Friday, May 25, 2018
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Op-Ed Columns

Bring manufacturing, service jobs back to Ohio

These days, it's hard to drive through neighborhoods across Ohio and not notice all the shuttered homes and abandoned lawns -- casualties of foreclosures, layoffs, and jobs that were shipped overseas.

We have lost more U.S. manufacturing jobs over the past decade, as a percentage of the total, than during the Great Depression. The closure of more than 50,000 manufacturing facilities, the loss of nearly 6 million manufacturing jobs, and chronic trade deficits are troubling signs of our nation's diminished industrial base.

Ohio has lost nearly 350,000 manufacturing jobs in the past decade. This trend will continue if the global trade environment does not change. The long toll of outsourcing is a major contributor to unemployment in Ohio, and has been a drag on our state's effort to recover from the Great Recession.

Our service economy is suffering a similar fate. Workers in call centers, professional services, and aircraft maintenance, as well as computer engineers and administrative-services and health-care workers, have seen their jobs leave. A 2009 study by economists Alan Blinder and Alan Krueger estimated that one in four U.S. jobs is vulnerable to offshoring.

Yet outsourcing is not inevitable, nor is it unstoppable. Many countries have strategies to keep good jobs at home and back them up by aligning trade, tax, training, and investment policies. Unfortunately, U.S. economic policies are stacked in favor of large corporations and the wealthiest 1 percent, rather than the 99 percent of working families.

To ensure that we reward companies for doing the right thing for our workers and our economy, we need to stop policies that encourage businesses to ship good jobs overseas. For example, corporations can defer paying any taxes when they move production overseas. We need to end this tax incentive for offshoring.

We also need to address currency manipulation by foreign governments, another key driver of offshoring. We must push for fair trade deals that create good jobs and benefit workers, not just multinational corporations.

Congress has an opportunity to address a tax policy that is particularly outrageous. The federal tax code allows companies that move overseas to deduct their moving expenses, and to reduce their taxes in the United States as a result. That is, we give tax breaks to companies that offshore jobs while millions of American families struggle to find work.

The proposed Bring Jobs Home Act would eliminate the tax deduction for moving expenses, while rewarding businesses that bring good jobs back to the United States with a tax credit. The legislation offers a comprehensive plan to stop incentives for offshoring, and to redirect our economic policies to create jobs for American workers.

Our state legislature can do its part too. A bill before the Ohio House would require all labor and services performed under any contract paid for with state funds to be done within the United States. Under the bill, all labor affected by state-funded economic development aid would have to be American labor, and all services performed as a result of such aid would have to be done in this country.

Our nation faces choices about the environment and the management of nonrenewable natural resources. We face decisions about the laws and policies that shape our economy, education, and health care.

These choices come down to this question: What is our vision? Do we want an economy that invests in working families, or one that multiplies profits for CEOs at the expense of workers?

Do we want to keep our competitive edge and have the best-trained workers, or do we want to fall behind as companies move overseas and leave millions of Americans unemployed?

Our elected officials need to support legislation and economic policies that will create jobs and rebuild our county. Nothing is more American than creating an economy that works for all.

Tim Burga is president of the Ohio AFL-CIO.

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