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Policy Experts

Energy bill, TSCA reform show momentum building for Congressional solutions on energy, environment

By | Energy, Policy Experts, Shopfloor Policy | No Comments

This week, the Senate is debating S. 2012, the Energy Policy Modernization Act, on the floor. The bill, introduced by Senate Energy Committee Chairman Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Ranking Member Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and passed by the committee on a decisive 18-4 vote, is expected gain broad support from both sides of the aisle. There is a lot to like in the bill, including a wide range of measures on energy efficiency and improvements to the licensing process for liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports. The debate on S. 2012 comes on the heels of successful passage of legislation to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) by the Senate at the end of 2015. (The House passed a similar TSCA reform bill earlier in the year by a 398-1 vote, and the two bills await a conference.)

For years Washington earned a well-deserved reputation for gridlock and an inability to solve problems. But these two bills, much like the recent successes on tax, infrastructure and trade, are a sign that the gridlock may be starting to ease. And if that’s the case, there are no shortage of energy and environmental issues that manufacturers would like some real, bipartisan solutions on. We talk about a lot of these in the our Competing to Win platform document, unveiled today by NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons as he kicked off this year’s State of Manufacturing Tour. Read More

SOM Tour 2016: New Hampshire Is a Hotbed of Innovative Manufacturing

By | General, Policy Experts, Presidents Blog, Shopfloor Economics, Shopfloor Main, Shopfloor Policy | No Comments

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A State of Manufacturing Tour guest blog post by Jim Roche, president of the Business & Industry Association, New Hampshire’s statewide Chamber of Commerce 

Today, the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) kicked off its 2016 State of Manufacturing Tour in New Hampshire—and with good reason! New Hampshire is a hotbed of innovative manufacturing and home to the first-in-the-nation presidential primary less than two weeks from now.

Here at the Business & Industry Association (BIA) of New Hampshire, the NAM’s official affiliate in the Granite State, we fight every day for policies that support our manufacturers—our state’s most important job creators. We push state legislators, the governor, our congressional delegation and regulators for public policy and commonsense solutions that are friendly to job creators and promote prosperity for New Hampshire businesses.

At today’s stop, the NAM laid out several key public policies that will help put manufacturing in America on solid ground, including important ideas likjim rochee fixing our outdated tax code and upgrading old infrastructure to take us toward a more modern economy.

Today’s tour also highlighted the many ways manufacturers are changing our lives for the better. Manufacturing has grown well beyond the outdated images of mill and textile work, particularly in New England. Today, manufacturing leads in electronics, fabricated metals, machinery and technology. And manufacturing is connecting people across continents. The sector offers outstanding jobs and careers for nearly 68,000 New Hampshire workers. New Hampshire’s manufacturers export almost $4 billion of goods around the world every year, bringing new wealth and economic activity into our state’s economy.

As we move deeper into this important election season, manufacturing voters are asking candidates hard questions about how they will help America compete to win in a global economy. No matter the outcome of the election, we need policies that support today’s diverse and dynamic manufacturers. When manufacturing succeeds, we’re all better off.

 

Looking for Leadership on Labor Issues

By | Human Resources, Policy Experts, Shopfloor Policy | No Comments

This year manufacturers have seen executive orders, proposed regulations and NLRB decisions in attempts to“fix” our labor system, but instead these actions have created more bureaucracy and hurdles for employers, employees and manufacturers. Last night, Congress unveiled a new spending agreement that included many key policy “riders.” In a missed opportunity to address key issues for manufacturers labor issues were largely left out of the deal.

As the year comes to a close, manufacturers urge lawmakers address these key labor issues in 2016: Read More

NAM Executive Insights Series Stops in Houston

By | Events, Executive Insights, Policy Experts, Shopfloor Main | No Comments

NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons joined manufacturing executives in Houston, Texas, today for its last stop on this year’s Executive Insights Series. Houston is America’s number-one city for manufacturing, making for an ideal venue to hear from CEOs of leading manufacturers like PPG, BP America, Devon Energy Corporation, Eagle Energy Exploration and Global Energy Ecolab—all of whom are well equipped to discuss the opportunities and challenges facing the manufacturing community. Read More

NAM Partners with Global Business Dialogue to Promote Environmental Goods Agreement

By | General, Policy Experts, Regulations, Trade | No Comments

This morning the NAM and the Global Business Dialogue hosted a discussion about the Environmental Goods Agreement (EGA) negotiations underway at the World Trade Organization (WTO). NAM’s Linda Dempsey, Vice President for International Economic Affairs, spoke about the benefits to manufacturing of a broad EGA, mentioning that, “increased trade and global engagement is vital for our manufacturers. With only a 9 percent share of the global $11 trillion market in manufactured goods trade outside our borders, manufacturers can and should be able to expand commercial opportunities.

