Just in time for Cyber Monday…

I received this e-mail a couple weeks ago but decided to hang onto it until the time was right. So guess what? It’s right.

Over the last few years I’ve been familiar with the “buy American” group promoting our manufacturing base known as the Alliance for American Manufacturing. Since 2014 (which is about the time I became more acquainted with them – perhaps an odd coincidence) they have put out a Made in America Holiday Gift Guide, for which the latest rendition is here. (As they note: if you can’t find what you’re looking for, they link to the previous four editions at the end of this year’s list.)

While Delaware and Maryland are represented on the 2018 list, they opted to go across the C&D Canal and Bay Bridge for their featured products this year. Still, if you peruse the Guide you’ll notice a couple things: many of these entrepreneurs have unique niches for which they target their products, and while all of them are internet-based (obviously, as they are linked from a webpage) not many have a “brick and mortar” location. It’s a testament to the American entrepreneur that we have combined the vast selection and ease of package shipping into something where we need not even participate in Black Friday anymore – yet all will arrive at our doorstep before Christmas.

Meanwhile, despite the fact the Patriot Voices group has curtailed its activities over the last couple years (insofar as it began as a vehicle to keep former Senator and two-time presidential candidate Rick Santorum in the stream of social conservative consciousness) they are still promoting their annual Made in the USA Christmas Challenge. As they argue:

Did you know that a large percentage of our Christmas gift dollars go overseas? For every $1 we spend in the USA on manufacturing, $1.81 will be added to the economy. That is a great deal!

Sometimes it is simply difficult to find products made in the USA. The next best thing would be to buy local. Support the small businesses and workers in your own community.

As yesterday was Small Business Saturday, it’s not too fine a point to note that, while large mega-retailers make headlines as teetering on the brink of insolvency if their Christmas season isn’t completely boffo, the same holds true for locally-owned shops but they fly under the radar. You don’t know they’re gone until you show up there one day and the store is dark.

Several years ago I began this little side hustle of talking about manufacturing because I was working for a now-defunct enterprise called American Certified, which perhaps was an idea before its time since the AAM also has a page for products made in America which are submitted by members of the public. There’s just not a cut of the action for AAM (insofar as I know, anyway) and I don’t write for their website. But it also points out the long-standing desire to support American-made products, which used to be the norm before industry cut and ran for far-flung points around the globe in the last half-century. A new generation of entrepreneurs might be turning back the clock, though, and that’s a move we can all support.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday we have what’s become known as Giving Tuesday. To delve slightly into the political, the Joe Biden-backed American Possibilities group has called on its supporters to instead take some time to give to the firefighters in California through the International Association of Fire Fighters Disaster Relief Fund.

Today, as we enjoy the warmth of our homes and the presence of our loved ones, we have the opportunity to help these heroes get back on their feet.

The union-based charity “Provides financial assistance to members living in disaster areas who have also experienced losses of their own and has provided more than $5 million dollars in assistance since its inception.”

For a more religious perspective, my friends at iVoterGuide have turned their attention from preparing for the next election cycle to helping out their favored charity.

As shoppers prepare for hitting the malls on Friday and grabbing online savings on “Cyber Monday,” a shift is being consciously made by many to turn the Tuesday after Thanksgiving into a national day of giving known as #GivingTuesday. We embrace this idea at iVoterGuide, and our staff is taking part in Operation Christmas Child — a project of Samaritan’s Purse. It’s an easy way to share the Gospel and help the needy.

They also had a little word for themselves:

Finally, if you would like to give back to iVoterGuide, we would appreciate you praying about any organizations or people with whom you might be able to connect us as we prepare for the 2020 elections. Might you know of an organization who would like to join our coalition of partners so that we can cover more down ballot races in more states? Do you know of someone who would like to help sponsor coverage of their state legislative races or support the work of iVoterGuide?

I was one of those who helped cover the Maryland races, and it was a neat experience. The good thing about Maryland is that they only have federal elections in 2020 (meaning the same amount of coverage for iVoterGuide that they had this time) which hopefully will lead to enhanced coverage of state races in 2022. It’s a long way from Cyber Monday, but sometimes the things we do today are only realized months or years later.

Hopefully any stuff you acquire won’t already be ignored in someone’s closet by then.

Shopping for America

As quickly as Thanksgiving has come up on us, I suppose it should be no shock to find a couple reminders of the holiday season hitting my e-mail box today. It’s even better when they tie in with the manufacturing theme I’ve had of late.

I’m sure I have discussed this a time or two before, but the advocacy group Patriot Voices (the group founded by former Senator and two-time Presidential candidate Rick Santorum) has asked people over the last five years to pledge to buy American for the holiday season. This year they made a different appeal based on the election:

For many years, we have been talking about how supporting the American worker and manufacturing will grow the economy in a way that benefits everyone. We all saw Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton by being a champion of these issues.

As we enter the Christmas season, millions of hard-working American families in the manufacturing industry or in communities impacted by that industry are struggling to make ends meet.

Rather than wait for Donald Trump to take office and implement new policies, we are going to do what we have done each Christmas for the past four years – ask you to take the Made In the USA Christmas Challenge below and lift up these workers!

Did you know that a large percentage of our Christmas gift dollars go overseas? For every $1 we spend in the USA on manufacturing, $1.81 will be added to the economy. That is a great deal!

Over the time between my receipt of the e-mail and me writing this piece, they have eclipsed 3,000 people taking the pledge. If you figure each can find $100 worth of American-made items they wouldn’t strive for otherwise, hey, that’s $300,000 more for deserving American companies. (They also stress the idea of patronizing small businesses, particularly this coming Saturday.)

Now it’s unfortunate that an outfit I once blogged for called American Certified is no longer around because this was right up their alley. (Hard to believe that was over two years ago now. A lot has changed since then.) But it just so happened that the group that qualifies for frequent flyer miles from my website, the Alliance for American Manufacturing, came out today with their annual Made in America Gift Guide that features one or more companies from all 50 states, and among them is a company from the Eastern Shore:

Maryland: Carlos Santana, Dave Navarro and Neal Schon are among the artists who have partnered with Paul Reed Smith Guitars, which manufactures high-quality instruments at its factory in Stevensville.

They are popular with the local musicians, too.

Needless to say, Scott Paul (the AAM President, who I frequently quote) added his own thoughts on the project:

We know it isn’t always easy to find American-made items at the mall or the big box stores. But by making sure there are at least a few American-made things on your list, you’ll help create jobs and support American workers.

As he noted this comes out in time for Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, and the rest of the season.

And speaking of Cyber Monday, I am going to shift gears so abruptly it leaves transmission pieces all over the road. Christmas is roughly the halfway point between baseball seasons and you know I’m jonesing from about September 10 on. (And you would be buying American, even if a percentage of the players come from other nations.)

Interesting to see the Lakewood ticket deal, as these seats will be in what used to be general admission (the old bleachers.)

So as people prepare to shop for their friends and loved ones, just keep these simple things in mind. If you can do it, you may as well buy American. Those people who really believed in what Donald Trump said will certainly tell you that next year your selection of American products will be “yuuuge.”

Showing their colors

On several occasions, since my brief dalliance with a company and website called American Certified – which, alas, is no longer in business – I have cited a group I first ran across around that timeframe called the Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM.) I have also pointed out that their perspective comes from their backing, as it is a conglomeration mainly composed of unionized steel manufacturers – so I always assumed they were more in line with the Democratic Party than the Republicans, which traditionally have been more in favor of free trade rather than protectionism.

So I had an e-mail in my back pocket that I was going to mention in a piece like this. Originally it laid out AAM’s plans for both conventions, but I received an updated version of their plans for the Democratic convention confirming that’s where the effort would be.

Here was their slate for the GOP in Cleveland:

AAM is hosting the Keep it Made in America tent, a space located just outside the Quicken Loans arena where we are chatting with convention-goers about ways to grow American manufacturing jobs. We also are speaking at a number of state delegation breakfasts, sharing with local, state and national lawmakers the issues that we think must be on their policy agendas.

AAM president Scott Paul added in a blog post last week:

(T)rade and the atrophy of middle-income factory jobs are dominating the national political discussion. Trump talks about it constantly. But he’s not alone, and this is the first time in the post-World War II era that we’ve seen both party candidates take the issue so seriously.

It’s better late than never. Before you write off Trump’s bellicose “45 percent tariff” rhetoric as low-brow protectionism – or find the change of heart on the Trans-Pacific Partnership that Hillary Clinton experienced on the trail a little too politically convenient – keep in in mind that a lot of our fellow Americans agree with this sentiment. They certainly do here in Ohio.

