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AT&T Chief Talks Growth in Washington

Randall Stephenson, chairman and CEO of AT&T, appeared the Economic Club of Washington, DC, on June 17 to talk about the key ingredients for economic growth in the United States.

In a wide-ranging policy discussion, the head of the telecommunications giant honed in issues like immigration reform and tax reform as opportunities to drive and attract investment. Stephenson also highlighted the need for strong trade policies and the importance of free trade agreements. Currently, the United States’ ability to negotiate new agreements and complete pending ones is hindered by the lack of Trade Promotion Authority, which helps streamline the negotiation process.

Stephenson’s remarks send a powerful message from the business community about the necessity of engaging with Washington. Policymakers, whether on Capitol Hill or in the executive branch, need to hear from America’s job creators—because like it or not, what happens in Washington matters to businesses. We need to be at the table for these important discussions.

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An Opportunity for Manufacturers and Exporters in the Pacific Northwest

A big debate on energy exports is playing out in the Pacific Northwest. Passions are running high on both sides, no doubt fueled in part by meticulously brewed cups of java.

NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons recently waded into the debate. In remarks to business community leaders in Portland and later in Seattle, he made a strong case in support of building the infrastructure necessary to move goods and commodities, such as coal and natural gas, to markets abroad. He said:

Building, modernizing and expanding export terminals makes sense. In a still sluggish economy, expansion will create over 10,000 jobs in the Pacific Northwest and throughout the entire manufacturing economy in America. Expansion means more private investment in export infrastructure—not just for commodities like coal and liquefied natural gas—but for agriculture and manufactured products. It’s a winning proposition.

Currently, plans to modernize export terminals in Washington and Oregon are  effectively on hold. Approval of these projects takes the consent of seemingly every level of government, giving opponents plenty of opportunities to stall. All the while, the Pacific Northwest is missing out on the increased economic activity the export terminals would make possible.

The debate over energy exports isn’t isolated to the Pacific Northwest. Similar debates are taking place across the country, particularly on the issue of natural gas exports. The United States has abundant supplies of natural gas, which are now being developed thanks to advancements in hydraulic fracturing. By exporting energy, whether coal or natural gas, the United States can enhance its global economic leadership, boost economic growth and create high-wage jobs.

“Other growing global economies need energy,” Timmons remarked during his trip to the Pacific Northwest. “Why shouldn’t it be from America?”

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Veterans are Strengthening the Manufacturing Workforce

Veterans enter the civilian workforce every day.  Unfortunately, there are more veterans than open jobs—as a roughly 8 percent unemployment rate among veterans indicates.

After bravely serving our country, veterans deserve a hero’s welcome. They also deserve a good job, and manufacturers are stepping up to make that happen. Across the country, manufacturers are looking for ways to introduce veterans to manufacturing and get them to work.

Take Hoerbiger Corporation of America. When the Florida-based manufacturer saw a need for skilled machinists, it saw veterans as a natural fit.  As the Sun-Sentinel reports,

 [E]arlier this year the company developed a training program to fill the gap and began recruiting veterans.

They tend to exhibit “maturity, discipline, tenacity and an ability to get the job done,” said David Gonzalez, the company’s human resources manager. He recruited veterans in May at the Paychecks for Patriots job fair in Dania Beach.

The result: Seven of the 12 machinists put through the program are military veterans.

To help train these individuals, Hoerbiger turned to another manufacturer and a cutting-edge educational system.

Hoerbiger trained the group with the help of new machine simulation software by Machining Training Solutions, a Longwood, Fla., company operated by Al Stimac, president of the Manufacturers Association of Florida. Ten to 12 workers can be trained at a time with the interactive software.

“My whole concept was to train using the methods that students are used to, such as today an iPad or a computer. The learning curve is reduced drastically,” Stimac said.

There are similar stories across the country. The National Association of Manufacturers through the Manufacturing Institute is working with a number of manufacturers are part of the Get Skills to Work program.  This initiative matches the skills veterans received in the military to skills coveted by manufacturers. If veterans need to learn new skills, the Institute and its partners can help them earn those credentials through partnerships with community colleges and other educational institutions.

Manufacturers are helping veterans transition from the military in other ways as well. In addition to its efforts to recruit veterans to its workforce, Whirlpool Corporation recently became the official appliance sponsor of Homes for Our Troops, a non-profit initiative dedicated to building homes for severely injured veterans.

It’s the least manufacturers can do for the men and women who make great sacrifices to safeguard our freedom.

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Legally Insane: Trial Lawyers Abuse the System on the Gulf Coast

The American public does not hold attorneys in high esteem. For every one Ben Matlock, there are at least two Lionel Hutzes or Saul Goodmans.

