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United Steelworkers Report Offers Six Ways To Build A Progressive Economy

A new report spearheaded by the United Steelworkers and the New America Foundation lays out a commonsense plan for fixing the economy.
 
 
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We all know the economy is a disaster. Globalization and free market capitalism have created long-term unemployment, a political climate poisoned against progressive taxation, and a general unwillingness to tackle the structural problems facing the United States. The Republican Party exists to further the interest of the mega-rich while much of the Democratic Party follows suit. Meanwhile, the standard of living of average Americans declines.

With the lack of real leadership from Washington, we need progressives to stand up and offer meaningful policy solutions to reshape the debate. Led by Leo Hindery, chair of the Smart Globalization Initiative at the New America Foundation and Leo W. Girard, president of the United Steelworkers, the Task Force on Job Creation has released a report providing an excellent framework for revitalizing the American economy.

Entitled “A Vision for Economic Renewal: An American Jobs Agenda,” the report argues, “Our national leadership is responsible for tackling such crises, and President Obama has shown a willingness to reform health care and regulate the financial services industries. Today our nation needs that same passion and commitment directed at job creation.” It then presents a six-point plan with short- and long-term policy proposals. By and large, these are sensible ideas that, should we follow them, would bring America back from the brink of disaster.

1. Manufacturing

Noting, “Manufacturing is essential for our nation’s economic recovery and long-term health,” the report suggests three immediate goals. First, the government should focus on domestic procurement, buying goods with at least 75 percent of the content made within U.S. borders. Second, it would spur domestic manufacturing with a 10 percent investment tax credit for renovating manufacturing facilities. Third, it would require those bidding for government contracts to file Employment Impact Statements that would factor into winning those contracts. In the longer-term, it asks President Obama to create a new Works Progress Administration-like program that would directly employee Americans to rebuild the American economy, create a President’s Council on Manufacturing Policy, and promote research and development in new technologies.

These ideas strike at the heart of the economic crisis: national policy currently encourages cutting workforces and sending jobs overseas through corporate tax breaks for companies investing overseas rather than creating jobs in the U.S. We cannot put the economy back together again unless we have people making things in America. Manufacturing work has an essential role to play in any successful economic recovery package. Without it, we will continue with our rapidly growing income inequality problems. The report’s recommendations provide a valuable starting point for dealing with these problems.

2. Trade and Globalization

Rightfully noting globalization is undermining the American economy through the rapid acceleration of outsourcing American jobs and decimating labor and environmental standards around the world, the report urges President Obama to eliminate tax incentives that rewards corporations for outsourcing jobs overseas, promote producing military goods at home, enact temporary tariffs that would allow the nation to deal with trade deficits without violating trade agreements, and create a new division within the Justice Department to enforce trade agreements. Long-term goals include government promotion of vocational and technical training and developing strategies for technology-based planning that would provide national control for technologies key to future consumer needs.

Again, the report provides a fine road map for battling against the worst aspects of globalization while also encouraging business-friendly policies such as tax reforms that could convince them to keep jobs in the United States. Given the enormous military-industrial complex, the report’s emphasis on spurring domestic defense manufacturing makes a great deal of sense; no other sector could put so many people to work so quickly. I am nervous about embracing military spending as the solution to any crisis. But if our goal is to put Americans back to work, it is better to employ Americans in defense production than shipping the jobs overseas and leaving many young Americans with no choice other than joining the military. Reforming America’s relationship with globalization would be fraught with problems. No nation did more to promote it and no nation’s capitalists have benefited more. But if we are going to deal with its employment problem, redefining our relationship with globalization must happen.

 
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