Archive for the ‘Taxes/Regulations’ Category

How would the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement affect the Reshoring Trend?

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2015

Reshoring has become a trend, not just anecdotal, as hardly a week goes by without an article about a company returning manufacturing to America in some news outlet. However, the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement is projected to reduce the rate of reshoring and manufacturing jobs being brought back to the U. S. Combined with the high U. S. dollar, the impact is likely to be severe.

Utilization of the Total Cost of Ownership worksheet estimator developed by Harry Moser, founder of the Reshoring Initiative, has provided a method for companies to do a true analysis to be able to see that they may not be saving as much, if any, of the money anticipated by sourcing offshore because the cost savings are often outweighed by the hidden costs of doing business offshore.

Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) is “the sum of all the costs associated with every activity of the supply stream,” according to the 13th edition APICS dictionary.” However, most companies don’t look beyond quoted unit price to make decision of where to source and ignore 20% or more of the total cost of offshored products. According to the Archstone Consulting survey reported in the American Machinist Magazine July 16, 2009, 60% of manufacturers apply only “rudimentary” total cost models: Wage Arbitrage, PPV (Purchase Price Variance), and Landed Cost.

This is because in the cost accounting systems used by most corporations, transportation costs, travel costs to vendors, rework costs of defective parts, cost of inventory, etc. are in separate accounting categories. This is why it is critical that CFOs and Supply Chain managers be trained in how to use the TCO worksheet to increase reshoring. Harry Moser’s TCO worksheet is able to quantify many of the following hidden costs of sourcing offshore that are not captured by any other current method:

  • Currency fluctuations
  • Cost of managing offshore contract
  • Design changes
  • Quality problems
  • Legal liabilities
  • Travel expenses
  • Time and effort to make transition
  • Poor communication
  • Intellectual Property infringement
  • Cost of inventory

The reshoring trend has also benefited by the following changing supply chain dynamics in offshore sourcing that have occurred since 2007:

  • Oil prices tripled, raising logistics costs
  • Labor rates in China rose by 300%
  • Component/material prices increased
  • Automation increased U.S. productivity
  • Political instability in China – Labor riots/strikes
  • Exchange rate variables
  • Risk of disruption from natural disasters

This is why the Boston Consulting Group issued a press release May 5, 2011, stating, “We expect net labor costs for manufacturing in China and the U.S. to converge by around 2015… since wage rates account for 20 to 30 percent of a product’s total cost, manufacturing in China will be only 10 to 15 percent cheaper than in the U.S.” This prediction was very controversial at the time and generated a great deal of debate.

On October 11, 2011, the Boston Consulting Group issued a report, stating, “Seven industry sectors had reached “tipping point” of returning to U.S.” They are:

  • Appliances and electrical equipment
  • Computer/electronics
  • Fabricated metal products
  • Electrical equipment/appliances
  • Furniture
  • Machinery
  • Plastics and rubber products
  • Transportation goods

Note: These sectors account for 70% of U.S. imports and 2 trillion in U.S. consumption

Because robotics, automation, lean manufacturing, and the rapidly improving technology of additive manufacturing have helped companies do more with fewer people, many have been skeptical that reshoring would create many jobs. The Boston Consulting Group’s predictions of which industry sectors would return to the U. S. first are now verified by data that the Reshoring Initiative has captured since its founding in 2010. This data also provides the answer to the question of how many jobs have been created by reshoring.

The following chart shows the number of jobs created by reshoring:

Industry

Jobs Companies
Transportation Equipment 13,823 33
Electrical Equipment, Appliances, Components 9,240 58
Computer/Electronic Products 3,483 25
Machinery 2,860 20
Apparel/Textiles 2,154 46
Fabricated Metal Products 1,721 39
Food 1,628 9
Wood Products 1,028 18
Medical Equipment    738 17
Hobbies    723 29
Construction    577 4
Plastic/Rubber Products    470 16
Castings      57 8
Non-Metallic Mineral Products      12 1
Primary Metal Products        0 5
Chemicals & Energy        0 1 each
Other 1,016 24

The Reshoring Initiative has also captured reshoring data by state. You will be surprised by some of the states that made it in the top ten because the Boston Consulting Group predicted that reshoring would mainly occur in the low wage states of the south. The data for the top ten states is shown on the chart below.

State

Jobs

Cases Jobs/Facility
South Carolina 7,530 8 941
Texas 3,792 13 292
Kentucky 3,412 4 853
Georgia 3,145 8 393
Tennessee 3,137 15 209
Ohio 2,739 24 114
Michigan 1,742 16 109
New York 1,165 19 61
North Carolina 1,020 15 68
Kansas 1,000 2 500

Three of these states, Ohio, Michigan, and New York are definitely not low wage states. California dropped from a rank of 10th in the number of jobs shown on the 2014 table to 12th on this new table. Frankly, if a company can reshore to California, Michigan, New York and Ohio, they can reshore to anywhere in the U. S.

According to the 2012 Annual Re-Shoring Report by the MIT Forum For Supply Chain Innovation, the top decision drivers for reshoring are: (1) Time-to-Market – 73.7% (2) Cost Reductions – 63.9% (3) Product Quality – 62.2% (4) More Control – 56.8% (5) Hidden Supply Chain Management Costs – 51.4% and (6). Protect IP – 48.5%.

