California Taxpayers Financed A New Chinese Competitor!

American tax dollars should employ American workers and build American companies. But the Bay Bridge project not only didn’t do that, it paid to build up a new Chinese state-owned competitor that will bid against American companies on future projects! Let’s not make that mistake again. Jeeze!
Should Be Made In America
Last week I wrote about the Should Be Made In America project. A coalition of American companies and labor organizations has launched this campaign to let taxpayers know when their state sends jobs out of the country. This is an effort to get state governments to buy steel and supplies from American companies when they do infrastructure projects. If they do not, there will be a PR campaign to shame the elected officials and state procurement agencies who made the decision to outsource American jobs with taxpayer dollars.
The New San Francisco Bay Bridge Project
The new San Francisco Bay Bridge is underway. The eastern span of the new bridge is called the self-anchored suspension span (SAS), which will have a single 525-foot-tall tower and uses a single mile-long cable to support the deck, which is two side-by-side steel roadways. The cable is made up of 137 strands of steel which are being pulled across the bridge one-by-one right now. The 1,542 ft span is the largest span of its kind in the world. (Lots of info is available here.)

They Turned Down Federal Dollars So It Could Be Made In China!
The cable and key sections of the tower and deck were outsourced to China. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s administration wanted this done in China, saying the low wages and lack of environmental regulations would lower the cost. Federal procurement rules require that taxpayer dollars be spent here, so Schwarzenegger turned down federal funds for the job, in order to be able to outsource the work. Never mind the cost of lost tax revenues, unemployment benefits, food stamps and other “safety net” programs for the lost workers and bankrupted companies that resulted. And never mind the cost to the larger economy and country from the foreclosures, closed businesses, lost jobs, etc. Those larger costs to the larger economy and country were not Schwarzenegger’s problem
Built Up A Competitor!
Shanghai Zhenhua Heavy Industries got the job — even though they had never done a job like this before. Until now the company manufactured cranes and ship loaders. But, thanks to California’s tax dollars, they can now. California paid for this Chinese state-owned company to build its capacity to do major infrastructure projects like this one. And they will be bidding against American companies on project in the United States and around the world from now on.
Here is Scott Paul from the Alliance for American Manufacturing, talking about the Should Be Made In America project, on KQED’s show Forum. Skip to around 16:00.

“What it has done now unfortunately is established a competitor to these American firms, that has been subsidized by the taxpayers of California, that will compete on future infrastructure projects. And California taxpayers have given this state-owned firm in California China the knowledge and the know-how to do this. And that is not fair to other private-secotr firms in the United states.”

(Note, at 16:18 Scott says the Bay Bridge project has “given a state-owned firm in California” the obviously meant to say China.)
So one agency of California “saved money” by outsourcing a project to China. But the state government overall probably lost money when you add in all the costs to other state agencies who lost tax revenue and have to pay out “safety net” expenses. And the national government and larger economy certainly lost out from the lost jobs, closed businesses and loss of steel and manufacturing capacity. American businesses certainly lost out.
At least now as other states look to future infrastructure projects the Should Be Made In America project will be there to remind them of the larger costs that come from “saving money” by sending taxpayer dollars out of the country.
P.S. here is the video from the Should Be Made In America launch event:

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
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Use State ‘Buy American’ Rules To Promote Insourcing

President Obama is hosting a forum on “insourcing” today. We need to bring jobs back to America, and restore our “industrial commons.” One way to help move this along is for states to require “Buy American” in their procurement rules. This is legal and here’s the big thing — it saves states money.
In December Steelworkers President Leo Gerard wrote a strong post, Antidote For Stupidity Of Shipping Tax-Dollar-Financed Jobs Overseas, writing,

Amid prolonged, painfully high unemployment, ABC News Anchor Diane Sawyer for the past year tirelessly advocated a simple solution – buy American-made products. She clearly explained the reasoning: every American dollar spent on an American-made product helps create an American job.

Repeat and amplify: Every dollar spent on an American-made product helps create an American job.
Buy American Legislation
Gerard wrote,

Now there’s an antidote for California’s stupidity. It is legislation called the Invest in American Jobs Act. Championed by U.S. Rep. Nick J. Rahall, (D-W.Va.) and Senators Sherrod Brown, (D-Ohio), Bob Casey, (D-Pa.), and Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), it would strengthen existing requirements for buying American products when federal tax dollars pay for construction of highway, bridge, public transit, rail, water systems and aviation infrastructure equipment.