The logic behind free trade, though, is that nations benefit when value is maximized and it may be possible to add more value to a product in another location than it is in America. Yet the AAM argues – correctly to an extent – that nations like China take advantage of the rules by not dealing fairly through a policy of subsidizing industries and currency manipulation.

On the other hand, though, AAM will certainly be pulling out all the stops for the Democrats in Philadelphia, including what they describe as a “scene-setting Town Hall meeting”:

The Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM) is hosting a conversation about why these issues matter for our economy, our children’s future and our politics today.

Recent focus group and polling data show these topics are driving voters’ decisions on which candidate to select. Both Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump have been aggressive in defining their plans for trade and manufacturing.

Confirmed Speakers Include:

  • Gene Sperling, key economic adviser to Hillary Clinton
  • Leo Gerard, president of the United Steelworkers
  • Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA 3rd District)
  • Mark Mellman, award-winning pollster for Democratic leaders
  • Scott Paul, president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing
  • Mike Langford, president of the Utility Workers Union of America
  • Tom Conway, international vice president of the United Steelworkers

This to me represents less of an exchange of information as it would be an echo chamber.

Protectionism and punishing corporations that choose to offshore manufacturing is one possible answer, of course. But the thing I always think about when this conversation comes up is the East German Trabant automobile that was hopelessly stuck decades behind the times when Germany finally reunited in 1990. Because it had a protected market, what incentive did Trabant have for improvement?

Unfortunately, a short-sighted government-centered approach that saw manufacturers as cash cows for big government and favored the big guys over leaner, hungrier start-ups through regulation too burdensome for smaller competitors to withstand has done as much (or more) to curtail American manufacturing as our trade policies have. While I certainly don’t believe many of our larger trade agreements were tailored to suit our interests enough, for the most part it’s the complexity of the deals and how they worked out exceptions for certain industries and players that is the issue. If we simply said “we won’t tariff your stuff if you don’t tariff ours” and both sides stuck to it, eventually the market would find its own level. America should be able to use the advantages of a predictable legal system, well-educated workforce, abundant sources of energy, and outstanding transportation network, but they are negated by the policies in place that I describe above.

The generation of my grandparents won World War II by being able to produce within our borders much of the material and equipment needed to keep a two-front fighting force going. Can anyone honestly say we could do that today? I don’t wish us to be on a war footing, but I’m convinced America can be a place that makes things again. It’s a simple matter of policy over protectionism, and adopting a hands-off approach at the federal level (yes, there’s that limited government idea of mine again) would be the best course of action. I just don’t think AAM would be willing to listen to that argument.

Another Trump criticism

Donald Trump took a lot of criticism from all sides last night, so this little bit of piling on won’t make much of a dent in his self-esteem. But Scott Paul of the Alliance for American Manufacturing found another reason to diss on The Donald:

Love him or hate him, Donald Trump is never shy in front of the camera, and his appearance at tonight’s first big GOP presidential debate will be must-see TV – especially because he takes a hard line on unfair trade with China.

Here’s one question I’d love to hear him answer: Why aren’t any of his Trump-branded goods made in America?

(snip)

During his campaign announcement speech and plenty of times since on the stump, Donald Trump has blamed China and Mexico for the loss of American manufacturing jobs. But, again, his own Trump-branded stuff is made overseas.

Trump certainly talks tough on China, jobs, and trade, but he doesn’t back it up with his own actions – while many manufacturers fight to Make it in America in spite of the odds.

I don’t believe Scott Paul is related to Rand, by the way. But this Paul’s statement is actually a valid point to make, particularly when Trump makes a loser out of America by manufacturing his goods elsewhere.

The AAM has also vowed to check on the other candidates as well, although they seem to be a bit behind. One notable omission on the Democratic side is Martin O’Malley. I did a cursory check of his website, though, and found he has no merchandise store. (Now I feel like I need a shower, though.)

When there are millions of dollars flowing through a campaign, there shouldn’t be a question about making the goods in America where possible. Given the fact most campaign merchandise comes from the apparel and printing industry it should not be hard to find these items. (Surely my old friends at American Certified can help with that.) Naturally Democrats prefer to have all their items come from union shops, while Republicans have their own list of favored suppliers. On a local level, we know which businesses are owned by Republicans so we try and steer business their way.

