Though this Reuters article (link above) is a few days old, I couldn’t let it pass without comment. Reading the headline, I anxiously clicked the link in the hope of learning about a sea change in our approach to trade policy. Not surprisingly, I was disappointed. There is no new “push” for manufacturing here, only a “push” to create the appearance of doing something to help manufacturing. It isn’t until the end of the article that you cut through all the hype to find out what’s really going on here:
…. the House could vote as early as Wednesday on a bill that one study has estimated would increase U.S. production by $4.6 billion and support almost 90,000 jobs.
The U.S. Manufacturing Enhancement Act, more commonly known as the Miscellaneous Tariff Bill, temporarily suspends import duties on a long list of materials used by U.S. manufacturers.
House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Sander Levin urged Republicans to support the bill, which Congress typically passes every few years on a bipartisan basis.
In other words, the only “help” for manufacturing planned here is to reduce import duties on some basic materials and intermediates – actually increasing imports. Our approach to trade policy just gets dumber and dumber. Now we’ve moved beyond putting all of our focus on trying to export our way out of an import-driven trade deficit to boosting imports in an effort to help our exporters.
Regarding the first sentence in the above excerpt, two observations are in order:
- A boost to U.S. production of $4.6 billion represents exactly 1% of our annual trade deficit in manufactured products and only 0.03% of our GDP. And we’re supposed to get excited about House Democrats doing something to help manufacturing?
- If an improvement in our manufacturing trade deficit of only 1% brings home 90,000 jobs, it’s easy to calculate that restoring a balance of trade in manufactured products would bring home 9 million jobs – and likely a lot more when you throw in the service and construction jobs in support of all of that additional manufacturing.
One other excerpt merits comment. This “push”
… follows a poll last month done for the Alliance for American Manufacturing that showed 86 percent of Americans wanted Washington to pay more attention to manufacturing.
The vast majority of Americans know very well that the loss of the manufacturing sector lies at the root of our economic problems. Now all we need is leaders in Washington who are truly interested in restoring our economy, instead of politicians interested only in creating the appearance of doing something to help in the hope of suckering enough voters to swing their support from 49% to a 51% majority.