If reshoring continues to expand at its current rate, the Reshoring Initiative predicts that the $600 billion/year trade deficit would be eliminated; the U. S. economy would add 3 million manufacturing jobs while adding 9-12 million total jobs because of the multiplier effect of manufacturing jobs; reduce unemployment by 4%; cut the U.S. budget deficit by about 50%, and increase manufacturing output by 25%.

Because of my concerns about the impact of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement about which I have written, I recently asked Harry Moser for his opinion on the potential effects.

He said, “We have made huge progress from around 2003 when we were losing net about 130,000 manufacturing jobs/year till 2014 when reshoring plus FDI exceeded offshoring by about 10,000 jobs. However there are still about 3 million manufacturing jobs offshored. So, reshoring is still in its infancy and is still fragile. Offshore LLC prices are still typically 25% lower than domestic prices. It is a struggle to get companies to understand that in some cases the domestic total cost is lower even though the price is so much higher. Tariffs are one of the largest, most unambiguous of the “hidden costs” that need to be quantified. TPP will reduce tariffs, making the TCO argument more difficult and less likely to suggest reshoring. This is also an especially poor time for TPP with the USD up substantially and at its highest level in several years. The combination of the high USD and TPP will reduce the rate of reshoring by a roughly estimated 20 to 50%.”

He added, “Since the U.S. is the world’s largest market, with one language and with consumers who are mainly driven by price not nationalism, ours is the target market for all offshore companies. TPP will reduce barriers to trade, making our market even more attractive. If TPP has equal percentage impacts on our imports and our exports, the result will be negative since our goods imports exceed our exports by about 40%. ”

The TPP would reduce or eliminate tariffs for 11 more countries, so it will have the most impact on the companies that have reshored because of cost savings. I think Harry’s opinion that the TPP would have a 20 – 50% reduction on the rate of reshoring is conservative. This adverse effect on reshoring is one more reason why we must stop the fast track Trade Promotion Authority from being passed by the House. Now that the Trade Promotion Authority fast tracking the TPP passed the Senate, it is critical that you contact your Congressional Representative to urge them to oppose granting fast track Trade Promotion Authority for the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement.

 

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.

Looking Back at 2014 and Ahead to 2015

Tuesday, January 20th, 2015

Most economists are predicting a rosy forecast of more than 3 percent expansion for the U.S. economy in 2015, up from 2.3% in 2014. If it does, this “would mark the first time in a decade that growth has reached that level for a full calendar year.” The unemployment rate is also predicted to drop from the current 5.6 percent to 5.3 percent. The questions are: How much will American manufacturing benefit from this expansion and how many manufacturing jobs will be created?

While the country gained 252,000 jobs in December, only 17,000 were manufacturing jobs according the monthly report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics ? “In December, …Manufacturing added an average of 16,000 jobs per month in 2014, compared with an average gain of 7,000 jobs per month in 2013.”

This was a significant increase over the previous year, but notice that President Obama recently stated that “more than 764,000 manufacturing jobs have been gained since the end of the recession.” This means that we still have a long way to go to recoup the 5.8 million manufacturing jobs that we lost between the years 2000 – 2009. According to Scott Paul, President of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, “…December’s manufacturing job gains were behind the previous month, and that halfway through the president’s second term, the country is just over one-quarter of the way to his pledge to create 1 million new manufacturing jobs in that four-year span.”

While the U3 unemployment rate dropped to 5.6 percent, the U6 rate is double at11.2 percent. The U-6 rate includes “Total unemployed, plus all persons marginally attached to the labor force, plus total employed part time for economic reasons, as a percent of the civilian labor force plus all persons marginally attached to the labor force.”

In a recent article, business reporter Jonathan Horn of the San Diego Union-Tribune noted, “the unemployment rate fell in part because people dropped out of the labor force ? they either retired or left the labor force. Last month, the number of unemployed persons fell 383,000 to 8.7 million. However, less than one-third of people out of work found jobs; the rest stopped looking. The percentage of Americans who are either working or looking for work fell back to a 37-year low last touched in September.”

The January 6-11, 2015 edition of the San Diego Business Journal’s reported that manufacturing jobs in San Diego increased by 3.3 percent from November 2013 through November 2014, for a total of 97,400 industry jobs, up by 3,100 jobs. However, we still have a long way to go to get back to the 122,600 manufacturing jobs in the San Diego region we had at the end of 1999.

Two manufacturing sectors led the job growth in San Diego: shipbuilding and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (drones.) General Dynamics’ Nassco division has contracts for five commercial tankers and one Navy ship and plans to “add about 300 additional jobs to the shipbuilder’s staff, bringing the total workforce to about 3,500.” General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc’s “local employment grew 9 percent year over year to 4,843 as of June 2014.”

In this same article, I was quoted as saying, “For those with skills and experience in a particular industry, things were definitely trending up in 2014…This (2014) has been a year when people could find jobs.” I’m also quoted as saying, “San Diego greatly diversified its economy following the previous major recession in the early 1990s, and that’s made a huge difference in the past several years…One of our strengths is that we’re not hurt as much from the lack of new defense programs.”

Looking Back at 2014

The R&D tax credit that had expired December 31, 2013 was extended for 2014, but has now expired again as of December 31, 2014. The R&D Tax Credit was originally introduced in the Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981 sponsored by Rep. Jack Kemp and Senator William Roth. The credit has expired eight times and has been extended fifteen times. The frequent expiration of this tax credit creates unnecessary uncertainty for business investment planning. The R&D Credit Coalition, National Association of Manufacturers, and many other business groups recommend that this tax credit be made permanent.

