Manufacturing Out Front

By February 27, 2012Economy

The February edition of Member Focus hit mailboxes this week. Below you will find this month’s column from NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons.

Manufacturing Out Front

By Jay Timmons

President Obama put manufacturing front and center in his State of the Union address.

When the President uses his most visible address to bring attention to our sector, it is a tremendous opportunity to rally Congress and the public around policies that will strengthen manufacturing and put Americans to work. 

And the President did highlight some initiatives that will do a tremendous amount of good for manufacturing, as well as the en- tire economy. He certainly deserves credit for putting our sector on a national stage. In the opening moments of the State of the  Union, I had great hope that the President would lay  out the  bold plan manufacturers and our economy need.

He did, in fact, make strong comments about strengthening the work- force — a critical component of any strategy for manufacturing competitiveness. He touted partnerships between businesses and community colleges. Those are initiatives the Manufacturing Institute has long championed. With presidential leadership, we can expand these opportunities and prepare more Americans for the modern manufacturing workforce.

A manufacturing renaissance, however, requires a comprehensive plan of action. It requires changes to this nation’s tax policy, trade policy, energy policy and regulatory policy. It requires changes to the policies that have made it 20 percent more expensive to manufacture in the United States — after excluding the cost of labor.

President Obama called for “an all-out, all- of-the-above” strategy on energy, including expanded development of our offshore energy resources. But absent from the speech was any explanation of why such a strategy shouldn’t include the energy supplies that this country could access via the Keystone XL pipeline. And, while the President was right to high- light the promise of shale gas development, the impact shale will have on jobs and our economy will largely be determined by this Administration’s approach to regulating it.

He touted his Administration’s efforts to rein in some regulatory excesses and costs — $10 billion in savings over the next five years. It’s important to get duplicative and unnecessary regulations off the books. Many should not have been enacted in the first place.

But the problem is what this Administration thinks is necessary on the regulatory front. Boiler  MACT,  Utility  MACT,  Cement MACT and the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, to name just a few of this Administration’s rules, would impose costs that dwarf the savings highlighted by the President.

The manufacturing sector offers some of the best places to work in the country. Yet the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) continues to propose rules and issue orders that strain employer-employee relations. If President Obama wants manufacturing to lead the economy, federal agencies cannot swoop  in and tell  manufacturers  where they  can or cannot do business, as the NLRB tried to do with Boeing last year.

On taxes, the President continued his class warfare rhetoric. Instead of pitting Americans against each other and picking winners and losers, the nation’s tax policy should focus on the choices that need to be made to ensure manufacturers’ ability to compete in the global economy. Our free enterprise system works — as long as unnecessary hurdles are not thrown in its way.

But there’s still time. It is critical for all of us to redouble our efforts at every turn to remind the Administration, members of Congress and all candidates running for office in 2012 what it really takes to help manufacturing grow and  thrive  in  the United States.

Jay Timmons is president and CEO, National Association of Manufacturers.

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