Manufacturing in the Spotlight, But Where’s the Substance?

By September 6, 2012General, Presidents Blog

Manufacturing figured prominently on day two of the Democratic National Convention. The mentions of the sector in prime time by former President Bill Clinton and Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren underscore what the NAM has been saying for some time: Everyone is talking about manufacturing.

Last night’s speakers clearly recognized that invoking manufacturing makes for good politics. But politics won’t bring about a manufacturing renaissance. Strong, pro-growth policies will, and last night’s speeches were short on policy.

President Clinton talked about the half-million manufacturing jobs created during President Obama’s tenure. That’s true. Manufacturing has been a bright spot in the otherwise anemic economic recovery. But manufacturing lost over two million jobs during the recession. How are we going to get these jobs back? That question wasn’t answered.

The former president did mention a few strategies that would strengthen manufacturing—like promoting energy development and efficiency and closing the skills gap—but the fact is, it remains 20 percent more expensive to manufacture in the United States compared to our major trading partners.

Elizabeth Warren alluded to the costs manufacturers face when she talked about “the head of a manufacturing company in Franklin, trying to protect jobs, but worried about rising costs.” She didn’t explore what these costs are, but any manufacturer could tell you. They are things like our corporate tax rate, which is the highest in the world, and our regulatory system, which continues to expand and impose new costs and burdens on manufacturers. Ms. Warren famously created another agency to add to the regulatory burden that businesses face in the U.S. Her opponent, Senator Scott Brown, has been a champion for manufacturers and for reducing their cost burden.

Until our policies begin to close the cost gap between the U.S. and our competitors, manufacturing will not reach its full potential. In fact, it’s a testament to manufacturers’ strength that we have been creating jobs in a difficult policy environment. Imagine what we could do with the right policies.

Jay Timmons

Jay Timmons

Jay Timmons is president and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), the largest manufacturing association in the United States representing small and large manufacturers in every industrial sector.
Jay Timmons

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