One bright spot on the national scene is that a bill requiring a National Strategic Plan for Manufacturing authored by Rep. Daniel Lipinski (D-IL) and Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) became law right before Christmas. Three of Lipinski’s previously authored bills had passed the House three times over the past five years, but failed to either pass or be considered in the Senate. This bill was included in legislation that passed both houses and was signed into law by the President. U.S. Senators Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Chris Coons (D-DE) and Mark Pryor (D-AK) introduced the language in the Commerce, Science and Justice Appropriations bill passed by the Senate.

Rep. Lipinski stated, “After many years of hard work, my bipartisan legislation to boost domestic manufacturing and American jobs by. The bill requires that at least every four years the president works with public and private stakeholders to produce and publish a plan to promote American manufacturing. In addition, every year the president’s budget blueprint will have to contain an explanation of how it promotes the most recent manufacturing strategy. This bill guarantees that Washington has to pay attention to what can be done to help manufacturers and workers. Getting this provision into law can really make a difference by leading to economic growth, increased American security, and more middle class jobs that pay hard-working Americans a good wage. I look forward to finding many more “Made in USA” labels on products we see in our stores and online.”

In June 2013, I wrote an article criticizing an earlier version of this bill, H.R. 2447, the American Manufacturing Competitiveness Act of 2013, and was contacted by Rep. Lipinski’s Chief of Staff to discuss my criticisms. I am anxious to see whether or not the current language included in the Commerce, Science and Justice Appropriations bill addressed these criticisms.

In his 2014 State of the Union address, President Obama pledged to launch four new manufacturing institutes this year, for a total of eight institutes launched so far on an original goal of creating 15 manufacturing innovation institutes. On December 11th, President Obama announced that” the government will invest more than $290 million in public-private investment for two new Manufacturing Innovation Hub Competitions.

One will be in smart manufacturing at the Department of Energy and one in flexible hybrid electronics at the Department of Defense. Each institute will receive $70 million or more of federal investment to be matched by at least $70 million from the private sector for a total of more than $290 million in new investment.”

“The Department of Defense will lead a competition for a new public-private manufacturing innovation institute in flexible hybrid electronics…The Department of Energy will lead a competition for a new public-private manufacturing innovation institute focused on smart manufacturing, including advanced sensors, control, platforms, and models for manufacturing…” The press release invites interested applicants to find more information on the manufacturing innovation institute competitions at www.manufacturing.gov.

While funding manufacturing institutes may have a long-term benefit similar to funding research at other government institutions, there are actions that President Obama and Congress could take that would have a more immediate benefit on the manufacturing industry and create more jobs, such as making the R&D tax credit permanent, addressing currency manipulation by our foreign trading partners, easing taxes to repatriate corporate profits, and actually doing comprehensive tax reform. Let us hope that the economic predictions of a better 2015 than 2014 will come true and that more manufacturing jobs will be created by even more companies returning manufacturing to America.

“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.

Manufacturing Thrives in San Diego’s North County Region

Tuesday, July 8th, 2014

On the morning of July 1st, the San Diego North Economic Development Council (SDNEDC) hosted a North County Manufacturing Executive Roundtable at the City of Vista Civic Center. Over 100 professionals were welcomed by County Supervisor Dave Roberts and Lee Morrison of Bank of America. Bank of America and The Eastridge Group of Staffing Companies sponsored the Roundtable.

In an interview prior to the event, KPBS Morning Edition anchor Deb Welsh spoke to Carl Morgan, CEO of the San Diego North Economic Development Council. Morgan said. “Manufacturing is alive and well in San Diego’s North County.” He said the manufacturing executive roundtable would discuss why companies chose to locate and stay in the region. Ms. Morgan asked him what North County’s six key industry clusters are, and he responded that “the sports and active lifestyle, clean technology, biotechnology and medical and informational technology “are doing very, very well” besides the craft and brew industry.

Reo Carr, executive editor of the San Diego Business Journal, moderated the panel, which also discussed such topics as reshoring of manufacturing, environmental concerns, filling the gap between education and manufacturers’ need for skilled labor, sufficient, accessible transportation, and the economic incentives that are and should be available.

The six panelists were: Clark Crawford, VP Sales and Business Development, Soitec Solar, which manufacturersconcentrated photovoltaic (“CPV”) solar modules; Christine Jensen, special programs coordinator at Mira Costa College, which offers classes in biotechnology, engineering, and machining; Jeffrey McCain, CEO, McCain, Inc, a pioneer of advanced traffic control equipmentas well as a contract manufacturer; Michele Nash-Hoff, President, ElectroFab Sales and Chair, California Chapter of the Coalition for a Prosperous America; Chris Roth, vice president, Lee & Associates, the Nation’s largest broker owned commercial real estate services firm.; and Martin Wood, CEO, Delkin Devices, the largest US memory card manufacturer.

Crawford said that when his company (Soitec Solar Industries headquarted in Grenoble, France) decided to set up another manufacturing plant in the U.S., they were wooed to come to many states, including Texas, but they chose to move to California because California’s GO-Biz worked with them to identify possible site locations around the state and to define all statewide incentives that could be available to their company. GO-Biz participated in several rounds of site selection tours that helped to qualify the final locations, out of which they chose San Diego. They were able to get the former Sony building in Rancho Bernardo before it went on the open market. When fully operational, Soitec will directly employ 450 and indirectly support 1,000 jobs.

