The American Dream means different things to different people. For some, it means home ownership. For others it means opening a small business. Most Americans certainly consider at least a part of that dream to be leaving the next generation with a higher standard of living and opportunity than the previous one had. As diverse as the definition of that dream can be, one thing remains constant: the American Dream, no matter what form it takes, is rooted in work, and therefore, the availability of work. Most everything we value in this country--strength, charity, prosperity, security, freedom--can only be pursued and maintained in the presence of industry and effort and productivity. I believe the greatest disservice government has done to our people in the past two decades has been to erode America's manufacturing base through failed and unfair policies, thus denying millions and millions of people the opportunity to earn a living wage by means of their hard work and skill.
A Step in the Right Direction
This week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed two bipartisan bills. The first, the Jumpstart Our Business Startups, or JOBS Act, was a package of six bills to help small and emerging businesses be successful. By reducing the regulatory and financial burdens on our growing companies, we can provide them with a clearer path to success and opportunity within the private sector. The second was a bill to allow the U.S. Department of Commerce to impose duties on imports from China and other non-market economies. I was proud to co-sponsor this bill designed to protect American manufacturing by working to combat illegal dumping of Chinese products in the U.S. market. This legislation gives the U.S. government teeth to enforce the laws we are already following and show China that it's way past time they start playing by those same rules. American jobs must be defended. China must either play by the rules or we must fight back. They've had more than enough time to clean up their act. It is time for the U.S Government to stand up for American workers and American interests.
The most blatant case where the trend of giving away jobs to a foreign country can be found is in America's relationship with China. Even the way U.S. officials talk about that relationship is indicative of why we are losing ground to the Chinese every day, both in trade and in manufacturing. U.S. officials refer to China as a "partner" while we know the Chinese think of us as a competitor. In a match up where one side is partnering and the other is competing, we know who is going to get the short end of the stick.
China's exports are on track to double U.S. exports by 2015. In 2000, U.S. exports were three times that of China. According to the Manufacturers Alliance for Productivity and Innovation, in 2011, the U.S. global trade deficit in manufacturing rose by 12 percent (by $48 billion) as compared with 2010, while the Chinese surplus soared by 23 percent, to $125 billion. The increase in the U.S. trade deficit equaled a net loss of 200,000 to 400,000 manufacturing jobs.
One aspect of a vital manufacturing sector that is often overlooked is the intellectual capital and innovation that is generated through competitive manufacturing. This sector is central to technological advancement, with some estimating that as much as two-thirds of U.S. civilian research and development and new patents are derived from manufacturing. While the importance of jobs on the plant floor and in the warehouse are of obvious benefit to the national, regional and local economies, equally important is the value of ingenuity and creativity that disappear when an industry is knocked to its knees by failed government policies. While it is a tragedy that we allow laborers from across the globe to do the work we once did, it is a sin that we have also outsourced much of the creative thinking we once did for ourselves.
An $85,000 Jeep Cherokee?
China's vehicle sales jumped 32 percent in 2010, making that communist nation the world's largest auto market for the second year in a row. Total sales rose to 18 million units in China as that country continued to heap taxes and tariffs, one on top of the other, to limit American access to that market. As the American auto industry was experiencing a rebirth and China was the top auto buyer on Earth, our overall trade deficit with the Chinese increased by nearly $48 billion. And while I am thankful for every American made car sold in China, I know that if the playing field was level and the rules were enforced, there would be many hundreds of thousands more American made cars sold in China each year.
All the big numbers aside, there are some much more telling figures that pretty quickly explain why America's trading relationship with China is no "partnership." According to the New York Times, a Jeep Grand Cherokee costs $85,000 in China, due to the outrageously inflated tariffs that nation places on U.S. products. In the United States, prices for the Detroit-made SUV start at $27,490. It is no wonder Chrysler has sold fewer than 2,500 of them in China this year. Just how many American jobs have been lost to the unfair trade and tariff regime of the Chinese on this one product is hard to estimate. But multiplied by thousands and thousands of products across the entire American manufacturing sector, it is no doubt in the multiples of millions of jobs lost. And I say we need those jobs back, now!
We Must Not Repeat our Past Mistakes
I spent 27 years working in a textile mill. I watched unfair trade deals and government ineffectiveness and apathy nearly destroy an industry and a way of life that had flourished in our region for generations. I'm in public service in large part because I had seen too many good people suffer at the hands of a government content with giving jobs away to other countries as if they were part of some foreign aid package. Faced with the most daunting economic challenges since the Great Depression, this is not the time to bolster the economies of foreign lands at the expense of American workers. The only way to resurrect our economy and put our people back to work is to keep jobs here, and defend them from the deceitful and predatory practices of our so-called "partners."