California Example
California decided to “save money” by purchasing Chinese steel to build the new Bay Bridge. Gerard writes about the disaster that brought to California. Never mind all the problems with the quality, the welds, the delays, and the problems overseeing the work that he described… Gerard also gets into the hidden costs to the state and country from the loss of business and the loss of jobs this caused:

Also, Schwarzenegger’s estimate that $400 million would be saved failed to account for the wages American workers lost, the taxes they would have paid, or the multiplier effect on the economy when workers spend their wages in their hometowns. In addition, Schwarzenegger’s estimate failed to account for the downside of hiring Chinese workers with American tax dollars, or in this case, bridge toll receipts. That includes unemployment compensation, Medicare fees and other costs borne by governments for joblessness.
The Investigative Reporting Workshop at the American University School of Communication included a story about the Bay Bridge project by two-time Pulitzer Prize winning investigative reporters Donald L. Bartlett and James B. Steele in a series called What Went Wrong: the Betrayal of the American Dream.
In their report about California sending the bridge work to China, Bartlett and Steel quote Tom Hickman, vice president of Oregon Iron Works in Clackamas, Ore., one of the American companies that tried to form a consortium to perform the Bay Bridge work. Here’s what Hickman said about the jobs California denied American workers and the work California denied his America company:

“These jobs are living-wage jobs and family-wage jobs. They provide health and welfare benefits, 401(k)s and pensions. Our facilities meet all of the environmental requirements, and it just is a very, very difficult thing to compete with the Chinese when you are really competing with the Chinese government (which subsidizes Chinese industry).”

Caltrans argued that no American company had the facilities to perform the work. Hickman said the consortium could have done it. But if government agencies like Caltrans continue to ignore the real costs of shipping work to China, American factories will continue to close. America lost 55,000 manufacturers over the past decade. If that doesn’t stop, at some point, America will forfeit the capacity to perform this kind of work.

Buying steel from another country proved to be a disaster for California every way you look at it.
Buy American Costs LESS
California “saved money” by purchasing Chinese steel to build the new Bay Bridge. In fact, the one government agency that built the bridge may have “saved money.” But what about the other costs to government and the rest of us because of the jobs lost from not making that steel here? What about the lost taxes from the unemployed workers and the American steel companies that would have provided the steel — and their suppliers ? What about the unemployment, food stamps, Medicaid, and all the other “safety net” costs that resulted? What about the loss of business to grocery stores and gas stations near the steel plants, and near all the suppliers that had to lay people off, and the lost sales taxes, etc?
When you add in the cost of losing jobs, factories, companies, industries and communities that result from decisions like this, you start to see that it really doesn’t make sense to “save money” by buying things made elsewhere.
BART Buys American
The Bay Area Rapid Transit district learned a lesson from the Chinese steel debacle and last year introduced a Buy American policy. BART Adopts “Buy America” – First in U.S., Agency Says,

The Bay Area Rapid Transit district has become the nation’s first transit agency to approve a “Buy America” policy, BART said.
The new Buy America Bid Preference policy, adopted unanimously by the BART board Thursday, “gives preferences to rail car manufacturers who create jobs in the U.S.A.,” according to a BART news release Friday.
BART is preparing to award $3 billion in contracts for its new fleet of train cars, which the agency calls the “Fleet of the Future.”

Buy American Policies
If we really want to start insourcing American jobs, then we should put our policies where our mouths are. “Buy American” provisions should be a mandate on federal, state and local government purchases, consistent with our trade laws. There is no reason our own government should be undermining American manufacturers. To accomplish this, our bottom line for federal procurement should be:

  • All federal spending should have “buy America” provisions giving American workers and businesses the first shot at procurement contracts.
  • New federal loan guarantees for energy projects should require the utilization of domestic supply chains for construction.
  • Our military equipment, technology and supply purchases should have increased domestic content requirements.
  • Renewable and traditional energy projects should use American materials in construction.

