Manufacturers know what it takes to lead. They are driven, passionate and know how to solve problems. Today, they are turning their attention to five candidates vying for our nation’s highest office. I hope the candidates are prepared.
Rick Perry, Rick Santorum, Michele Bachmann, Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich will run manufacturers’ gauntlet this morning when they gather at Vermeer Corporation in Pella, Iowa, for the National Association of Manufacturers’ (NAM) first-ever presidential forum.
Expectations for the candidates are high — as they should be considering the office they are seeking. Manufacturers will be looking for those who are offering solutions that will allow businesses to succeed in the global economy. Manufacturers strive every day to drive economic growth and create jobs, and they are poised to lead the nation’s economic recovery. But something is holding them back. It’s our own government’s policies that make it 20 percent more expensive to manufacture in the United States than in other industrial nations — and that excludes the cost of labor.
The slow pace of recovery from the recession is frustrating, and it’s not as if our elected leaders aren’t aware of the problem. Over the past few years, the president has delivered jobs speech after jobs speech, and Congress has considered jobs bill after jobs bill.
The result? Despite the talk at the White House and on Capitol Hill, it has actually become harder and more expensive to do business in the United States. When the Manufacturing Institute and the Manufacturers Alliance/MAPI last studied the cost of manufacturing in 2008, we found that it was 17 percent more expensive to manufacture here. And, it has only gotten worse in the three years since.
The contributors to the high cost of doing business in the United States are numerous. Regulations are one factor. As more and more regulations flow from federal agencies in Washington, businesses face new compliance burdens, whether it’s paying for new equipment needed to meet new federal standards or hiring lawyers to help navigate hundreds of pages of rules and regulations.
Taxes are another. Our corporate tax rate is the second highest in the developed world. Worse still, the complexity of the code forces manufacturers of all sizes to spend additional time and money meeting their tax obligations. Those resources could be put to better use expanding a facility and hiring new workers. And high energy prices and tort costs only add to the burden on job creators.
To their credit, many of the presidential candidates have begun offering economic plans of their own, including plans to reform the tax code, and starting necessary discussions about what our country needs to do to compete and generate new jobs. Some of the candidates’ ideas echo what the NAM is proposing in our new agenda, A Manufacturing Renaissance: Four Goals for Economic Growth, which focuses on the policies we need to increase investment in our economy, boost trade, strengthen our workforce and drive innovation.
Today, the candidates will have a chance to focus their ideas on manufacturing. The solutions they offer will have an impact far beyond this one sector of our economy. Policies that are good for manufacturers help other job creators in our economy as well.
Americans and the people we choose to lead the country can no longer take our economic position in the world for granted. While 12 million Americans work in the world’s largest and most innovative manufacturing economy today, other nations are aggressively trying to knock us from our top spot. If manufacturers in the U.S. are to maintain their global leadership, we have to make this country the best place in the world to do business. I’m looking forward to hearing the candidates’ plans, and I hope you will tune in too.
Jay Timmons is the president and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers.