity of 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 update to the overview of California manufacturing that I had presented at our summit in Brea on March19th covered in a previous article. California lost 33.3% of manufacturing jobs between 2000 and 2009 compared to 29.8% nationwide and 25% of its manufacturing companies. California lags in manufacturing job growth at a .36% rate compared to the national 6.09% rate.

I highlighted that the San Diego region offers a great deal of help for inventors and start-up technology based companies through the San Diego Inventors Forum, CONNECT’s Springboard program, the Small Business Development Centers in North County and South County, CleanTech San Diego, as well as groups like the San Diego Sports Innovators. San Diego also offers more career path and workforce training programs than most other states, including those offered by three of our event sponsors: California Manufacturing Technology Consulting, the Center for Applied Competitive Technologies, and the Lean Six Sigma Institute.

The good news is that California is benefitting from the reshoring trend that is sweeping the county. According to data collected by the Reshoring Initiative, California ranks first in the number of companies (28) that have reshored and third in the number of jobs created by reshoring (6,014).

I then moderated a panel of the following local manufacturers, who gave their viewpoints of the effects of some of our national policies and the challenges of doing business in California:

  • James Hedgecock, Founder and General Manager of Bounce Composites
  • Scott Martin, President, Lyon Technologies
  • Robert Reyes, Head of Strategic Sourcing, Stone Brewing Company

Hedgecock stated that Bounce Composites is less than two years old and makes thermoset composites, starting with paddle boards and branching into small wind turbine blades this year. He bemoaned the fact that in California you have to pay $800 to incorporate a company, which is double to quintuple the cost of incorporating in other states. Also, as a LLC, you have to pay taxes on gross profits rather than net profits, which is tough on a start-up company.

Martin said that Lyon Technologies has been in business since 1915 and has changed its products several times over the years. Current products include bird and reptile incubators, poultry products, and veterinary products, which they export to about 100 countries. He stated that the Value Added Taxes (VATs) that are added to the products they export and the currency manipulation practiced by several countries make it difficult for their products to be competitive in the world marketplace.

Reyes said they are expanding out of San Diego and are building a new $25M brewery and restaurant in the Marienpark Berlin, scheduled to open by end 2015/beginning 2016. Stone exports beer to Germany and other European countries and having a brewery in Germany will ave on shipping costs for exporting. They are also planning on opening a brewery on the East Coast in Virgina.

The national expert panel included Greg Autry, Adjunct Professor of Entrepreneurship, Marshall School of Business, University of Southern California; Pat Choate, economist and author, “Saving Capitalism: Keeping America Strong”; Mike Dolan, Legislative Rep., International Brotherhood of Teamsters; and Michael Stumo, CEO of CPA.  The focus of the talks was on national security, manufacturing growth strategies, tax strategies and fixing the trade deficit.

Autry, led off the national panel with the topic of “National Security Concerns with U. S. Trade Regime.” He began by stating, “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 added 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.”

He pointed out that 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 that Wall Street’s new hero, Jack Ma, founder of Chinese company Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, is a danger to American interests by the fact that Alibaba just overtook Amazon as the world’s largest online retailer by market capitalization. It was the wealth he created at Amazon that enabled founder Jeff Bezos to now lead a new company, Blue Origin, which was just selected by the United Launch Alliance to finish development of a new engine to replace the Russian made RD-180 rocket engine used by ULA’s Atlas 5 rocket. There is considerable skepticism by many of Mr. Ma’s independence from the Chinese government. Mr. Ma’s next target appears to be PayPal, which is responsible for the wealth of Elon Musk, now CEO and CTO of SpaceX, CEO and chief product architect of Tesla Motors, and chairman of SolarCity.

Next, Michael Stumo presented “A Competitiveness Strategy for America: Balance Trade and Rebuild Domestic Supply Chains.” He said, “Our ultimate goals should be: improved standard of living, full employment, and durable, sustainable growth. America has no strategy to win. Our trade deficit cuts our growth in half. Domestic supply chains were sacrificed to global supply chains; i.e. offshored and hollowed out….We need a strategy to win.”

He pointed out that “free trade is supposed to produce balance and address foreign mercantilism, but our trade policies enable mercantilism…We must replace the goal of ‘eliminating trade barriers’ and have Congress establish a new directive via statue to balance trade.”

He said that to achieve balanced trade, we must address, reciprocity, currency manipulation, forced technology transfer [by China], foreign VAT rebates, state-owned enterprises, and government subsidies.

In conclusion, he recommended that we should:

  • Create durable comparative advantage through technical superiority, infrastructure, low energy costs, etc.
  • Balance trade and fight foreign mercantilism
  • Create our own comparative advantage
  • Maximize domestic value added
  • Identify and minimize our advantages while minimizing our disadvantages

In conclusion, he urged, “Don’t be afraid of asserting and pursing our national economic interest.”

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). He said that big corporations want Congress to pass Trade Promotion Authority in the “lame duck” session to grant the president Fast track Authority for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) Agreements. He called the TPP “NAFTA on steroids” and said that TTIP is just as bad. He said that Fast Track was invented by President Nixon and has been used 16 times. He said that we need a new form a Trade Promotion Authority where Congress has input with regard to the countries involved in the Agreement, certifies that negotiating goals were met, and votes to approve it before it is signed. He urged attendees to contact their Congressional Representative to oppose the TPP for the following reasons:

  • “Lack of transparency during negotiations warrants more thorough consideration than a up or down vote
  • Under previous trade deals, the U. S. has hemorrhaged jobs and cannot afford more of the same
  • The TPP is too large and complex to delegate constitutional authority away from Congress”

Pat Choate (Economist; Author, Saving Capitalism: Keeping America Strong) discussed how our trading partners have used Value Added Taxes (VATs), and currency manipulation to their advantage and to the disadvantage of the U. S. VATs or border adjustable consumption taxes are used by other countries 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. VATs range from a low of 10% to a high of 24%, for an average of 17%.

While tariffs have been dropped since 1968 as part of many trade agreements signed since then, the effective trade barriers have remained constant because of the VATs being imposed.

These 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. He supports CPA’s advocacy of making changes in U. S. trade policy to address this unfairness which tremendously distorts trade flows.

During lunch, keynote speaker Dan DiMicco, Chairman Emeritus of Nucor Steel Corporation, spoke on “Seizing the Opportunity.” He led off by shocking the audience with facts about the real state of our economy and our unemployment rate. By September 2014, we still had not reached the level of employment that we had when the recession began in December 2007 although 81 months had passed. We lost 8.7 million jobs from 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 5.9% for September 2014 that is reported in the news media, the U-6 rate was 11.8%. 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 62.7%. 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 8.2 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 September 2014)

Reported Unemployed U.S. Workers 9,262,000
Involuntary Part-time workers 7,103,000
Marginally Attached To Labor Force Workers 2,226,000
Additional Unemployed Workers With 66% CLF Participation Rate 8,199,000 
Unemployed U.S. Workers In Reality 26,770,000
Adjusted Civilian Labor force 166,287,000
Unemployment Rate In Reality 16.1%

 

DiMicco said, “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 (Dot.com/Enron/Housing/PONZI scheme type financial instruments.)”

He added, “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.”

He said, “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.

In conclusion, DiMicco said, “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. 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!”

As the mid-term election approaches, we need to cast our votes for candidates who address the serious issues discussed at the summit, so that we can work together as Americans to restore California to the Golden State it once was and restore America to be “a shining city upon a hill whose beacon light guides freedom-loving people everywhere,” as declared by Ronald Reagan in 1974.

We are in danger of losing our country’s assets!

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

We Americans blithely ignore the long-term effects of allowing foreign corporations to purchase the assets of our country in the form of companies, land, and resources. We are selling off our ability to produce wealth by allowing so many American corporations to be purchased by foreign corporations. It is not just foreign companies buying our assets that is the problem ? it is the state-owned and massively subsidized companies of China that are dangerous because China uses its state-owned enterprises as a strategic tool of the state. By pretending they are private companies abiding by free-market rules to our detriment makes us the biggest chumps on the planet. German economist Fredrich List, wrote, “The power of producing wealth is…infinitely more important than wealth itself.”

How many Americans paid attention to the news last year that Smithfield Foods was acquired by a Chinese corporation? Last September, shareholders approved the sale of the company to Shuanghui International Holdings Limited, the biggest meat processor in China. Smithfield Foods is the world’s largest pork producer, and Americans must now face the danger of polluted Chinese food since our FDA only inspects 2% of our food imports.

In the December 15, 2013, New York Post, Diane Francis, author of “Merger of the Century: Why Canada and America Should Become One Country” wrote “Currently, American authorities only evaluate foreign takeovers on the basis of national-security issues or shareholder rights and securities laws. But these criteria are inadequate. A fairer test in the case of Smithfield, and future buyout attempts by China, should also require reciprocity: Only corporations from countries that allow Americans to buy large companies should be allowed to buy large American companies. That is why Washington must impose new foreign ownership restrictions based on the principle of reciprocity. The rule must be that foreigners can only buy companies if Americans can make similar buyouts in their countries”.

How many are aware that the chain of AMC Theaters is now owned by Chinese Corporation? Dalian Wanda Group Company owned by China’s richest man, billionaire real estate developer, Wang Jianlin, bought AMC Theatres in May 2012, creating the world’s largest theater chain. This means that the Chinese will now be in a position to shape public opinion and mold the minds of our children through entertainment media.

In January 2014, Motorola Mobility was sold by Google to Chinese corporation, Lenovo, which means that the nation that invented smart phones is just about entirely out of the business of producing smart phones in America. Lenovo is the same company that bought IBM’s line of personal computers in 2004. This acquisition will give one of China’s most prominent technology companies a broader foothold in the U. S.

Through strategic purchases, China is positioning itself to be our energy supplier as well. Since 2009, Chinese companies have invested billions of dollars acquiring significant percentages of shares of energy companies, such as The AES Corporation, Chesapeake Energy, and Oil & Gas Assets. In 2010, China Communications Construction Company bought 100% of Friede Goldman United, and in 2012, A-Tech Wind Power (Jiangxi) bought 100% of Cirrus Wind Energy.

Chinese companies are even acquiring healthcare companies:  WuXiu Pharma Tech bought AppTec Laboratory Services, and Mindray Medical International bought Datascope Corporation in 2008; BGI-Shenzhen bought Complete Genomics in 2012, and Mindray Medical International bought Zonare Medical Systems in 2013.

Wall Street and the finance industry are not immune from acquisitions by Chinese corporations:  Shenzhen New World Group bought Sheraton Universal Hotel in 2011; China Aviation Industrial Fund bought International Lease Finance Corporation in 2012; and Fosun bought One Chase Manhattan Plaza in 2013.

One of the earliest acquisitions by a Chinese corporation was when the Hoover brand was sold to Hong Kong, China-based firm Techtronic Industries after Maytag that owned Hoover was acquired by Whirlpool in 2006.

The acquisition of American companies by foreign corporations isn’t something new. Many prominent companies founded in America have been bought by corporations from the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, and other European countries in the latter half of the 20th Century. Most American don’t realize that such iconic American companies as BF Goodrich and RCA are now owned by French corporations, and that Carnation and Gerber are now owned by Swiss corporations.

Most foreign countries don’t allow 100% foreign ownership of their businesses, but sadly, the United States does not exercise the same prudence. We sell our companies to them, and they almost never sell theirs to us. This tilted playing field has gutted America’s economic power.

