Creating Manufacturing Jobs is Key to Recovery -- Poll Shows

Sept. 7, 2011
Americans don't believe that Congress or the President have done enough to support manufacturing.

A July 2011 poll of 1,202 likely voters American voters conducted by the Mellman Group and Ayres, McHenry & Associates reveals that voters want Washington to act on jobs -- especially in manufacturing -- which they believe will help restore America's lost status as the world's No. 1 economy.

Despite overwhelming public concern about these issues, fewer voters now believe the president or either party in Congress are focused on jobs than thought so in 2010.

"This poll is a stark reminder that while official Washington goes back and forth in our newest crisis, Americans still feel no one is focusing on the real problems that matter to them: losing jobs, losing our manufacturing base, and the decline of our position in the world," said Scott Paul, executive director of the Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM).

The study finds that across the partisan spectrum, Democratic and Republican voters ranked job creation and rebuilding the nation's manufacturing base at the top of their list of priorities.

When asked to select the most important task for Congress and the president, "creating new manufacturing jobs" ranked just below creating jobs more generally and saw a bigger gain from 2010 (up 9%) than any other option.

Americans don't believe that Congress or the president have done enough to support manufacturing.

Poll results show that by a more than two-to-one margin (67% to 29%). voters prefer that Washington focus on job creation rather than deficit reduction. This is down from the 2010 poll, in which 94% of voters wanted Washington to focus on jobs even more than on the deficit, with 85% specifying creating manufacturing jobs, and 88% of voters wanting Congress and the president to strengthen manufacturing in the United States.

Voters are less convinced than a year ago that Congress and the administration are doing anything to create manufacturing jobs or to enforce fair trade.

Although manufacturing again ranked as the most important source of economic strength (by a wide margin over both health care and high-tech), voters gave both Congress and the president lower marks on creating manufacturing jobs or addressing trade issues than they did in 2010.

AAM's 2010 poll first demonstrated serious voter concern about factory closings and job loss. In the 2010 poll, there was very little difference in the opinion of Independents, Democrats and Republicans (64%, 67% and 66% respectively) on the viewpoint that "manufacturing is a critical part of the American economy and we need a manufacturing base here if this country and our children are to thrive in the future."

Said Paul, "Voters see manufacturing as the key to recovery, and though it may surprise some pundits, this is the clear message from every voting demographic, including Tea Party and Republican voters."

Growing Support for 'Made in America'

Along with manufacturing's rising profile, support for "Made in America" also has skyrocketed since 2010. Pollster Whit Ayres explains, "Americans strongly believe that we cannot be the world's leading economy and job creator without manufacturing. They want to be able to buy top-quality products that say 'Made in America.'"

The poll also found concern over America's lost standing in the world. Pollster Mark Mellman says, "Americans no longer believe we have the world's strongest economy. But they do believe that a renewed focus on manufacturing jobs can turn things around. Americans understand that manufacturing is central to creating jobs and getting the economy back on track."

Some key findings from the poll include:

  • 90% have a favorable view of American manufacturing companies -- up 22% from 2010
  • 97% have a favorable view of U. S.-made goods -- up 5% from 2010.
  • 94% of voters say creating manufacturing jobs is either "one of the most important" things government can do or "very important."
  • 83% have an unfavorable view of companies that go to China to manufacture.
  • 90% support Buy American policies "to ensure that taxpayer funded government projects use only U. S.-made goods and supplies wherever possible."
  • 95% favor keeping "America's trade laws strong and strictly enforced to provide a level playing field for our workers and businesses."
  • 59% say we need to "get tough with China and use every possible means to stop their unfair trade practices."

Only 50% of voters believe that the president is working to create manufacturing jobs -- an 11% drop from 2010. Congress fares even worse -- 41% say Democrats in Congress are working to create jobs, and 32% see the GOP working to create jobs.

In an op-ed article, "How Congress can start creating jobs in the U.S," that appeared Aug. 15 in The Hill, Paul made the following recommendations of what Congress could do to spur private sector job creation that would not increase our federal budget deficit.

"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.

"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.

"In addition, President Obama could do the following on his own immediately:

"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 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 percent of our public debt, so we have more leverage than some might suggest.)

"Secure an additional agreement from all foreign and domestic car companies to increase their levels of domestic content by at least 10 percent 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."

We Need to Nurture Startups

In contrast, Henry Nothhaft, veteran entrepreneur and author of "Great Again: Revitalizing America's Entrepreneurial Leadership," had some very different suggestions for President Obama in a Labor Day letter to Obama published in the Wall Street Journal.

Since "100% of net job growth in the U.S. comes from entrepreneurial startups." he asked:

"...why aren't you doing everything you can to nurture startups and make it easier for them to access capital, grow and hire people so they can develop the breakthrough products, services and medical advances that drive our national prosperity?"

He urged the president "to seek an exemption for small job-creating start-ups from the more onerous Sarbanes-Oxley rules, at least until they reach $500 million in revenues. This will help to revive the feeble IPO market, and job creation with it."

He suggested the president and his "Republican opponents could also spur job creation by withdrawing your support for a patent-reform bill that puts the needs of big technology firms ahead of the real job creators-entrepreneurial start-ups-and that continues to divert hundreds of millions of dollars annually in patent-office user fees to other purposes ... Congress has starved it of funds and created a backlog of 1.2 million patent applications waiting for examination. Your own patent office director, David Kappos, says this backlog has cost the nation "millions of jobs."

He questioned "why are we the only major nation on Earth that refuses to offer tax and other incentives to manufacturers who set up shop here? Every other nation in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development does so."

None of the measures suggested by Paul or Nothhaft would increase the deficit. They would work to create millions of new jobs quickly. I agree with Nothhaft -- "Mr. President, there's still time for you to kick-start the engine of job growth. All you need to do is listen to the voices of entrepreneurs who create those jobs."

Michele Nash-Hoff is president of ElectroFab Sales. She is the author of "Can American Manufacturing Be Saved?"

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