Like it or not, political campaigns are a multi-billion dollar business – especially on the Presidential level. So why not keep that money flowing in American hands? Hopefully the Alliance for American Manufacturing will be pleased with the level of American products they find in the various campaigns.

It also reminds me to plug my dossier series, as trade and job creation is next on the schedule. I am shooting for early next week with that one.

AC Week in review: September 14, 2014

First of all, let me get you up to speed on what I wrote.

In my first featured piece, I took a look at what’s being called a “skills mismatch.” It’s the reason a million jobs are going unfilled. I also got resolution at long last on the vexing problem of dumping a steel product called Oil Country Trading Goods, where Korea was found to be indeed running afoul of the law and had punitive tariffs placed on their products.

And that’s where I left it. But there are reasons.

Back at the end of August, just before Labor Day, I found out the editor who I was working with at AC was leaving the company. In his place came another editor, but also a fairly dramatic change in the purpose of the American Certified blogs. Instead of featuring news, analysis, and information, the new direction would be along the lines of quirky, list-driven stories, more in the style of a BuzzFeed. It’s just not something I enjoy writing, so I decided after some thought to part ways with them for the time being. If they decide they want to get back to meatier content, they know where to find me.

Listen, I hope the new direction works well for them because the overall concept of the company is something I’m firmly behind. If it takes a BuzzFeed clone for them to drive business and succeed, I’m happy to step aside for their good. But I have the opinion that there’s always room for gravitas.

Moreover, this experience has piqued a new branch of interest I enjoyed working with. My intention with the Sausage Grinder site was along the lines of what the company originally intended:

Finally, American Certified will feature news and blogs depicting thorough analysis and trends related to the most recent happenings in American manufacturing and consumption. Members of the press and AC shoppers can sign up for a free weekly news summary, reporting on the Buy American movement from all sides, without bias.

I thought I did my part toward that end, but perhaps it just wasn’t something worthy of attention. It would have helped to have more faithful writers to build the readership, but that is what it is. I found out coming up with content is tough when you aren’t doing it full-time.

But as it turns out, though, I’m not sure they ever did the weekly news summary – as part of seeking that job I put a mock version together. That was a pity because I thought I did well in knocking the test summary out. Now it’s all water under the bridge.

And while the storyline about OCTG I cited above came to a conclusion, there are a lot of others I don’t want to leave hanging. Go back through these “AC Week in review” posts and you’ll find a lot of topics worth discussing. I’m hoping to add more of that content here as sort of a step away from the horserace aspect of politics and into more of a policy arena.

But again, I wish the AC crew the best of luck. I was hoping it would be more than a four-month endeavor, but at least I got the experience, a few dollars along the way, and a great opening party in a town I’d never heretofore visited. And as I said before, I’m not closing the door if they’re not.

So now I will have to find something to fill my Sunday space again. Sheesh, no more Shorebird of the Week on Thursday or AC Week in review on Sunday – I might have to become creative.

Odds and ends number 74

Believe it or not, this feature which used to be a staple of my site has gone dormant for over 18 months. But I decided to resurrect it because all these financial reports I’ve been doing as well as other regular features have taken up my time and allowed my e-mail box to become dangerously full of items which were rapidly running out of shelf life. So here you go: the return of odds and ends for what promises to be a cameo appearance.

As evidence of that shelf life, I wanted to bring up a thoughtful piece by my friend Rick Manning – not to be confused with the former Cleveland Indians outfielder – regarding the prospect of a continuing resolution for federal spending which would expire in December, necessitating a lame duck session.

Manning is right in believing that the strategy is fraught with peril, and if the pre-election polling is correct and Republicans take over the Senate come January this only invites Democrats to lay a few traps as they back out the door. Of course, if Congress (read: the Senate) would actually do its job and get the budget work done before the federal fiscal year begins on October 1, this wouldn’t be a problem.

One Senator, Rand Paul, received some criticism from Timothy H. Lee of the Center for Individual Freedom, who noted Paul’s flip-flop on foreign policy neatly coincided with a shift in public opinion regarding the Islamic State.

Returning to the fold of NetRightDaily – which has been on a content roll lately – I found someone who agrees with me on the Seventeenth Amendment. Tom Toth lays out the case, although I think we should do a couple other amendments first. Obviously this would probably change the composition of the Senate rather quickly to an almost perpetually Republican body, but someone needs to look out for the states and that element is missing in modern politics.