Read More

President Obama at the Chamber

By | Economy, Policy Experts, Small Business | One Comment

Stipulated: President Obama’s address to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is a good thing, showing the President’s recognition that you can have employees with employers. Good luck to President Obama and the Chamber both on a successful event.

We one wonders which storyline will predominate in media reports about President Obama’s address this morning to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. We speculate:

  • President continues to woo big business.
  • Business, President reach wary accord.
  • In Chamber speech, President promotes exports, “new energy” economy to create jobs. Briefly mentions free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama.
  • President renews call for lower, simpler corporate taxation.
  • De facto drilling moratorium continues to hamper job growth, Chamber president tells Obama.
  • Presidential motorcade travels two blocks to U.S. Chamber to avoid protesters.
  • Green Bay Packer analogies spoil speech’s impact, irk Steelers’ fans.
  • President defends economy-crushing greenhouse gas regulations, which EPA will impose on job creators despite having no statutory basis to do so and vehement opposition from policymaking branch of government, Congress, but the rules will spur new technologies, the President argues to restive audience of business owners who contemplate layoffs in response.
  • Greenhouse gas regulations left unmentioned in President’s address to business.

AP’s preview indicates the odds-on favorite theme: “WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama continues his efforts to make peace with big business Monday with a speech at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.”

Big business, big business, big business. That’s a tired and inaccurate throw-away description. Sure, the Chamber isn’t the NFIB, but still: “The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the world’s largest business federation representing 3 million businesses of all sizes, sectors, and regions, as well as state and local chambers and industry associations. More than 96% of U.S. Chamber members are small businesses with 100 employees or fewer.”

One can watch the President’s address at the Chamber website.

Whom to Believe? Washington Post Editorialists or OSHA Spokeswomen?

By | Human Resources, Labor Unions, Policy Experts | No Comments

Or neither…

Washington Post editorial, “The right balance on business regulations“:

On Wednesday came the first concrete result of the president’s new emphasis: withdrawal of a proposed Occupational Safety and Health Administration rule that would have required businesses to protect workers from shop-floor noise by changing schedules or installing new equipment rather than by passing out earplugs, as current rules require. Strongly backed by organized labor, the proposed rule had triggered loud business protests, especially from manufacturers, who said it would cost billions and destroy jobs. Now it will be progressives’ turn to howl.

Our emphasis. Associated Press, “Feds drop plan to change workplace noise standards“:

OSHA spokeswoman Diana Petterson said the noise standards decision was “completely unrelated” to Obama’s order. The proposal did not involve issuing a new rule, but reinterpreting an existing rule.

The Post comments after OSHA pulled its noise plan, “Now it will be progressives’ turn to howl.” While it’s a safe prediction that “progressives” will howl just on general principle, on the OSHA interpretation they’ve been quiet. We looked for expressions of outrage from organized labor and the usual suspects who supported OSHA’s noise plan, and nothing.

Our guess is that the noise plan was so unworkable and business’ objections so persuasive, even the activists expected it to be pulled.

P.S. OSHA Administrator David Michaels will address the American Bakers Association next week. We’ll be interested to see his responses to questions about the noise rule and President Obama’s regulatory instructions.

Like Your Health Care Plan? You Can’t Keep It

By | Health Care, Policy Experts | 6 Comments

During the consideration of health reform, we were assured repeatedly by President Obama and proponents of the behemoth euphemistically called the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) that if we liked our health insurance we could keep it.  Many opponents of the bill, including the National Association of Manufacturers, never bought that talking point and now we know for a fact the promise will not be kept.

Ostensibly, the intent of health reform was to insure the uninsured and protect the coverage of those who get health insurance from their employer.  Instead, what we got is a looming crisis for as many as 170 million Americans who could lose their coverage because their employer can’t afford to provide it anymore or inadvertently runs afoul of the government.  Now that’s reform.

The “grandfather rule” issued by the Department of Health and Humans Services (HHS) in June essentially read like a cynical attempt to make good on a promise never intended to be kept.  (HHS news release, fact sheet, rule.) In a technical sense, if your plan doesn’t change at all from what it looked like on March 23, 2010, you can keep it – but how realistic is that?  Not very, and they know it.

In fact, the HHS itself acknowledges that up to 70 percent of all employers will either lose their health plan by violating the new federal regulations or forgo grandfather status on their own within the first three years.

Under the rules for so-called “grandfathered plans,” small businesses that purchase health insurance for their employees have been stripped of the single most important tool they have to keep their rates in line – the ability to shop around and negotiate with multiple health insurance companies to get the best coverage they can afford.  If an employer switches insurance companies now, they lose their grandfather status.