What is enabling Chinese companies to go on a buying spree of American assets? Trade deficits – our ever-increasing trade deficit with China over the past 20 years is transferring America’s wealth to China and making millionaires out of many Chinese. In 1994, our trade deficit with China was $29.5 billion, and it grew to $83.8 by 2001 when China was granted “Most Favored Nation” status and admitted to the World Trade Organization. By 2004, it had doubled to $162.3 billion. After a slight dip in 2009 during the depths of the Great Recession, the trade deficit grew to $318.4 billion in 2013. If you add the annual trade deficits for the past 20 years, it totals $3.15 trillion. China now has over one billion serious savers and more than a million millionaires whose assets when combined provide billions to spend to buy our assets.

In addition, it is our trade deficit with Japan that has enabled Japanese corporations to go a buying spree of American assets since the 1980s when such companies as Columbia Pictures Entertainment was acquired by the Sony Corporation of Japan in 1989, and Bridgestone Corporation of Japan bought Firestone in 1988. However, our highest trade deficit with Japan of $84.3 billion in 2007 was nearly one third of our current trade deficit with China. While we are still transferring wealth to Japan, it is a democracy and doesn’t have armed missiles pointed in our direction.

In theory, we have the means to protect ourselves from this. CFIUS, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, has the power to regulate, approve and deny these purchases. However, it is rare for the CFIUS to block deals. “During 2011, the most recent year with data available, the CFIUS was notified 111 times of deals that fell under its purview. Of those 111 covered deals, 40 were investigated and just five were withdrawn during that investigation…This year, Chinese companies have bought 10 companies worth $10.5 billion, says Thomson Reuters. That’s more than 20% of the 484 U.S. companies that have been bought by foreign companies this year worth $43.6 billion, Thomson Reuters says.”

The 2013 Annual Report to Congress by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission states, “China presents new challenges for CFIUS, because investment by SOEs can blur the line between national security and economic security. The possibility of government intent or coordinated strategy behind Chinese investments raises national security concerns. For example, Chinese companies’ attempts to acquire technology track closely the government’s plan to move up the value-added chain. There is also an inherent tension among state and federal agencies in the United States regarding FDI from China. The federal government tends to be concerned with maintaining national security and protecting a rules-based, nondiscriminatory investment regime. The state governments are more concerned with local economic benefits, such as an expanded tax base and increased local employment, rather than a national strategic issue, especially as job growth has stagnated.”

The report, continues, “China has amassed the world’s largest trove of dollar-denominated assets. Although the true composition of China’s foreign exchange reserves, valued at $3.66 trillion, is a state secret, outside observers estimate that about 70 percent is in dollars. In recent years, China has become less risk averse and more willing to invest directly in U.S. land, factories, and businesses.”

Did we let the USSR buy our companies during the Cold War? No, we didn’t! We realized that we would be helping our enemy. This was pretty simple, common sense, but we don’t seem to have this same common sense when dealing with China.

China has a written plan to become the Super Power of the 21st Century. With regard to China’s military buildup, the report states, “PLA modernization is altering the security balance in the Asia Pacific, challenging decades of U.S. military preeminence in the region…The PLA is rapidly expanding and diversifying its ability to strike U.S. bases, ships, and aircraft throughout the Asia Pacific region, including those that it previously could not reach, such as U.S. military facilities on Guam.

It is time to wake up to the real dangers of our dangerously high trade deficits with China. The Communist Chinese government is not our friend. They are a geopolitical rival that is striving to replace the United States as the global hegemony. We should not let Chinese corporations acquire any more of our energy companies or technology-based companies if we want to maintain our national sovereignty.

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 WearVenley.com

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 (Dot.com/Enron/Housing/PONZI 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.

We Must Stop Fast Track Trade Authority from Being Granted!

