2020 federal dossier: Trade and Job Creation

This is the fourth part of a multi-part series taking a deeper dive into various important topics in the 2020 election. On the 100-point scale I am using to grade candidates, trade and job creation is worth 9 points.

According to the Caesar Rodney Institute, which defines itself as a “Delaware non-profit committed to protecting individual liberty,” the state’s economic status is in a long-term decline, so this category is important for our federal legislators to keep in mind. They obviously have input on our trade policy and hopefully are in tune with the idea that government can create the conditions which enhance opportunity. (Aside from limited jobs in creating and maintaining federal infrastructure, the government seldom creates jobs with actual value like, say, an oil derrick worker, a guy on the line at Jeep, or an architect who works with the private sector.)

Once again I’m doing this in a random order, with Republicans first in line and, once the primary is over, those representing other parties on the Delaware ballot.

Lauren Witzke (Senate)

Out of all she has said on the subject (and there is a lot!) there are two lines which I think best sum up her philosophy:

“Get me to Washington to ensure we rebuild American industrial might and promote FAIR trade! Let’s Make America Great Again and put America and her workers first!”

“I commit to supporting our unions, their right to collective bargaining, and incentivizing companies to hire American.”

Let’s look at these one at a time. I believe in free trade, but to make trade truly free we have to get it to be fair first. To do that, we need to have sensible tariffs until an overall balance is reached. While that may smack of protectionism, the idea is that we use the time to build up our competitiveness, not coast and make Trabants. Where we need the cattle prod is to insure improvement – if companies want to be part of the American rebirth, they must work quickly to be competitive.

Where I definitely part with Lauren is her blind support of organized labor. I believe in the right to work because it’s proven to be a job creator (companies prefer to locate in right-to-work states and jurisdictions) and it makes the union sell itself to the employees – they have to give a good reason and return on investment to workers who can forgo membership in an open shop. There are unions in right-to-work states so some must succeed in convincing employees and employers that they are fair bargaining agents.

I think a national right-to-work law would be a good thing, but it is an overreach on state’s rights. By the same token, there should be no federal prohibition on the right for states to mandate open shops.

James DeMartino (Senate)

I think James embodies a very sensible approach with his statement:

“I will work to create an environment that promotes free enterprise and not hinder growth with excessive and stifling regulations that add to the cost of doing business. Regulations must be streamlined so business can run their business and not continually file government licenses, documents and reports. I will continually discuss with the Governor and State Legislators their needs to promote business growth and expansion within Delaware from technology and infrastructure to development of Port Wilmington as a vibrant and safe port facility.  I will ensure farmers are provided the latest and greatest agriculture enhancements to maximize their output and returns.”

Philosophically it’s very close to the mark; now all we need is more specifics on various items. My only nitpick may be that streamlining regulations (and improving broadband, which he has also brought up) is as much incumbent on the state as it is the federal government, since that rising tide of eliminating regulation on a federal level would lift all the boats, not just ours.

Matthew Morris (House)

In reading through Matthew’s philosophy, it sounds a little bit like Lauren’s – he blames outsourcing for many of our problems. “I’m proposing that these big corporations, they’re going to have to pay a tax if they’re going to outsource their jobs to these foreign companies,” said Morris on social media. “I can’t stress it enough. We need to put America first.” He also vows to bring aquaculture, farming, and manufacturing back to Delaware. (I can vouch for the fact farming never left Slower Lower. Just sit in my living room and watch the traffic go by on my rural road. Or just watch the soybeans and corn grow and the irrigation system circle around. Or walk outside when the wind is the wrong direction and say “smells like Delaware.”)

Anyway, this is something I don’t think people who blame outsourcing think about: why do foreign manufacturers make cars here? Because we have a mature and prosperous market. We can’t just say in a blanket fashion that all outsourcing is bad because foreign companies outsource here, too – indeed, we should try to reclaim what we lost to China, but there are incentives we can present to encourage that may work more effectively than threats to browbeat.

Lee Murphy (House)

Lee doesn’t stray too far from conventional wisdom here, calling for an end to unnecessary regulations and more tax cuts. Pretty standard stuff. He does make the point that, “(i)nstead of passing minimum wage legislation, I will work tirelessly to bring real jobs back to Delaware.” The problem is that he’s left things really open-ended, although I suspect if prodded he can expand farther on these points. If he realizes that the true minimum wage is zero because it’s a job that was never created, then we may be on to something.

I’m going to gather a little more information, so the next part may be circling back to energy issues or pressing forward to my next intended part, taxation. Whichever one comes first, it will probably arrive around midweek.

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