Stabenow, Levin Call on President to Address America's Manufacturing Crisis in State of the Union Address
Michigan senators urge President Bush to present a comprehensive manufacturing agenda in Tuesday's address
In a letter to President George W. Bush, U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Carl Levin (D-MI) called on the President to use tomorrow's State of the Union address to confront the mounting crisis facing American manufacturers. Stabenow and Levin called for a comprehensive plan to level the playing field for American companies and protect American jobs.
"Michigan is the heart and soul of our country's manufacturing economy and we have lost a third of our manufacturing jobs in just five years," wrote Stabenow and Levin. "When Michigan's manufacturers suffer, it is a warning to the entire nation of the bigger economic crisis to come. Delphi's bankruptcy and the layoffs at General Motors and Ford Motor Company should be a wake-up call to your Administration that it is time to take action and change the policies that are crippling our manufacturers."
Stabenow and Levin urged the President to present the nation with a specific agenda to strengthen American manufacturers and good-paying middle class jobs. The senators called on the President to take the following actions:
Reject any pension reform bill that hurts American manufacturers and their workers
Support proposals to lower health care costs for businesses, including prescription drug reimportation, a plan to cover catastrophic health care costs and funding health information technology
Take a strong stand against China and Japan's unfair trade practices by cracking down on illegal counterfeit products, demanding that China and Japan stop manipulating their currency and creating a Special Trade Prosecutor to enforce our trade agreements.
"The country needs your leadership to solve this manufacturing crisis and protect these jobs," wrote Stabenow and Levin. "We look forward to hearing you address the manufacturing crisis in your State of the Union speech and working with you to solve these critical problems."
Full text of the Stabenow-Levin letter follows.
January 23, 2006
The Honorable George W. Bush
President of the United States
The White House
Washington, D.C. 20502
Dear Mr. President:
As you prepare to address the nation in next week's State of the Union, we urge you to address the crisis facing our American manufacturers and the devastating impact it is having on good-paying, middle-class jobs.
Michigan is the heart and soul of our country's manufacturing economy and we have lost a third of our manufacturing jobs in just five years. Since 2000, 111,000 manufacturing jobs have disappeared. When Michigan's manufacturers suffer, it is a warning to the entire nation of the bigger economic crisis to come. Delphi's bankruptcy and the layoffs at General Motors and Ford Motor Company should be a wake-up call to your administration that it is time to take action and change the policies that are crippling our manufacturers.
The country needs your leadership to solve this manufacturing crisis and protect these jobs. We urge you to use the State of the Union as an opportunity to present a comprehensive manufacturing agenda that addresses the following issues:
Will you veto pension legislation if it hurts American manufacturers and their workers?
In Michigan, we have more than 1.3 million workers and retirees - one in six adults - who are counting on a pension. S. 1783, the Pension Security and Transparency Act of 2005 included provisions at your administration's request that would unfairly penalize American manufacturers and put these pensions plans in serious jeopardy. For example, the Senate bill would use a company's credit rating, rather than the asset balance in its pension plan, to determine whether the plan is "at-risk." That provision alone could require companies like GM and Ford with well-funded plans (but poor credit ratings) to unnecessarily lock away money that could otherwise be used to boost research and development or other investments needed to compete in a global marketplace.
A final pension reform bill should protect pensions and help manufacturers keep their promises to their workers. The retirement security of millions of Americans is at stake and we urge you to state your opposition to legislation that will hurt our manufacturers.
Will you support proposals to allow prescription drug reimportation, create a catastrophic insurance pool, and fund health information technology in order to lower health care costs for all businesses?
The United States is the only industrialized country in the world that puts the burden of health care costs on its businesses. In other advanced countries, health care consumes 9 percent of GDP, but in the United States, it is 15 percent. Yet we still have 45 million Americans without health care coverage, and our businesses are at a distinct disadvantage with their foreign competitors.
We need to change the way we fund health care in this country so that it is not a burden on the backs of our manufacturers and workers. We urge you to support a catastrophic insurance pool/reinsurance model to reduce the cost of health insurance premiums for all businesses and work with Congress to pass this legislation. We also urge you to support legislation increasing the availability of generic pharmaceuticals to reduce the costs of drugs for all Americans.
In addition, prescription drug prices continue to increase at 3 to 10 times the rate of inflation, and there is not enough competition in the marketplace to bring these prices down. We urge you to endorse S. 334, a bipartisan bill that lifts a ban that prevents Americans from purchasing safe FDA-approved prescription drugs from other industrialized nations. By lifting the ban, we could reduce prices as much as 70 percent. Pharmacists would be able to import prescription drugs from their counterparts in specified industrialized countries, including Canada, if they comply with mandatory and strict safety regulations under the direct supervision of the FDA.
Finally, we urge you to endorse bipartisan legislation (S. 1227) to provide financial incentives for adoption of health information technologies and include funding for health information technology in your FY2007 budget. Right now, 31 cents of every dollar spent on health care in the United States goes to administrative costs -- that is nearly double the rate in other countries. Health information technologies would reduce health care costs and improve quality of health care and patient safety.
Will you stand up to China and Japan to stop their unfair trade practices?
Countries like China and Japan continue to ignore the rules, at the expense of our manufacturers and the loss of American jobs. As the leader of this country, it is incumbent on you to take a strong stand against China and Japan and aggressively enforce our international agreements.
According to the U.S.-based International Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition, China's counterfeiting is a $16 billion industry and it is costing hundreds of thousands of American jobs. For example, counterfeit automobile parts cost the auto industry $12 billion dollars in lost sales. If these losses were eliminated, the auto industry could hire 200,000 additional workers. It is time for your administration to take a strong stand against these illegal activities and insist the Chinese take aggressive enforcement actions to stop this criminal activity.
Second, we urge you to demand that China and Japan stop manipulating their currency. Over the past five years Japan's currency has been undervalued by as much as 36 percent against the dollar. This means a $20,000 car imported from Japan has an unfair subsidy of as much as $7,000 over U.S. cars, and U.S. exports to Japan face the equivalent of a $7,000 Atax@. This yen-driven cost advantage directly subsidized over 1.7 million cars and trucks exported to the U.S. last year, as well as every component imported by Japanese manufacturers for use in their U.S. assembly facilities. Economists also estimate that China=s currency is undervalued by between 15 and 40 percent relative to the dollar, giving them the same unfair trade advantage. You must insist that this intervention end immediately in order to ensure U.S. manufacturers have the level playing field they need for a fair trading relationship.
Finally, we need someone on the side of our manufacturers with the power to enforce our treaties. We urge you to create a Special Trade Prosecutor at the U.S. Trade Representative to take aggressive action against unfair trade practices and make sure our trading partners are following the rules.
We look forward to hearing you address the manufacturing crisis in your State of the Union speech and working with you to solve these critical problems.