And perhaps nowhere do real-life attorneys come as close to their pop-culture caricatures than in Louisiana. The bayou is a breeding ground for enterprising trial lawyers who don’t let facts get in the way of a multimillion dollar jackpot. Their nicknames say it all: “The King of Torts,” “The General” and, of course, “Alligator Mick.”

The tort bar feeding frenzy has now set its sights on BP, which has diligently made amends following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill three years ago. So far, BP has paid more than $10 billion to satisfy claims of individuals, businesses and government and more than $14 billion for clean up.

Nevertheless, there are those who want to abuse the system and collect money they don’t deserve. Due to an egregious misreading of BP’s agreement settling claims against it, businesses that were not harmed by the spill have rushed to empty the company’s pockets.

For example, one rice mill 40 miles from the cost earned more in 2010—the year of the spill—than it did in the previous years. It received $21 million from the settlement administrator under this absurd interpretation of the agreement.

An alligator farm received almost $17 million, a sum that assumes the company would have tripled its profits.

Even businesses that have a tenuous (at best) connection to the Gulf are getting a piece of the action. A car dealer 100 miles from the coast collected $1.45 million. A law office in central Louisiana made more in 2010 than it did in previous years; it still got $3.3 million for its “losses” as a result of the spill.

And the list goes on.

Considering that there are injured parties who actually deserve compensation, you might think there would be widespread outrage about bad actors cutting in line. You’d be wrong.

Says one Lousiana attorney in Businessweek recently (in the appropriately titled piece, “How BP Got Screwed on Gulf Oil Spill Claims”):

“This is Louisiana, after all,” says Danny Abel, a longtime New Orleans plaintiffs’ lawyer not involved in the case. “A big foreign company with deep pockets and you’re surprised there’s a feeding frenzy? Come on, man.”

That’s just not right.

BP is now going to court to rectify this situation and fix the injustice, and there’s more at stake than just the company’s bottom line. When individuals abuse our tort system, everyone loses.

Not only is it unfair to deserving victims, it also drags down our economy. Tort costs drag down our economy—to the tune of about 2 percent of GDP—and make our country less competitive, hurting manufacturers from Baton Rouge to Bar Harbor.

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Records Fell at Wisconsin’s Brat Fest

Pastrami may be the “most sensual of the salted, cured meats,” but sausage is definitely the most versatile. It’s great at breakfast, lunch or dinner. It can be the centerpiece of a meal or it can spice up an otherwise ordinary dish. Sausage is great on the grill during a backyard barbecue, or it can highlight that overpriced charcuterie plate at the bistro down the street. I am hungry just thinking about it.

America may not have created sausages, but I’d argue no country does it better than we do today—and one of our leading lights is Johnsonville. From humble origins at a Sheboygan County butcher shop decades ago, Johnsonville now hawks its tubesteaks around the world.

But even though it has conquered the U.S. market and is rapidly expanding globally, the company is not resting on its laurels. It’s introducing new products, testing new flavors—and of course, crafting the WORLD’S LONGEST BRAT.

Last week, Johnsonville unleashed a monster 54 foot, 10 inch brat at the World’s Largest Brat Fest in Madison, Wisconsin. The lengthy link bettered the previous world record by more than two feet.

After marveling at the feat, Brat Festers were able to enjoy the sausage, which was cut into more manageable portions. Proceeds went to charity.

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Dispatch from the Front: The Week of April 8

President Obama releases his budget on Wednesday. Today, he travels to Connecticut to push for additional gun control laws. After releasing the budget on Wednesday, he meets with 12 GOP senators for dinner. On Thursday, he will award a posthumous Medal of Honor to Army Capt. Emil Kapaun for his service in the Korean War. On Friday, the Midshipmen of the U.S. Naval Academy visit the White House to receive the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy, which recognizes the Academy’s football victories over Army and Air Force.

The Senate returns today and could spend the week debating gun control legislation.

The House returns on Tuesday and kicks off a light week. One measure the House will likely take up is the Preventing Greater Uncertainty in Labor-Management Relations Act (H.R. 1120), which would prevent the National Labor Relations Board from issuing decisions or rulemakings pending Supreme Court review of the President’s recess appointments to the Board. The Majority Leader’s schedule for the week is available here.

Senate Hearings: TUESDAY—A Judiciary subcommittee holds a hearing on campaign finance laws. The Energy and Natural Resources Committee considers the nomination of Ernest Moniz to serve as secretary of energy. WEDNESDAY—The Commerce Committee holds a hearing on “Expanding the Panama Canal: What Does it Mean for American Freight and Infrastructure?” THURSDAY—The Environment and Public Works Committee considers the nomination of Gina McCarthy to serve as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. The Budget Committee reviews President Obama’s budget proposal.