The other reason they chose California is that it is the largest market for solar energy, and California offers good financial incentives for residents and business to convert to solar energy.

Crawford mentioned that GO-Biz also worked with the California Employment Training Panel (ETP) staff to help qualify Soitec for training funds to help their company train and prepare employees for the high-skilled jobs at their newly established factory in San Diego. During my subsequent phone interview, Mr. Crawford told me they were awarded $300,000 in training funds by the California ETP, and they provided over 15,000 training hours to their San Diego employees. They completed the training in early April 2014.

When asked why his company stays in California instead of moving to another state, McCain said, “California is currently the 8th largest economy in the world. A tremendous amount of our business, current and future, will come from this economy. Even though it is still difficult to find qualified employees, it is my experience that California is rich in qualified workforce, compared to other states.”

He added, “Our success depends greatly on the advantages of our workforce in Mexico. However, over the last 20 years, I have come to realize the culture in Mexico makes it difficult to do manufacturing that requires ingenuity and innovation. We will typically do our first articles and fixturing and any automation type manufacturing in the U.S. When it comes to labor intense, higher volume products, we can turn it over to the plant in Mexico where they can be very successful producing quality products. That allows the company to compete successfully, not only in the U.S. but also against offshore companies. The operation in Mexico, just over the last two years, has allowed us to grow our U.S. side, which has nearly 200 employees.”

In contrast, Martin Wood, stated, “We are solicited often by other States to move our manufacturing facility and jobs to NV, TX, FL, AZ and others. While it would be disruptive, in all cases, it would be like handing employees and the company a raise. Lower or zero State taxes is a big incentive to move. “

“While previous offers were less appealing, they are becoming more and more sophisticated involving real estate and grants, development and hiring help, and of course, no taxes for an extended period or permanently. Any business that is truly run for profit above all would be foolish to not at least consider these offers. We try not to let it consume us, and only entertain them on an annual basis. Right now, California edges out other states in our analysis, based on a number of support, service availability, and quality of life issues, but the gap is narrowing.”

“People in City, County and State Government should be aware this poaching is going on, and try to find a way to bring advantages to manufacturers in California and incentivize them to stay. We know we bring high paying employment wherever we go, and our customers are based worldwide. I see no reason these offers will not continue and expect them to get more and more appealing. Don’t get me wrong, I love California and my family is firmly entrenched here, but to truly own and manage a manufacturing business, you must make hard decisions and be right most of the time.”

Roth stated “the quality of life here in Southern California is a great incentive for companies to continue operating here even though [manufacturing companies] are not receiving the same type of incentives from the local and state governments.” This was one of the major points made in explaining why manufacturers tend to stay in California, despite the sometimes harsh business environment. Roth also stated that a key decision factor in contemplating company relocation is the difficulty entailed in moving employees and their families.

I commented that a company is more than a product; it is also the people who formed and comprise the existing company, and many times, employees aren’t willing to relocate to another state, and the company loses people key to its success. This is often what happens when an out-of-state company buys a San Diego regional company. Key employees don’t move with the company, and the acquisition becomes “buying a product” rather than “buying a company.” In addition, I pointed out that over 90% of California’s manufacturers are less than 100 people, and their customers are most local obtained through word of mouth and referrals. If they decide to move the company, it would be as if they started a new company from scratch.

When Reo Carr asked the question about reshoring, I explained that it started because of quality issues and expanded because of increases in wages in China over the last few years. I mentioned that China and other Asian nations don’t honor U.S. patent laws, which leads to intellectual property theft, hurting U.S. companies in the long run. The other panelists added their opinions as to why outsourcing manufacturing to China is becoming of a thing of the past (increasing wages, quality control, and logistics problems and problem-resolution) and why America is benefiting from the shift to returning manufacturing to America.

McCain confirmed that the contract manufacturing division of his business is benefitting from regional companies returning manufacturing to America.

In answer to the question about the impact of environmental and other regulations, I pointed out that we have been outsourcing our pollution to China and other Asian countries to escape the costs of regulation here. The consequences of industrialization with environmental regulations has been horrific for China and India, which I described one of the chapters in my book (Can American Manufacturing be Saved? Why we should and how we can) When asked about the environmental regulations that apply to his plant in Mexico, Mr. McCain said that Mexico is quickly catching up with the U. S.

A question from the audience about the shortage of local, trained machinists led into a discussion about two connected issues: workforce training and mass transit. Ms. Jensen shared that colleges are shifting in the programs they are now offering in an effort to meet the needs of employers. Mira Costa has both certificate and Associate degree courses in biotechnology, engineering, and manufacturing skills such as machining. She encouraged the companies to check with their local community colleges to inquire about the various programs available. I shared that there are now four high schools that provide up to two years of training to be a machinist and that for years and years, the San Diego Community College District has provided machining and welding training, as well as other manufacturing skills.

Wood said, “it is hard to find people to fill the positions they need, because most of [the blue collar laborers] live further south, in South County.” Crawford seconded that comment, saying that workers are coming from points south, as well…even from Mexico. McCain added mass transportation needs to improve to deal with the issue of where employees are traveling from to accommodate the job availability.

I pointed out that San Diego doesn’t have a “hub” center of manufacturing where everyone is going to work. The industrial business parks are scattered around the county (mainly in 13 of the 18 cities in San Diego County). Mass transit doesn’t work well for this type of region, and I don’t know how feasible it would ever be for mass transit to get workers coming from across the border to these scattered business parks.

In conclusion, the panelists shared that for the time being, the advantages of doing business in California outweighed the disadvantages. The biggest draw is still the quality of life the region offers, as well as the great weather. I shared that the successful company that stays in San Diego has a high dollar, high value, low to mid volume product, which has proprietary technology and lower labor content. When this type company does a Total Cost Analysis of doing business in San Diego/California, it pencils out positively. Crawford agreed that doing this kind of analysis is what enabled them to make the decision to locate Soitec in San Diego.

While it is hard to compete against the incentives and low or no taxes of some other states, we may have fewer companies making the decision to move out of California if more companies did this type of analysis. Of course, it would be even better if the governor and legislature actually proposed and passed legislation that would benefit manufacturers instead of adding to their costs of doing business in California.

 

California’s Metalworking Industry is a Leader in Technology and Environmental Consciousness

Tuesday, May 13th, 2014

The California Metals Coalition (CMC) held their 41st annual meeting in Anaheim on May 8-9th, 2013. Over 150 business leaders from metalworking companies and the industry’s service providers attended the meeting. The California Metals Coalition membership is a diverse representation of the state’s metals industry. Membership in CMC is corporate, and the employees of each facility are individual members of the organization. The member companies are small businesses ? the average number of employees per company is only 50, so without an organization to be the voice and advocate for the metalworking industry in California, these companies and this industry would have no influence on statewide policies affecting them.

California’s metalworking industry began when metalworking facilities were established in1848 to manufacture the tools that led to the start of the gold rush and birth of our state in 1850. Today, California is home to 6,100 metalworking facilities, employing approximately 213,500 Californians, providing high-paying manufacturing jobs, health benefits, and a solid economic foundation to the Golden State. This level of employment represents 18% of California’s 1.2 million manufacturing jobs. This industry generates $12.2 billion in goods and services and $7.9 billion in wages for the economy.

The types of services provided by member companies includes: sand, permanent mold, investment, rubber/plaster mold, and die casting, machining, forging, metal fabrication and welding, metal stamping, metal finishing, metal raw materials, metal recycling, and tools and dies.

According to CMC data, in the metalworking industry, 8 out of 10 employees are considered ethnic minorities or reside in communities of concern. Living-wage employment for this diverse workforce can be found in working-class communities throughout the state because the average full-time hourly wage is $18.00 (not including benefits) or $37,000 per year. Jobs provided by this industry are the path to the middle class for many Californians.

What do these companies make? Metal manufacturers make the parts that go into solar panels, electric cars, medical devices, airplanes, unmanned vehicles, ships for the Navy and private companies, products for the military and defense industry, and thousands of other applications. Metalworking products and services are a direct reflection of the innovation and hard work put forth by California’s workforce and business owners.

Californians discard enough aluminum each day to build five Boeing 737 jets, and California metalworking companies recycle millions of tons of discarded metal each year. Metal is recycled and used as the primary material source to build components that fly our planes, housings that spin renewable-energy windmills, medical devices that keep our families safe, and defense items used by our troops. California metalworking companies recycle about 1,830,000 tons of metal per year, and every ton of waste that is recycled rather than disposed in landfill produces $275 more in goods and services.

The keynote speaker of the conference was Jerome Horton, Chairman of the Board of Equalization, who acknowledged the importance of this industry to the economy of California by mentioning some of the above data. He said that the BOE is helping California companies grow and had worked with the California Metals Coalition and other organizations to obtain the new manufacturers exemption tax credit that was signed into law by Governor Brown as part of Assembly Bill 93 and Senate Bill 90. This exemption will become effective July 1, 2014 and expires on July 1, 2022. It applies to specified NAICS codes, applicable to the whole metalworking industry and has a $200 million limitation. Tax-exempt property must be used 50% or more in one of the following activities:

  • Manufacturing, processing, refining, fabrication, or recycling tangible property
  • Research and development
  • Maintaining, repairing, measuring, or testing any qualified property
  • As a special purpose building and/or foundation

The BOE expanded the meaning of this tax credit to apply to tooling, whether it is retained or sold. Tooling must be either manufacturing by a company or purchased, be used in the manufacturing process, and have a life of over one year.

He also outlined the benefits of the new employee hiring credit that replaces the tax credits offered by Enterprise Zones that have been eliminated. This tax credit is based on wages of $12-$28/hour. There is a maximum of $56,000 per employee over five years, and the credit is equal to 35% each year.

The BOE has a much larger reserve than they need and are starting to refund monies to California companies. Last year the sales tax revenue increased from $52 billion to $56 billion, which helped enable the state budget to be balanced, but the State still has $300 billion in debt.

Kimberly Ritter-Martinez, Chief Economist for the Kyser Center for Economic Research at the Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation was the next speaker. She provided an overview and comparison of the national economy and the state economy. If California were a country, it would be the 9th largest economy measured by Gross Regional Product in the world. However, California is lagging the national average in creating jobs, so that the unemployment rate in March was 8.1% compared to 6.7% nationwide. Jobs in durable goods manufacturing only increased by .8% for the state. She predicted 2.4% growth in the State GRG in 2014, and 2.9% in 2015.

Although California is losing businesses to other states, the LAEDC has helped companies such as Space X and American Apparel stay in California.