Tuesday, January 7th, 2014

President Obama had hoped to be able to announce that he had been granted Fast Track Authority before the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting in Bali, Indonesia on October 8, 2013, but due to budget issues and the government shutdown, the bill wasn’t introduced and approved in the fall. He had also hoped to complete negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement at this meeting, but no agreement was reached by the countries involved. For the last three years, the Obama administration has conducted negotiations behind closed doors through the offices of U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk without any involvement with Congress.

Eleven nations have participated in the negotiations: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam. Japan announced its intention to join the agreement last spring. Because the TPP is intended as a “docking agreement,” other Pacific Rim countries could join over time, and the Philippines, Thailand, Colombia, and others have expressed interest. China could join the TPP at a later date without suffering any disadvantage even though this would negate the original reason for the TPP as a counter to China’s hegemony in the Pacific.

Reliable sources have revealed that a bill to grant the president Fast Track Authority under the Trade Promotion Authority will be introduced on January 8th in the Senate Finance Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee. It appears that there is sufficient support to pass these bills out of the committees for a vote on the floor.

Earlier this year, I published three blog articles on the dangers of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement and granting the president Fast Track Authority:  “The Trans-Pacific Partnership Would Destroy our National Sovereignty;” “Why the Trans Pacific Partnership Would Hurt American Manufacturers;” and “The Trans Pacific Partnership Trade Agreement Would Harm our Environment.”

In my first article, I commented on the many articles that Lori Wallach of Public Citizen had written about the Trans-Pacific Partnership:  “Ms. Wallach opines that U.S. multinational corporations have the goal of imposing on more countries a set of extreme foreign investor privileges and rights and their private enforcement through the notorious “investor-state” system. ‘ This system elevates individual corporations and investors to equal standing with each TPP signatory country’s government- and above all of us citizens.’ This would enable ‘foreign investors to skirt domestic courts and laws, and sue governments directly before tribunals of three private sector lawyers operating under World Bank and UN rules to demand taxpayer compensation for any domestic law that investors believe will diminish their ‘expected future profits.’”

With regard to “Buy American” laws in my second article, I wrote, “What this means is that the TPP’s procurement chapter would require that all companies operating in any country signing the agreement be provided access equal to domestic firms to U.S. government procurement contracts over a certain dollar threshold. To meet this requirement, the U.S. would have to agree to waive Buy America procurement policies for all companies operating in TPP countries.”

I also noted that as far back as May 3, 2012, a letter from Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.) and 68 other Congressional Reps to President Obama stated in part, “We are concerned about proposals we understand are under consideration in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement negotiations that could significantly limit Buy American provisions and as a result adversely impact American jobs, workers, and manufacturers…We do not believe this approach is in the best interest of U.S. manufacturers and U.S. workers. Of special concern is the prospect that firms established in TPP countries, such as the many Chinese firms in Vietnam, could obtain waivers from Buy American policies. This could result in larger sums of U.S. tax dollars being invested to strengthen other countries’ manufacturing sectors, rather than our own.”

In a commentary article on October 15, 2013, Lt. Col (Retired) Allen West wrote, “TPP would subject the U.S. to the jurisdiction of foreign tribunals under the authority of the World Bank and United Nations. These unelected, unaccountable panels would constitute a judicial authority higher than the U.S. Supreme Court. They would have the power to overrule federal court rulings and order payment of U.S. tax dollars to enforce the special privileges granted to foreign firms that would be exempt from EPA and other regulations that strangle American firms.”

He added, “We’re also told TPP shows our Asian allies we’re serious about confronting China. But it would actually weaken the U.S. As the Chinese People’s Liberation Army uses every means possible to infiltrate our command and control systems, TPP bans Buy American policies that require crucial equipment for our troops be produced in the U.S. We don’t need TPP to stop China’s military expansion – we need to tell the same crowd pushing TPP to stop transferring their capital and technology to that communist dictatorship.”