House Hearings: TUESDAY—An Education and Workforce subcommittee holds a field hearing in Michigan on “Reviving Our Economy: The Role of Higher Education in Job Growth and Development.” An Energy and Commerce subcommittee considers the reauthorizations of the Animal Drug User Fee Act and the Animal Generic Drug User Fee Act. WEDNESDAY—An Appropriations subcommittee conducts oversight of the Small Business Administration. Another Appropriations subcommittee considers “Regulatory Approaches to Foster Economic Growth.” An Energy and Commerce subcommittee considers the Northern Route Approval Act (H.R. 3), which would approve the Keystone XL pipeline. An Education and Workforce subcommittee holds a hearing on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education. An Energy and Commerce subcommittee considers “Our Nation of Builders: Powering U.S. Automobile Manufacturing Forward.” The Small Business Committee examines tax reform as it relates to small businesses. THURSDAY—A Financial Services subcommittee holds a hearing on derivatives. An Energy and Commerce subcommittee considers the Coal Ash Recycling and Oversight Act. The Ways and Means Committee looks at the President’s budget proposal. A Small Business subcommittee examines the implementation of the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act. The Budget Committee reviews the President’s budget. FRIDAY—An Energy and Commerce subcommittee reviews the Energy Consumers Relief Act. An Appropriations subcommittee examines the Commodity Futures Trading Commission’s budget.

Executive Branch: Secretary of State John Kerry is in the midst of a trip across the Middle East and Asia, with a brief detour to London. Today, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius awards the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award to a number of businesses, including Lockheed Martin in the manufacturing category.

Economic Reports: From The New York Times: “Data to be released include wholesale trade for February (Tuesday); weekly jobless claims and import prices for March (Thursday); and retail sales for March, the Producer Price Index for March, the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index for April and business inventories for February (Friday).”

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Dispatch from the Front: The Week of April 1

President Obama hosts the annual White House Easter Egg Roll today. On Tuesday, the Prime Minister of Singapore visits the White House. The President then travels to Denver on Wednesday to talk about gun control measures before heading to California for fundraising events. On Friday, he hosts the Easter Prayer Breakfast.

The House and Senate are off this week.

Executive Branch: Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel welcomes the Prime Minister of Singapore to the Pentagon today. Under Secretary for International Trade Francisco Sanchez is in China and Mongolia this week to discuss business opportunities arising from infrastructure projects in those countries. On Wednesday, Deputy Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank will discuss the National Cybersecurity Framework.

Economic Reports: From The New York Times: “Data to be released this week include the I.S.M. manufacturing index for March and construction spending for February (Monday); factory orders for February (Tuesday); A.D.P. employment and the I.S.M. nonmanufacturing index for March (Wednesday); weekly jobless claims (Thursday); and unemployment for March and the trade deficit and consumer credit for February (Friday).”

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Dispatch from the Front: The Week of March 25

Today, President Obama speaks at a naturalization ceremony. This evening, he hosts a Passover Seder at the White House. On Tuesday, the Stanley Cup champions, the Los Angeles Kings, and the Major League Soccer champions, the LA Galaxy, visit the White House. On Thursday, four African leaders meet with President Obama: President Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone, President Macky Sall of Senegal, President Joyce Banda of Malawi and Prime Minister Jose Maria Pereira Neves of Cape Verde. President Obama rounds out the week with a trip to Miami, where he will talk about the economy.

The House and Senate are out this week.

Executive Branch: Vice President Biden meets with the Foreign Minister of Australia today. Secretary of State John Kerry is in Afghanistan for meetings with President Hamid Karzai. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano attends the naturalization ceremony with President Obama.

Economic Reports: From The New York Times: “Economic data to be released include durable goods for February, the Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller housing price index for January, new home sales for February and consumer confidence for March (Tuesday); pending home sales for February, weekly jobless claims, fourth-quarter gross domestic product (revised) and the Chicago P.M.I. for March (Thursday); and personal income and spending for February and the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index for March (Friday).”

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Dispatch from the Front: The Week of March 18

President Obama meets with the Prime Minister of Ireland tomorrow. After celebrating a belated St. Patrick’s Day, the President heads to Israel. On Wednesday, he meets with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. On Thursday, he meets with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas before meeting with Jordanian King Abdullah II on Friday.

The Senate meets today and resumes work on the continuing resolution (H.R. 933), which would fund the government for the rest of the fiscal year.

The House also meets today and will take up two bills on the suspension calendar. Its priority for the week is Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) budget resolution. The Majority Leader’s calendar is available here.

Senate Hearings: TUESDAY—The Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee marks up the nomination of Richard Cordray to serve as director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The Finance Committee examines the President’s trade plans. An Armed Services subcommittee holds a hearing on cybersecurity threats.

