As the latest job report was reported on Sept. 2, let's first examine some key data:
- 9.1% unemployment rate for August
- 17,000 private sector jobs added
- Zero overall jobs added (including public sector)
- Manufacturing lost 3,000 jobs. (Manufacturing has gained an average of 14,000 jobs last four months, compared to 35,000 added in first four months of year.)
This jobs report is a disaster. If we aren't headed toward a double-dip recession, we are getting very close indeed. The time for jobs speeches and assigning blame for the state of our economy has long since passed. We need aggressive policies right now to create jobs in America. I'm very worried that the leaders of both parties are more worried about whom to blame than actually doing something about it. Simply reheating old and failed policies, which both parties seem inclined to do at this point, will not change the unemployment rate, or for that matter, the attitudes of voters across the political spectrum.
Manufacturing, once a bright spot for job creation, has stalled. Unless our nation adopts an aggressive manufacturing strategy, our industrial sector and millions of workers will get left behind. The American people want Washington to focus on manufacturing jobs, Washington still isn't listening.
Last month we proposed some bipartisan, concrete steps to create jobs-both now and in the long run-in the most productive sector of the economy, manufacturing:
- Establish a national infrastructure bank to leverage capital for large-scale transportation and energy projects.
- Reshape the tax code in a revenue neutral way to provide incentives for job creation and inward investment. R&D tax credits should help firms that not only innovate in America but also make their products here. Lower tax rates for manufacturing activity in America and eliminate tax shelters for hedge funds or financial transactions that have no real value.
- Apply "buy America" provisions to all federal spending to ensure that American workers and businesses get the first shot at procurement contracts. (Nothing says "please steal our jobs" like using subsidized Chinese steel in construction projects.)
- Shift some education investment to rebuilding our vocational and technical skills program, which would address looming shortages in the manufacturing sector.
- Refocus the trade agenda by giving American businesses new tools to counter China's currency manipulation, industrial subsidies, intellectual property theft and barriers to market access.
- Condition new federal loan guarantees for energy projects on the utilization of domestic supply chains for construction.
Focusing on manufacturing will also lower our trade deficit which will make it easier for America to pay its bills. There is plenty that President Obama could do on his own right now without congressional approval:
- Expedite small business loans through the Small Business Administration and Treasury Department to help firms expand, retool and hire.
- Convene a multilateral meeting to address global imbalances and in particular Chinese mercantilism. If China doesn't agree to participate, designate it a currency manipulator. (China ships fully one-third of its exports to the U.S. and finances less than 10% of our public debt, so we have more leverage than some might suggest.)
- On the heels of the landmark agreement with automakers on fuel economy standards, secure an additional agreement from all foreign and domestic car companies to increase their levels of domestic content by at least 10% over the next three years.
- Direct the Department of Defense to leverage existing procurement to contractors that commit to increasing their domestic content of our military equipment, technology and supplies.
- Approve additional applications for renewable and traditional energy projects, contingent on the use of American materials in construction.
- Kick any CEO off of federal advisory boards or jobs councils who has: (1) not created net new American jobs over the past five years, or (2) is expanding the company's foreign workforce at a faster rate than its domestic workforce. Replace them with CEOs who are committed to investing in America.
Many of these steps are commonsense ways to refocus existing federal programs, policies, and investment on what we sorely need the most right now: job creation. Of course, there are major investments in infrastructure, innovation and education that must be bolstered to prepare America for global competition and provide sustained job growth. If the recommendations of the "supercommittee" fail to include these investments, Congress truly will be dooming the next generation to a lower standard of living.
Congress, please get to work. Mr. President, please do the same. Stop blaming each other and do your jobs. Otherwise, you might all be looking for work after next November.
The Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM) is a non-partisan, non-profit partnership forged to strengthen manufacturing in the U.S. AAM brings together a select group of America's leading manufacturers and the United Steelworkers.