State-level spending should have similar requirements, and this panel will discuss these, and strategies to getting them in place.
Today many state-level procurement laws are very weak. As a result, a lot of tax dollars go to purchase goods made overseas instead of goods made in the USA. The impact of this often includes delays or cost overruns such as what happened with the San Francisco to Oakland California Bay Bridge, as well as the loss of jobs and revenue in the US.
The idea that national and state governments should “Buy American” isn’t in any way a partisan issue. If you look at polling you find that Republicans as well as Democrats believe that at least now while we are in economic distress, and trading “partners” are selling to us but not buying from us, our tax dollars should be supporting American companies and jobs.
There is a reason countries like China are working so hard to get this business.
This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
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Bravo To Congress’ Making It In America Push — What It Still Needs

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture as part of the Making It In America project. I am a Fellow with CAF.
House leaders deserve praise for fighting for working people by launching a “Make It In America” initiative which they officially unveiled today. The country still badly needs an immediate job-creation effort, but this is a very important longer-term initiative for reviving America’s manufacturing base and restoring our competitiveness in the world economy. Good work!
Manufacturing is the core of our country’s income. Making things that we sell is how we earn money to buy things that others make. This is why it is so important to restore America’s manufacturing base and the infrastructure that supports it. People want to go into a store and have a choice to buy things that are made here.
This week these important bills made it to the House floor: (click through for details)

  • National Manufacturing Strategy Act
  • Clean Energy Technology Manufacturing and Export Assistance Act
  • End the Trade Deficit Act
  • As the Congress rolls out this initiative here are important components it should include:

    Buy American
    Public money should be going to our people. This is what other countries, like China, are doing with domestic preferences and “indigenous innovation” policies.

  • Pass “Made in America” policies in every phase of any manufacturing plan, boosting domestic content requirements in federal procurement, (state and local government should do the same with their procurement policies).
  • Trade policies
    (Is “trade” even the right word for making the same things in other countries that we used to make here.)
    We are doing very little to combat the mercantilist nations, in particular China and Germany. China manipulates its currency and will not match its exports with imports. Germany is limiting domestic consumption — the resulting trade surplus is out of balance.

  • End tax incentives to move production overseas; create incentives to keep production at home. Current laws allow corporations to defer taxes on income earned overseas, which almost forces companies to develop schemes to make goods outside the country.
  • Require tariffs on goods from countries that manipulate currency, to overcome the pricing advantage this creates.
  • What about a “democracy tariff?” This is a tariff on imports to counter the advantages that come from moving factories to countries where the people don’t have the power or opportunity to insist on fair wages and worker and environmental protections.
  • Encourage the “Green Economy”
    Stimulate American manufacture of wind turbines, solar panels, biofuels, etc. This creates jobs and makes us competitive in the new green economy that will replace the carbon economy.

  • Create a domestic non-carbon energy market with a strong Renewable Energy Standard (RES) and a direct carbon tax (since the Senate has blocked cap-and-trade).
  • Use government procurement to help trigger this market. Phase in purchases of non-carbon energy, creating a strong market, triggering increased investment. Procurement should require American-made components. For example, wind-power purchases should require American-made turbines are used.
  • Infrastructure
    Our roads, bridges, rail, water and electrical systems, etc. are the backbone of a competitive economy. The infrastructure enables business to thrive. If it is not kept in good working order and up-to-date (and it has not been), businesses do not thrive (and they aren’t).

  • We need the Congress to create a National Infrastructure Investment Bank, capitalized with public money to lure private capital for investment in rebuilding key components of America’s infrastructure. Stop the obstruction – we need this!
  • Rebuild existing, crumbling infrastructure. This “spending” investment earns the money back many times over.
  • Pass the surface transportation reauthorization bill. This will boost American industry as while creating jobs, saving energy and incentivizing green development.
  • Build new infrastructure-for-the-future like high-speed internet and high-speed rail and a national electric “smart grid”.
  • Require companies to make the infrastructure components in America.
  • This is a brief outline of some of the needed components in a Make It In America strategy. These are things that Congress can do. Congress must not back away from bold reforms in the face of resistance from the right-wing monopolist business lobbyists, who speak for the job exporters, and their “free-trade ideologue” allies.
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