Jack Broadbent, Executive Office of the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, was added to Thursday’s schedule of speakers as he had a conflict with attending on Friday as originally scheduled. The Bay area District was established in 1955, includes 9 counties with a population of seven million, and covers 5,540 square miles. The purpose of the Bay Area District was to improve air quality by reducing particulate matter, noxious odors, reduce visible emissions, and reduce future emissions. The California Air Pollution Control Officers Association (CAPCOA) was formed to coordinate the rules of many local and statewide agencies involved in air quality.

In 2013, two new rules were adopted after extensive consultation with industry and other stakeholders. Rule 12-13 applies to foundries and forges, and Rule 6-4 applies to metal recycling operations. The Bay Area District led the state in creating an Emissions Minimization Plan to focus on fugitive emissions by reducing particulate matter, toxics, and odors. It incorporates continuous improvement via on-going facility assessments and Plan updates. All the draft plans have been received, and the next step will be a determination of District completeness, a public review period, District review and approval, followed by facility implementation.

In the Q & A period, I asked if the air pollution being transported by the trade winds from China is being taken into consideration, and he said that they have had to adjust the base of the ambient air quality because of the transported pollution. He has been to China five times in the past three years, and he said that China’s particulate matter in their air is more than 10 times the U. S. standard.

Brian Johnson, Deputy Director of the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) was the next speaker. He briefly described the Hazardous Waste Management program and the new Policy and Program Support Division that was formed after restructuring last year. The metalworking industry is getting a great deal of attention by the legislature, regulators, and the community around specific metals sites. A Hazardous Waste Reduction Initiative was introduced into the legislature last year, and a Safer Emissions Products Initiative is on the horizon. The Department is using 17 categories of pollution burden data of Census Track ratings to prioritize their response to community complaints for specific metals sites.

The next topic was workmen’s compensation insurance, and State Senator Ted Gaines (R) who is a candidate for Insurance Commissioner described how his long experience as an insurance agent would be beneficial to working with the metalworking industry to improve this insurance program. A panel of five members of CMC shared their experiences with regard to this issue. Of note, is the fact that California has some of the highest workmen’s compensation rates of any other state for certain industries. For example, the California rate for die casting companies is 5 times the rate in Mississippi.

The issues discussed at this conference demonstrate why the metalworking industry is challenged in doing business in California. However, many of these companies, especially foundries and forgers, cannot easily pick up stakes and move to other states. The high cost of doing business in California has resulted in more companies going out of business rather than moving to another state.

Adding to these challenges has been the fierce competition this industry has experienced from China in the past decade. CMC Executive Director, James Simonelli, told me that in the year 2000, the industry had about 325,000 employees. This means that the current employment of 213,500 is 40% less than it was 14 years ago. The good news is that all of the attendees to whom I spoke were experiencing some “reshoring” of parts coming back from China.

When compared to manufacturing facilities around the world, California is the place to find the most technologically advanced, and environmentally conscious metal manufacturers. California’s metalworking industry is arguably the world’s leader for efficient, clean, and safe metal manufacturing.

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.

Why Manufacturing is Critical to California’s Economy

Tuesday, February 25th, 2014

For every one job created in manufacturing, at least two to three jobs are created to support the sector. Further, manufacturing firms create regional wealth by producing a product that is exported to other states and countries. This attracts additional funds to the region — creating business, individual and community wealth. Because of this ripple effect, manufacturing firms have a deeper impact on the state of the economy than most other industries.

California is the number one state for manufacturing jobs, firms and output – accounting for 11.7 percent of the total U. S. output, and employing 9 percent of the U. S. manufacturing workforce. California manufacturing generates $229.9 billion, more than any other state. Manufacturing is California’s most export-intensive activity contributing significantly to California’s $159 billion in exports in 2011. Overall, manufacturing exports represent 9.4% ($120 billion in goods) of California’s GDP, and computers and electronic products constitute 29.3% of the state’s total manufacturing exports. More than one-fifth (21.9%) of all manufacturing workers in California directly depend on exports for their jobs.

Since January 2001, the manufacturing sector lost 33% of its job base, down from 1.86 million jobs in 2001 to 1.237 million jobs in 2019. In 2010, the manufacturing sector began adding employment, regaining 7,900 jobs. California exports have also increased — up from $104 billion of manufactured goods in 2009 to $124 billion in 2010.

A 2011 report by the Center for Applied Competitive Technologies (CACT) at El Camino College and the Center Of Excellence (COE) of the Los Rios Community College District identified the following 17 cluster industries in California:

  •  Aerospace Manufacturing
  • Biotechnology, Medical Devices, & Pharmaceutical Manufacturing
  • Building Materials Manufacturing
  • Chemical Manufacturing
  • Computers/Electronics Manufacturing
  • Dental Equipment, Supplies & Laboratories Manufacturing
  • Fashion/Clothing Manufacturing
  • Furniture Manufacturing
  • Household Products Manufacturing
  • Machinery Manufacturing
  • Metals Manufacturing
  • Paper Products Manufacturing
  • Petroleum Manufacturing
  • Plastic Products Manufacturing
  • Printing and Publishing
  • Transportation Manufacturing

 The report states, “With the exception of food manufacturing, biotechnology, dental equipment, and petroleum, nearly every manufacturing cluster in California has shed jobs over the last five years [2006-2011.] Building materials lost the most jobs with a decline of 32%, followed by printing (22%), and computers/electronics (10%).”

Challenges

The report states that the “manufacturing sector must address a variety of challenges, from navigating a complex regulatory environment to developing strategies to compete with low cost economics. There are a number of factors that have inhibited the manufacturing sector’s ability to compete locally and internationally.” Some of these challenges are:

  • California’s regulatory climate is difficult, expensive and time consuming to navigate
  • Higher health care expenditures compared to countries where health care is paid for by general tax revenues
  • Higher salaries and other benefits, such as paid leave, insurance, and retirement plans
  • Higher costs associated with litigation claims
  • Higher costs associated with environmental compliance;
  • Higher corporate tax rates than most other countries (the United States’ tax rate is 40%, the second highest tax rate among major trading partners.)

Opportunities

Competition from low-cost economies, such as China, India, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, and Vietnam, is one of the major challenges faced by the manufacturing sector. However, the total cost of outsourcing to other countries is often miscalculated. According to the Reshore Initiative, the true cost of manufacturing outside of the United States does not include costs associated with:

  •  National policy issues (trade negotiations, etc.)
  • Changes in currency exchange rates
  • Intellectual Property theft
  • Supply chain disruptions
  • Lengthy delivery times
  • Traveling to the manufacturing site to assess and resolving production issues

Further, in the last few years many countries have started to raise their prices to adjust for increases in wages and higher transportation/fuel expenses. By examining the total cost of outsourcing, the Reshore Initiative argues that hiring local production firms is just as price sensitive as hiring firms from low-cost economies. Also, there are several benefits to working local, such as:

  •  Improved quality and consistency of inputs
  • Ability to create just-in-time operations that reduce inventory and shipping costs and improve business-to-business relations
  • Intellectual property security
  • Faster delivery to customers

As this viewpoint has gained popularity, it has started to shift production back to the United States, creating jobs and wealth in the process. By 2013, the Reshoring Initiative estimated that about 80,000 jobs returned to the United States through reshoring, about 15% of the nationwide increase of 526,000 manufacturing jobs since 2010.

If you are in the southern California region, you can find out more about how we can help the manufacturing industry thrive in California by attending the “Manufacturing in the Golden State – Making California Thrive” economic summit on Wednesday, March 19, 2014, 9:30 AM – 1:30 PM.

This leadership summit will explore how to grow manufacturing jobs and businesses in California. National experts and local business owners will present the best solutions to help craft a successful growth strategy. 

Where:  Brea Community Center, 1 Civic Center Circle, Brea, CA 92821

Keynote Speaker:   Dan DiMicco, Chairman Emeritus, Nucor Steel Corporation

Speakers/Topics:

* Dr. Greg Autry – Senior Economist, Coalition for a Prosperous America; Adjunct Professor of Entrepreneurship, Marshall School of Business, University of Southern California (Trade Reform)
* Pat Choate – Economist; Author, “Saving Capitalism: Keeping America Strong” (Manufacturing Strategy)
* Mike Dolan – Legislative Representative, International Brotherhood of Teamsters (Currency Manipulation) (invited)
* Michael Stumo – CEO, Coalition for a Prosperous America (Tax Reform)

Panel of local business leaders (partial listing):

* Michele Nash-Hoff – Chair, Coalition for a Prosperous America CA Chapter; President, ElectroFab Sales (Overview of California Manufacturing)

*Dana Mitchell, Advanced Mold Technology Inc.
* Nick Ventura – Co Founder, Venley by Youth Monument

Presented by:  Senator Mark Wyland, in partnership with the Coalition for a Prosperous America and other regional businesses and associations.

Cost: Early Bird Rate $25 through March 5, 2014; $35 thereafter (Includes light breakfast and full lunch)

 Sponsors:

City of Brea

ATE Corporation (ATEC)

California Manufacturing Technology Consulting

Industrial Metal Supply Company

Event partners
APICS – Orange County Chapter

Brea Chamber of Commerce

Corona Chamber of Commerce
Cypress Chamber of Commerce

Fountain Valley Chamber of Commerce

Fullerton Chamber of Commerce
Garden Grove Chamber of Commerce
Global Innovative Systems

La Habra Chamber
PlanetTogether

Orange County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
Orange County SBDC
Riverside County Manufacturers & Exporters Association
West Orange County Regional Chamber
Yorba Linda Chamber of Commerce

Register today for this important event.

For more information, or if you are unable to pay online, contact Sara Haimowitz (202-688-5145, s...@prosperousamerica.org).

Also: click here to find out about becoming an event sponsor!

Thanks,

Michele Nash-Hoff, Chair
California Chapter of the Coalition for a Prosperous America

 

Deadly Food Products Coming to a Store Near You?

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013

For the last several years, there has been one story after another about tainted or even deadly food or ingredients to human and pet food coming from China. The two latest stories were  the jerky treats that caused hundreds of pet deaths and the laundering of honey coming from China by a German importer. However, the majority of Americans are blissfully ignorant of the origin of many of the food products stocked in their neighborhood stores. If they really knew the source of many of the products they buy, they would be horrified. The public outcry would be sufficient to put enough pressure on our elected officials to remedy the situation rapidly.

More than a hundred years ago, there was an exposé of the Chicago meat packing industry in Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, followed by many other articles in the Progressive Era publications of the day. There was a huge public outcry. As a result, President Theodore Roosevelt sent labor commissioner Charles P. Neill and social worker James Bronson Reynolds to Chicago to make surprise visits to meat packing facilities. Although the meat packers were tipped off in advance about their visits, they saw enough revolting conditions at the meat packing plants to corroborate the claims of the many articles and submitted a report to the president and Congress.