In a commentary on the Economy in Crisis website, economist Pat Choate outlined the reasons why we should oppose President Obama being granted Fast Track Authority:

  • Allows the President to select countries with which to enter into trade agreements, set the substance of the talks and then sign those pacts without prior Congressional approval.
  • Allows the President to negotiate and include in these trade agreements not only tariffs and quotas, but also changes in federal, state and local laws on taxes, food and health safety, patents, copyrights, trademarks, immigration, Environment, Labor standards, and Buy America provisions, among many other issues.
  • Creates a Presidential advisory system, comprising 700 industry representatives appointed by the President. These advisors have access to confidential negotiating documents that are kept secret from most members of Congress and the public.
  • Empowers the President to draft the agreements to implement legislation without Congressional input.
  • Requires House and Senate Leaders to introduce the President’s bill on the first legislative day following the President’s submission.
  • Requires that the legislation be discharged from Committee 45 days after submission.
  • Requires a floor vote 15 days after the bill is discharged from Committees.
  • Allows only 20 hours of debate in each House.
  • Prohibits any amendments either in Committee or during the floor debate.
  • Eliminates several floor procedures, including Senate unanimous consent, normal debate and cloture rules, and the ability to amend the legislation.
  • Prevents a Senate filibuster.
  • Requires only a simple majority vote in each House for enactment.

In conclusion Mr. Choate states, “These trade pacts will have the effect of a treaty, though the Constitution requires a two thirds majority vote by the Senate for the United States to enter into a treaty.”

It is precisely this sort of amassing of powers that defines a dictatorship. Our Founding Fathers wisely chose to keep governmental power separated in a system of checks and balances, but by utilizing the Fast Track Authority, our Constitutional system of checks and balances would be destroyed and our national sovereignty would be given to foreign nations and multinational corporations in the name of “free trade.”

A letter addressed to President Obama, signed by 24 Republican Representatives in the House, stated, “Under Fast Track, the executive branch is empowered to sign trade agreements before Congress has an opportunity to vote on them, and then unilaterally write legislation making the pacts’ terms U.S. federal law. Fast Track allows the president to send these executive branch-authored bills directly to the floor for a vote under rules forbidding all floor amendments and limiting debate. And by requiring the House to vote on the bill within a preset period of time, it takes the floor schedule out of the hands of the House majority and gives it to the president.

Given these factors, we do not agree to cede our constitutional authority to the executive through an approval of a request for “Fast Track Trade Promotion Authority.”

The signatories were:  Jones, Bachmann, Joyce, Gohmert, Cook, McKinley, Jimmy Duncan, Stockman, LoBiondo, R. Bishop, C. Collins, C. Smith, Rohrabacher, Bentivolio, Grimm, Mica, Broun, Brooks, D. Young, Jeff Duncan, Gibson, Denham, Hunter and Fitzpatrick.

On the Democrat side of the aisle, Representatives Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and George Miller (D-CA) took the lead in getting a total of 151 Democrats in the House to oppose the use of “Fast Track” procedures that usurp Congress’s authority over trade matters. Their opposition stands for both the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement and any future trade agreements. The letter in part states, “Congress, not the Executive Branch, must determine when an agreement meets the objectives Congress sets in the exercise of its Article I-8 exclusive constitutional authority to set the terms of trade. For instance, an agreement that does not specifically meet congressional negotiating objectives must not receive preferential consideration in Congress. A new trade agreement negotiation and approval process that restores a robust role for Congress is essential to achieving U.S. trade agreements that can secure prosperity for the greatest number of Americans, while preserving the vital tenets of American democracy in the era of globalization.”

If Fast Track Authority is approved, it would allow President Obama to essentially have dictatorial control over the country in many respects. Fast Track Authority gives the executive branch legislative powers, something expressly forbidden by the Constitution. We must deny the President Fast Track Authority. If this is granted, it will be even more difficult to stop the Trans-Pacific Partnership from being approved.

