It will take more than President Trump’s showcase gesture in bribing Carrier Corporation into keeping some jobs in the U.S. while it still moves many to Mexico, nevertheless, to bring about a new wave of American manufacturing and the saving jobs for Americans .
I don’t know how much of Trump’s effort was genuine or how much was hocus pocus or sleight of hand. But let’s just assume it was sincere, at least that is a start in the right direction. In the end it will take congress enact new legislation.
I’d like to see it this way: any United States-based firm that shifts its production outside of our borders would pay a hefty tax in order to bring its finished products back in. In fact it might have to pay a higher import duty than straight imports from other nations.
It rubs me the wrong way that companies can get the benefits of being based in the United States, including the protection of our courts, the world-wide security provided by our military, and of course immediate access to consumers in the world’s largest economy, while abandoning our own workforce. And adding insult to injury, many large corporations pay little to no U.S. taxes via convenient quirks in the tax laws. Congress needs to change that too.
I often think about this, but it was brought to back to the forefront of my mind a day before writing this when I was touring Mission Dolores in San Francisco, the oldest building in the city. Right across the street, my sister pointed out, is the original headquarters and factory for Levi Strauss, maker of that “all-American” product, blue jeans (and now other apparel) with that iconic label “Levis”. But for a long, long time now, Levis have been made in Mexico. None are made in the U.S.
While straight-out protectionism might not be a good idea (remember, history tells us that in part or in whole it led to the Great Depression of the 1930s because so many nations took that route that trade was killed), there is nothing wrong and everything right, I would think, about a nation’s government taking prudent steps to look out for its own manufacturing base and the livelihoods of its own citizens.
And really what sense does it make what with the workforce, the raw materials, and the infrastructure (albeit always in need of improvement or maintenance) we have in this country to ship production out of country?
While the truth is that technology, now advancing at warp speed, continues to mean fewer and fewer jobs in all type of endeavors, from factories to services, we still live in a world where people go somewhere to work in order to make a living. And as much as possible that work needs to stay right here in the United States.
A little pressure from the top, such as Trump has engaged in, can help, but it will take the work of congress and maybe consumer pressure on our own companies to complete the job.
Do we have excessive regulations in this country that hinder domestic production? The answer to that may be subjective. It is nonsense to suggest that we should repeal regulations that protect health and safety and that seek to protect our environment. We don’t want a return to Triangle Shirtwaist factory-like fires (New York, 1911) or the kind of fires that rip through textile sweatshops in Bangladesh in these times, and we don’t want a return to LA smog or Peking-like smog. But it may be true that excessive bureaucratic red tape (always a problem) can be counter productive. But it is the red tape that needs to be reduced, not the protections provided by regulations.