If employers decide to stick it out with their current plan, other tools to keep costs in check have been taken away as well.  Increase co-payments beyond limits set in the regulation?  Lose your grandfathering.  Increase employee cost-sharing for premiums beyond what the government tells you?  Lose your grandfathering.  And the HHS isn’t done yet.

HHS has asked for comments on whether a plan should lose its grandfather status if it changes their prescription drug coverage or the network of physicians and hospitals beneficiaries can see.  These are common alterations insurers and employers look to for cost control so their employees can afford the coverage.  The NAM will be submitting comments to the HHS today on these and other issues raised by the rule. [UPDATE: Here are the NAM’s comments.]

Unless significant changes are made, it seems clear what the end goal is with the so-called “grandfather rule” — design it to effectively ensure that within three years all current employer-based plans will go the way of the Dodo.

 Joe Trauger is the NAM’s Vice President for Human Resources Policy.

Happy Fifth Birthday, CAFTA!

By | Policy Experts, Trade | 2 Comments

The Central-American Free Trade Agreement, or CAFTA, was signed into law five years ago today, August 2, 2005, (later expanded to include the Dominican Republic to become CAFTA-DR). Facing vicious opposition from labor, the anti-trade Global Trade Watch, and others, the agreement had passed Congress by just two votes. Opponents vilified the agreement, predicting it would hurt American manufacturing.

Global Trade Watch’s Lori Wallach, for instance, called CAFTA a “catastrophe”, “a moldering corpse waiting to be buried,” and confidently predicted U.S. deficits and job losses. The U.S. International Trade Commission, the National Association of Manufacturers and other responsible organizations, on the other hand, predicted the agreement would spur U.S. exports and result in significantly stronger growth.

The record shows how wrong Wallach and other trade detractors were. As is clearly shown in the inserted graph, far from greater deficits, the CAFTA-DR agreement has changed deficits to surpluses. In the years prior to CAFTA, American manufacturers ran deficits with the CAFTA countries averaging $1.1 billion a year. After CAFTA went into effect, those deficits quickly turned to surpluses that have averaged $3.5 billion a year.

The improvement in the trade balance with CAFTA-DR occurred because the dollar value of U.S. manufactured goods exports grew faster than imports. In the years prior to the agreement, U.S. manufactured goods exports to the region grew less than 5 percent a year. In the years immediately after the agreement, they soared almost 14 percent a year.  And even after the global trade collapse in 2009, manufactured goods exports to CAFTA-DR so far this year have boomed 30 percent, much faster than the 22 percent increase of U.S manufactured goods globally.

It is time for Lori Wallach to stop talking about a “failed CAFTA trade policy.”  The only thing that is failing here is her rhetoric.

Sen. Dodd’s Financial Regulatory Plan Casts Too Wide of Net

By | Economy, Policy Experts, Regulations, Taxation | One Comment

The Restoring American Financial Stability Act of 2010 unveiled this afternoon by Senate Banking Committee Chair Chris Dodd (D-CT) raises more questions and concerns for U.S. manufacturers. For one, manufacturers are disappointed that the new proposal does not make it clear that only businesses that are “predominantly engaged” in financial activities are covered by the overall reform.

Even though the thrust of the reform measure is to restore responsibility and accountability in the nation’s financial system, broadly worded definitions in the bill arguably could pull some non-financial companies into the new regulatory regime. Covered companies are defined as those with “substantial” financial activities and the Federal Reserve Board gets to decide who falls into the definition. Manufacturers that engage in routine financial activities as a small part of their main business, e.g., a global manufacturer that manages a foreign exchange trading operation, an equipment manufacturer that provides financing for customers, are concerned that they could be pulled into the systemic risk regulatory regime, drawing needed capital from their businesses and imposing new administrative burdens.

On the derivatives front, manufacturers were pleased to see that the definition of a “major swap participant” excludes OTC derivatives used to hedge business risk. Unfortunately, because it is not clear that business end-users who do not pose risks to the financial system are excluded from the definition, some manufacturers are concerned they could be considered a major swap participant. Another concern for manufacturers are requirements that they post margin on bilateral, customized derivatives contracts. End-users like manufactures do not pose a threat to financial stability and should be able to continue to access OTC derivatives without tying up valuable working capital.

On a brighter note, there may be more changes on the derivatives provisions during the Committee’s markup session, which could happen as early as next week. In comments this afternoon, Sen. Dodd noted that Sens. Judd Gregg (R-NH) and Jack Reed (D-RI) are working on a revised derivatives section that the committee could vote on next week.

Dorothy Coleman is vice president for tax and domestic economic policy at the National Association of Manufacturers.