It would be the final nail in the coffin for U.S. sovereignty. Contact your Congressional representative and urge them to oppose the Fast Track Authority and forward this article to your friends and ask them to do the same!

Decline in Capital Investment is Threat to American Innovation

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013

In early October, the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation released a report titled “Restoring America’s Lagging Investment in Capital Goods,” by Luke A. Steward and Robert D. Atkinson. The report analyzes trends in private sector investment in capital goods over the last three decades, investigates the causes of the current decline, and proposes policy reforms designed to spur increased investment growth. The authors warn that this serious decline in capital investment over the last decade is a key threat to economic growth.

The authors state, “Private capital investment is the primary means through which innovation, the key driver of economic growth, diffuses throughout the economy.” Business investment in equipment, software and structures grew by only 0.5 percent from 2000 and 2011 compared to an average of 2.7 percent between 1980 and 1989 and 5.2 percent per year between 1990 and 1999.

The authors make a strong case about why capital investment matters in developed, knowledge-based economies like the United States. While innovation powers long-run economic growth, the mere act of innovating is not sufficient to grow an economy. Innovation must diffuse through the economy by being adopted by other companies that seek to improve productivity or the quality of products or services. It is the purchase of machinery, equipment, and software by companies that is capital investment that spreads the innovation throughout the economy.

“Capital investment acts as a diffuser of innovation because innovation is embedded in new investment”  Industrial equipment such as engines, metalworking machinery, and materials handling equipment; transportation equipment like trucks and aircraft; construction machinery, agricultural or mining equipment are now “infused with highly advanced technologies, and each new generation is better than the last.”

After a comparison of neoclassical economies and neo-Keynesian economies with innovation economies such as the United States, they conclude that innovation economies require high rates of capital investment in order to be utilized. This innovation economy is also referred to as “the new growth theory, in which investment in new machinery, equipment and software spreads innovation. By high rates of investment, they do not mean a high amount of equipment, software and structures. They “mean that the capital stock is refreshed and replaced with newer and more productive machinery, equipment and software.” They write, “The value of investment is not in acquiring more machinery and equipment; it is in acquiring newer and more productive equipment… A high rate of investment enables innovations to swiftly spread through the economy, bestowing their economic benefits upon their users.”

The authors show that a second reason why “capital investment matters is that it has substantial ‘spillover’ benefits—that is, benefits not just for the firm making the investment, but also for the rest of society…Many economists acknowledge that investments in the production of innovation (such as R&D) have spillovers, and that this is why policies like the R&D tax credit are important. But fewer recognize that investments in new machines, equipment and software also have spillovers.”

The report continues with an analysis of capital investment trends, focusing on information processing equipment and software (IPES). While IPES assets grew at the very rapid rate of 681 percent compared to the next highest, transportation, at 69 percent from 1980 to 2011, the growth rate of even IPES stagnated in the decade of the 2000s.

The authors conclude: “This stagnation means that business investment rates are actually falling relative to the size of the economy…As a share of GDP, fixed investment was higher in the early 1980s—around 13 percent of GDP—than in any subsequent year. In 2011, fixed investment accounted for less than 10 percent of GDP. Given that it is investment that drives productivity growth, these statistics are sobering. Out of all the fundamental components of GDP—consumption, investment, government, and net exports—a fall in the relative magnitude of investment is the most worrying in terms of future economic performance.”

While equipment investment is far more important than investment in structures (buildings), in 2011, “the number of new manufacturing structures is no longer keeping pace with the depreciation of existing manufacturing structures, which, in turn, means that the real quantity of manufacturing facilities in the United States is shrinking…Between 2001 and 2011, the net stock of manufacturing structures fell by more than nine percent, a fall which, given investment’s continued decline, will also undoubtedly continue.”

A decline in value of manufacturing structures in the United States is only a symptom, not a driver, of a decline in the international competitiveness of the U.S. manufacturing sector. The decline of “investment equipment and software investment is more of a driver of competitiveness, and thus its decline is far more ominous.”