As a result, the Federal Meat Inspection Act of 1906 (FMIA) was passed by Congress and signed by President Theodore Roosevelt to prevent adulterated or misbranded meat and meat products from being sold as food and to ensure that meat and meat products are slaughtered and processed under sanitary conditions. All labels on any type of food had to be accurate (although not all ingredients were provided on the label). Even though all harmful food was banned, there were still few warnings provided on the container. USDA inspection of poultry was added by the Poultry Products Inspection Act of 1957.

Also in 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt signed into law the Pure Food and Drug Act, under which the Food and Drug Administration (FDA or USFDA) was formed as an agency of the United States Department of Health and Human Services. The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (abbreviated as FFDCA, FDCA, or FD&C) was passed by Congress in 1938 to replace the earlier Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 and gave authority to the USFDA to oversee the safety of food, drugs, and cosmetics. This Act has been expanded to include food coloring, food additives, bottled water, homeopathic products, and foods produced by genetic engineering and natural sources. Genetically modified food is regarded as containing a “food additive” and is subject to pre-market approval by the FDA if the protein added to the food by the genetic engineering process is not “generally recognized as safe.” On May 28, 1976, the FD&C Act was amended to include regulation for medical devices. The amendment required that all medical devices be classified into one of three classes.

The FDA is now responsible for protecting and promoting public health through the regulation and supervision of food safety, tobacco products, dietary supplements, prescription and over-the-counter pharmaceutical drugs (medications), vaccines, cosmetics, biopharmaceuticals, blood transfusions, medical devices, electromagnetic radiation emitting devices (ERED), and veterinary products.

Six years ago, there was the biggest pet food recall in history when a Chinese producer contaminated dog and cat food with melamine, a compound used in plastics, causing the deaths of animals across the United States. The public outcry helped lead to the inclusion of animal food in the Food Safety and Modernization Act, a landmark food safety bill passed in 2010 that was the first major overhaul of the Food and Drug Administration’s food safety laws since the 1930s. It gave the USFDA more control over food imports as well as broad new powers to set standards to prevent contamination of produce and processed food.

After the latest scandal regarding jerky treats for pets imported from China, the Food and Drug Administration published a proposed regulation on October 29th that would govern the production of pet food and farm animal feed for the first time. This would help prevent food-borne illness in both animals and people.

The problem with passing more regulations for the USFDA to handle is that it is grossly understaffed and underfunded for its complex and growing regulatory mission. The 2012 budget was only $4.36 billion, and the budget request for 2013 was $4.5 billion. About 45%, or $2 billion of the 2012 budget, is generated by user fees. Pharmaceutical firms pay the majority of these fees, which are used to expedite drug reviews.

The USFDA regulates more than 80% of America’s food supply and $1 trillion worth of consumer goods. Much of the expenditures are for goods imported into the United States. While the USFDA is responsible for monitoring a third of all imports, it only inspects less than 1% of food imports at the ports of entry. Many foreign countries such as China don’t have the same or any standards for source inspections that are required for food manufactured in the United States. They don’t have the same regulations against harmful pesticides and environmental pollution. Thus, importers are bypassing all of these inspections and regulations so can sell their products cheaper. This means that when you eat imported foods, you are playing the Chinese food version of “Russian roulette.”

We need to increase funding for the USFDA, and one simple way would be to require importers to pay a fee for screening of imports  to the USFDA for imports that are under its jurisdiction. This would enable the USFDA to add more staff to expand their inspection of imported goods, especially food imports.

You may be thinking that the U. S. Consumer Protection Agency is recalling food products that are determined by the USFDA to be contaminated or toxic, but you won’t find any food products listed if you go to their site to see the list of the products recalled for the month. This agency recalls manufactured products such as appliances, electrical goods, and toys, etc. The USFDA website lists all of the food, drug, and cosmetic recalls. No country of origin information is listed on the USFDA website. The Consumer Protection agency website has been revamped this year to make it more difficult to find out where a product is manufactured. Previously, you would see the list of products recalled, and the country of manufacture would be listed with the description of the product and why it was recalled. Now, it is a two-step process. On the first page, you see an image of the product and the reason why it was recalled, but no country is listed. You have to select finding products by country of manufacture to get the list for a particular country, such as China. Now, it would be more difficult to come up with how many products are coming from China compared to other countries.

The best solution for this problem would be for Congress to pass a law requiring country-of-origin labels for all human and pet food products similar to the nutritional information labels now required on packaged food products so consumers can see where their food is coming from. San Diego entrepreneur and businessman, Alan Uke has proposed what he calls a “Transparent Label.” in his book, Buying America Back:  A Real-Deal Blueprint for Restoring American Prosperity. He wants such a label for all manufactured products, which would include food for humans and pets. He feels that it is important for consumers to “see the last place where the product was manufactured” and “to discern what portion of its components came from other places.” In the case of food, it should include country-of-origin for all of the major ingredients so that consumers would be able to make decisions on whether or not they want to buy a product based on the origin of the major ingredients.  Mr. Uke also recommends that consumers be provided the country of origin information they need at the point of sale whether at a store or online.

He points out that the current information provided on country of origin labels is “misleading, incomplete, inaccessible, or all of these…In order to support our economy and American industries, we must have easily accessible, clearly communicated, and truthful information about a product’s entire origins.” We desperately need to have such a “Truth in Origin” label.

Hundreds of American pets have been poisoned and died by tainted food products from China. American children have already been harmed by dangerous levels of lead and cadmium in toys. How many Americans must die from tainted Chinese products before Congress acts?