WASHINGTON – House Democrats will roll out a new package of “Make It In America” manufacturing-centered jobs creation bills, one of their top leaders announced on April 9.
The measures, outlined by Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., include establishing a national industrial policy, creating an “infrastructure bank” to fund key projects, enacting tax incentives to create jobs in the U.S., and opening opportunities for immigrants trained in science, math and other high-value areas to stay here rather than return to their home countries. The Democrats also want to push exports.
Hoyer emphasized that manufacturing by and large creates high-skilled high-value jobs. He said the Democrats’ package is designed to encourage businesses to follow that road. But he did not outline any absolute guarantees that the jobs created if the legislation is enacted would be high-wage factory jobs that support families.
“Germany has high wages, high benefits” and strong manufacturing “and they’re doing quite well in exporting,” he said of an economy the U.S. could emulate.
“We have a higher productivity level and a highly skilled labor force,” as Germany does, Hoyer declared. “We make better products, we have higher productivity here and that’ll create higher-wage jobs,” he stated.
That statement, however, flies in the face of the last 30 years of U.S. economic data, which has shown constantly rising – sometimes galloping – U.S. productivity gains, coupled with wage stagnation and declines. Profits from the gains have gone to executives, stockholders and Wall Street, not workers.
The Democratic package includes some ideas that went nowhere in the GOP-controlled House last year and others that got a hearing and then were marooned.
Hoyer said he aims to build on the bipartisanship Congress showed, briefly, last year, when it lawmakers approved the so-called Jobs Act, a combination of tax breaks and other incentives, mostly for small businesses, to create new U.S. jobs.
That measure, he noted, passed without a single dissenting Democrat while Republicans split. Hoyer claimed the new package offers similar opportunities.
Hoyer also said it’s needed for the U.S. to keep up with its trading partners – and that if lawmakers create an environment that encourages businesses to create U.S. jobs, revenues will rise as more workers get hired and the federal deficit will fall, too.
“I want to create an environment to encourage people to bring jobs here, to create jobs here. But if they can’t make a profit here, they won’t do so,” he explained.
The labor movement has campaigned, even before the onset of the Great Recession, also known as the Bush Crash, for jobs legislation to help workers. That includes everything from energy retrofitting of public buildings – pushed by the Steelworkers – to upgrading the U.S. electrical grid, a cause of the Utility Workers, and infrastructure construction, a building trades favorite.
But the Right Wing bloc that controls the GOP-run House has turned thumbs down on almost all such measures since they seized power in 2011. Their incentives consist of tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations. They claim those interests are “job creators” who need more money to do so.
“As any CEO will tell you before undertaking any major venture, you need a plan,” Hoyer said in campaigning for a national industrial policy. “That’s the case for business and it ought to be so for our country. America needs a national manufacturing strategy that will serve as a guide over the short, middle and long terms as we target investments in growth.”
President Obama, along with organized labor, also supported a national industrial strategy bill, authored by Rep. Bill Lipinski, D-Ill., in the last Congress. The Republican-run House Education and the Workforce Committee buried it.
But business groups also complain about federal taxes and regulations, notably job safety rules, and Hoyer ducked a question about whether the Democratic jobs package would deal with that issue. “Both will be critical to focus on in encouraging job creation here and in bringing jobs back home,” he said.
The Republicans have touted their own jobs bill, called the “Skills Act,” which rolls dozens of federal job training programs into a block grant, dumps them on states to run and cuts their combined budgets.
In a related issue, Hoyer said he supports raising the minimum wage to more than $10 an hour, as Democrats proposed during the House budget debate last month. A Democratic move to do so lost on a party-line vote. “$10 is better than $9,” which Obama proposed “and $9 is better than $7.25,” the current minimum wage, he said.
Photo: Laborers International Union of North America