Total business investment in equipment and software grew in the 1980s, boomed in the 1990s, and then stagnated in the 2000s. Between 1980 and 1991, equipment and software investment increased by 37 percent compared to just 2 percent between 2000 and 2011. This means that investment in equipment and software is falling relative to the size of the economy just like total investment.

The picture looks even worse when the IPES assets are removed from total equipment assets, leaving only assets such as industrial machinery and transportation equipment. “Instead of merely stagnant growth, non-IPES investment has declined over eight percent since 2000.”

The next section of the report compares investment in equipment and software by industry, showing that “the composition of investment went from being spread over a broad base of sectors, especially in the 1990s, to being concentrated in a few select sectors in the 2000s.” Industries such as trade and transportation, health, and management and professional services expanded slightly. “Manufacturing led in the 1980s and 1990s but was displaced in the 2000s by finance and real estate, much of that made in the ramp up to the financial collapse of 2008.”

Not only did business investment stagnate in the 2000s, but investment is “now much more concentrated in a few select domestic-serving services industries, and industries that once powered U.S. investment growth and global competitiveness are now falling behind,” such as computers and chemical products.

The investment trends in the computer and electronic products industry are even worse than other manufacturing sectors:  “a 36 percent decline in equipment and software investment since 2000.”

The authors propose two possible reasons for the causes of investment stagnation:

  1. Decline in the competiveness of U.S. traded-sector businesses on the global market that has been occurring, particularly over at least the past decade
  2. “Short-termism”—the obsession with the upcoming financial report rather than long-range planning—that pervades publicly traded businesses facing stockholder pressures

Numerous other reports have described the U.S. competitive decline over the past decade so this report just summarizes a few of the key points that have been made in other reports and previous articles I have written. The end result is that the United States has lost its attractiveness as a production location for manufacturing, and when those businesses move offshore to other countries, they take their investment along with them. In addition, fewer foreign firms are making investments here in the United States. Thus, investment declines in one industry sector after another.

With regard to “short-termism,” the authors mean “the pressure on companies by Wall Street to achieve short-term profits has all too often come at the expense of long-term investment.” In other words, executives are willing to “delay new investment projects in order to meet short-term earnings targets, even if it meant sacrifices in value creation.”

Atkinson and Steward urge policymakers to put in place new policies to encourage the private sector to restore investment rates and stem the decline and stimulate new investment and productivity growth. They recognize that the first step to addressing market short-termism is for Congress and the Obama administration to acknowledge and take the problem seriously, and the next step is to begin a detailed analysis of the problem. They recommend the following actions:

Establish a Task Force to Study Market Short-Termism and Recommend Policies to Ameliorate It ?  The White House should establish a task force, led by the National Economic Council, bringing together members of the Council of Economic Advisers and the Treasury Department, to study the causes and nature of short-termism and draft a set of recommendations to ameliorate it. “The task force should analyze all potential options for reigning in market short-termism, ranging from changes to tax law to corporate governance solutions to encouraging changes in the U.S. corporate cultures within business schools, corporate boardrooms and ‘Wall Street.’”

Establish a Tax Credit for Investing in Equipment and Software ?  Congress should enact an investment tax credit (ITC) to provide a 35 percent credit on all capital expenditures made above 75 percent of a base amount. The ITC would be modeled on the Alternative Simplified Research and Experimentation Tax Credit (ASC).

This report proves that as investment declines, economic growth declines, and as economic growth declines, the capital available for investment and demand for new investment declines. If this trend continues, innovation will slow, competitiveness will continue to decline, and productivity growth will weaken. I agree with the authors that “it is essential that policymakers make challenging this problem a top priority. The authors’ policy recommendations may not be the only solutions to the problem, but “many countries have similar policies in place already—they will at least put the United States on a more equal f