Behold the ‘Multinationals’

By October 16, 2006Dobbs Watch

In the discussions surrounding modern manufacturing in the US today, there are few terms as meaningless as “multinational.” Typically it is used by the black helicopter, Trilateral Commission crowd to conjure up images of a large faceless international corporation, frenetically packing up its jobs like so many widgets and shipping them all to China. If you Google “Lou Dobbs” and “Multinationals” for example, you’ll see tens of thousands of results. It is part of his lexicon, part of the imagined rift between classes that lie at the heart of his ratings.

Regular blog readers know we’ve written about this before, especially about how it is a term without meaning. When we think of multinationals, a few members come instantly to mind. We think of Sandy Westlund-Deenihan of tiny Quality Float Works outside Chicago. She exports now to some 10 countries, including China. Kendig Kneen of Al-jon makes big stuff like car crushers, sends them all over the world. No, wait — “multinational” only means that they have plants overseas, maybe. OK, makes us think of Stephanie Harkness of Pacific Plastics, a small manufacturer and one of the newest members of the President’s Advisory Committee on Trade Policy and Negotiation, who recently opened a plant in Bangalore. And we think of Tony Raimondo of Behlen Manufacturing in Columbus, Nebraska. He incurred the wrath of no less an expert on multinationals than John Kerry himself for opening a plant in China. Fact is, more people are employed in Columbus, Nebraska today — and the company is far healthier — because they decided to get in the global game.

But no, the Dobbsians say, “multinationals” are great big US companies who dare to do business globally — big multi-billion dollar businesses who have thousands of people and operations all over the world. Hmmmm…. Like Boeing, maybe? How about Case New Holland (CNH), the huge agricultural equipment manufacturer? Now they’d most certainly be “multinationals” of the sort that draw the ire of the Dobbsians, right?

And so we took a look at these two companies. Who is CNH, for example? Attached is a list of suppliers to the company to get you started. It lists some 1500 suppliers — mostly small and medium manufacturers — around the United States that supply them with parts for the equipment they make all over the world. They even have a website dedicated to telling their story about how trade benefits all manufacturers — and all CNH employees.

And what about Boeing? With almost 150,000 employees and about $55 billion in revenue, is there a bigger company worthier of the “multinational” title? But look at this fact sheet — for anyone interested in the facts. They export 70% of what they make. US suppliers (read: manufacturers) account for almost 80% of all their commercial airplane purchases. In 2005 alone, they paid over $27 billion to over 26,000 domestic suppliers in all 50 states.

Our boss — NAM President John Engler — is fond of saying that the line of demarcation here is not large vs. small, as we’ve seen over and over again. The only meaningful distinction is between those companies engaged in international trade and those who are not. At the end of the day big manufacturers are just a bunch of small manufacturers making stuff here in the good ol’ US of A and shipping it all over the world. And there are enough small manufacturers in the global game directly. We are proud to count all these manufacturers, large and small, in our membership, multinationals all.

Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Joe dragon says:

    This will be my last post on NAM as it’s like talking to a rock. Let me address a few points that Ryan brought up so eloquently.

    Let’s make this clear- Very few people are anti-trade. Lou Dobbs isn’t anti-trade. The whole world wants trade but we want fair trade- not this so called “free trade”. We WANT to sell our “widgets” to everybody. We want cheap items from China. We want to help other countries pull themselves out of poverty. “Free traders” love to throw words around like “protectionist” and “isolationist”- nothing could be further from the truth. Trade is good. We all agree BUT India lets very little into their country without huge tariffs. China has a tariff on imported autos and part of 25%. The U.S. has a tariff on Chinese made autos and parts of 2.5%. Is this your idea of “free trade”? If it is then yes, I am a protectionist.

    “NAM, Thomas Friedman, Cato, The Economist”. What’s the common thread in using these references? They/you are nothing but corporate shills. You/they have an agenda to promote your version of free trade at any cost. Forget the working family; forget the small business owner, if it doesn’t help Jack Welch or some other corporate thief NAM and Cato don’t want to hear it.

    “Populist rhetoric” is your opinion. Let’s talk a little about NAFTA. This was a trade agreement that was supposed to greatly increase our already sizable trade surplus with Mexico. Do you want to do a little research on those figures since its implementation? NAFTA has been a disaster for everybody except corporate America.

    One last time here too- Lou Dobbs is NOT anti-immigration. Listen closely- he’s anti ILLEGAL immigration. See the difference? It’s in capitals. Illegal- as in against the law. Do a little more research on the word and then write another article.

    “Also the trade deficit lou keeps pushing will eventually slow with a falling dollar and higher interest. Consumers love cheap goods and not saving. When we start to save money again trade deficit will decrease. Still better than a trade surplus however.”

    Do you expect a soft landing, or a big crash? Will Americans suddenly wake up one morning; stop buys gasoline, stop eating out, stop paying taxes and start saving our nickels? Will China some day decide they don’t want to hold dollars any more? Is one trillion enough for them? I feel sorry for our kids. This country is a mess. Savings are at zero, debt is though the roof, costs are rising and wages are flat. The false directives that tell us to further our education fail in one big aspect- in what fields? Manufacturing, please- health care- sure, people will always be sick, IT- not unless you are Indian.

    That’s enough- I’m done. Good by.

  • Ryan says:

    Right now as I write this Lou Dobbs’ “War on the Middle Class” is on. And he keeps knocking free trade. Please can someone make this man stop. Spouting off 97% of clothing made in other countries. “We can’t even clothe ourselves”. The cost of free trade bla bla bla. Blaming ford and other companies for “outsourcing” jobs and destroying americans lives.

    I can see why people identify with lou though, it sounds like he cares. But he should know better than to keep pushing these myths about outsourcing and globalization. There are problems, but blaming coorporations and invisible enemies in the war on the middle class solves nothing. Besides NAM, Thomas Friedman, Cato, The Economist, are there anyone else trying to combat these protectionist populist rhetoric?

    It’s not coorporations fault that health care is so expensive. Immigrants aren’t ruining the country. Ford can’t keep over-capacity in a poorly run company (the choice is lay offs or no more ford). Comparitive advantage says that even if China could do everything we need, countries should still focus on what they do best.

    Lou is pushing a dangerous agenda of anti-immigrant anti globalization anti capitalist agenda that if enacted will make our country look more like germany or france job security for few, low growth, high unemployment, immigrant resentment. Can no one else see this?

    Also the trade deficit lou keeps pushing will eventuall slow with a falling dollar and higher interest. Consumers love cheap goods and not saving. When we start to save money again trade deficit will decrease. Still better than a trade surplus however.

    Please someone make lou stop.