WEDNESDAY—The Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee marks up the Animal Drug and Animal Generic Drug User Fee Reauthorization Act. The Judiciary Committee looks at “The Future of Drones in America: Law Enforcement and Privacy Considerations.” Later that day, the Judiciary Committee holds a hearing on “Building an Immigration System Worthy of American Values.”

House Hearings: TUESDAY—An Energy and Commerce subcommittee considers “The Role of Regulators and Grid Operators in Meeting Natural Gas and Electric Coordination Challenges.” An Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee examines natural gas exports. WEDNESDAY—The House Agriculture Committee marks up a number of bills amending the Dodd-Frank law. A Science, Space and Technology Committee considers “Improving EPA’s Scientific Advisory Processes.” The Education and Workforce Committee marks up the Preventing Greater Uncertainty in Labor-Management Relations Act (H.R. 1120). An Appropriations subcommittee holds a closed hearing on “Cybersecurity and Critical Infrastructure.” THURSDAY—An Energy and Commerce subcommittee holds a hearing on “Our Nation of Builders: The Strength of Steel.” A Small Business subcommittee looks at “Protecting Small Businesses Against Emerging and Complex Cyber-Attacks.”

Executive Branch: Vice President Biden is in Rome for the installation of the new pope on Tuesday. Today, he meets with the president and prime minister of Italy.

Economic Reports: From The New York Times: “Data to be released include housing starts for February (Tuesday) and weekly jobless claims, existing home sales for February, the Philadelphia Fed index for March and leading economic indicators for February (Thursday).”

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Dispatch from the Front: The Week of March 11

On Tuesday, the President meets with the Sultan of Brunei. Later in the day, he heads to Capitol Hill to meet with Senate Democrats. The following day, he will visit House Republicans. On Thursday, he completes his Hill visits, meeting with House Democrats and Senate Republicans. (Here’s a roundup of his Hill trips.) President Obama rounds out the week with a trip to the Argonne National Laboratory to speak about energy policy.

The Senate meets today and will take up two judicial nominations. It is likely to consider the continuing resolution (H.R. 933) passed by the House during the week.

The House meets for regular business on Tuesday. It plans to consider two workforce-related bills this week: the Preserving Work Requirements for Welfare Programs Act (H.R. 890) and the Supporting Knowledge and Investing in Lifelong Skills (SKILLS) Act (H.R. 803). On Wednesday, the Budget Committee will mark up the fiscal year 2014 budget measure.

Senate Hearings: TUESDAY—The Banking Committee holds a hearing on the nomination of Richard Cordray to serve as director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. THURSDAY—The Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee considers “Keeping up with a Changing Economy: Indexing the Minimum Wage.” FRIDAY—The Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee examines the “JPMorgan Chase Whale Trades: A Case History of Derivatives Risks and Abuses.”

House Hearings: WEDNESDAY—An Appropriations subcommittee holds a hearing on water infrastructure financing. The Homeland Security Committee considers cybersecurity and U.S. infrastructure. A Science, Space and Technology subcommittee examines science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education. A Judiciary subcommittee holds a hearing on abusive litigation. Another Judiciary subcommittee reviews the Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency (FACT) Act (H.R. 982). An Energy and Commerce subcommittee considers “Obamacare’s Impact on Jobs.” A Judiciary subcommittee looks at “Investigating and Prosecuting 21st-Century Cyber Threats.” A Science, Space and Technology subcommittee considers “Federal Financial Support for Energy Technologies.” THURSDAY—A Judiciary subcommittee looks at “Separation of Nuclear Families under U.S. Immigration Law.” An Education and Workforce subcommittee holds a hearing on lower-skilled guest worker programs. An Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee holds a hearing on sequestration. A Small Business subcommittee holds a hearing on the impact of regulations on small businesses. A Foreign Affairs subcommittee explores “U.S. Energy Security: Enhancing Partnerships with Mexico and Canada.” An Appropriations subcommittee holds a hearing on immigration enforcement. A Transportation and Infrastructure subcommittee looks at the implementation of the surface transportation bill. A Natural Resources subcommittee holds a hearing on “America’s Onshore Energy Resources: Creating Jobs, Securing America and Lowering Prices.” A Judiciary subcommittee holds a hearing on patent trolls.

Executive Branch: Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel concludes his trip to Afghanistan today.

Economic Reports: From The New York Times: “Information to be released includes retail sales for February, import prices for February and business inventories for January (Wednesday); weekly jobless claims, the Producer Price Index for February and the current account deficit for the fourth quarter (Thursday); and the Consumer Price Index for February, industrial production for February and the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index for March (Friday).”

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