Something else Congress should get to (but probably won’t) are curbs on civil forfeiture, the subject of a recent push by the Institute for Justice. The bills themselves were introduced back in July by Sen. Paul and Rep. Tim Walberg, but while IJ has been doggedly against what they call “policing for profit” for several years, this latest offensive stems from a petition drive and video the group has done detailing abuses of the process in Philadelphia.

It’s clear the libertarian-leaning group doesn’t like the idea, and with good reason. Think of it as the step beyond speed cameras.

Philadelphia also figures prominently into my next piece. I’ll explain this more on Sunday, but there were a number of pieces I was perhaps intending to use for my American Certified site but instead will be mentioned in brief here.

One group which has made it to those pages a lot is the Alliance for American Manufacturing. Certainly they complain a lot about the trade deficit with China but AAM President Scott Paul (no relation to Rand Paul) also made a great point about the continuing lack of manufacturing jobs.

This jobs report is a big disappointment for factory workers. While we can never read too much into just a month’s worth of data, a goose egg for manufacturing doesn’t look like progress to me. And it will be hard to consistently move the manufacturing jobs number up unless our goods trade deficit with China comes down.

Two years ago President Obama campaigned on a pledge to create one million new manufacturing jobs in his second term. Our #AAMeter shows progress toward that goal is stalling. A national manufacturing strategy could help get us back on track.

Yes, they track the progress toward that elusive one million jobs, and Obama stands at a puny 193,000. It’s surprising because as Rick Manning stated in an earlier piece, we have the energy resources to bring American manufacturing back. We’re now number 1 in natural gas production, and our energy dominance serves to stabilize world prices, says Mark Green of API.

Looking at it from the perspective of state government, a recent video by Republican gubernatorial candidate Larry Hogan explained his thoughts on creating opportunity.

The key phrase in this video comes early on, when Hogan talks about his appointments. This is an opportunity which is rarely discussed, but when Democrats have run this state for all but four years of the last forty, the pool of those who get to be department heads becomes ossified. The Glendening appointee to one office may have been O’Malley’s point guy somewhere else and would be on the short list for Anthony Brown.

But if Larry Hogan can resist the temptation to overly rely on his buddies from the Ehrlich administration, we have the potential for real reform and new ideas at the department level.

Another reform is being pushed by the Maryland Liberty PAC, and Republicans will be pleased to know they are firing in the right direction by attacking the “toxic track record” of District 34A Democratic nominee Mary Ann Lisanti. They didn’t catch this gem, though.

Finally, I wanted to promote something a fellow blogger is trying. Peter Ingemi (aka DaTechGuy) has a radio spot for you:

It’s near the end of the year when everyone’s ad budgets are pretty empty so as I’ve got some ad space left on my radio show I’ve got an offer to make exclusively to the bloggers, advocates & folk on my e-mail blast.

Produce a 15 second plug for your blog, podcast or web site and for only $30 I’ll include it on my radio show DaTechGuy on DaRadio for a FULL MONTH.

That’s not only 70% off the normal price but it also means your plug will be included on broadcast replays, my own podcast replay, the live replay on FTR Radio and all four weekly replays on the 405media Tuesday through Friday. And if you want an even better deal I’ll give you 30 seconds for just $50 a month (or I’ll replay your 15 second spot twice).

This is a great chance to get your blog some national exposure on multiple platforms that you might not currently be reaching. (His emphasis, not mine.)

He’s the consummate salesman, is he not? But I have him beat, at least in terms of price. I’m not doing a radio show anytime soon, though.

And I may not be doing another odds and ends soon either. But it was fun to go back and put one together for old times’ sake.

AC Week in review: August 24, 2014

I didn’t get as much in as I would have liked, but as promised I did speak to some trade issues last week.

In the meantime, my AC cohort Ed Braxton continued his look at how manufacturing is moving beyond labor. In the first decade of the 21st century, a net of 5 million workers exited the manufacturing field; meanwhile, the composition of those who remained began to change.

This actually goes hand-in-glove with something I featured a few weeks ago, summarizing a report where the authors’ contention was that the standard tool of future manufacturing workers wouldn’t be a wrench but an iPad. While there will always be a need for human hands to make certain things, the lack of physical activity required for manufacturing many common objects shows the need for brains exceeds the need for brawn.

My editor Sean Keefe is now part of the writing team, with his first piece being an interview with an American brush maker. Interestingly enough, one piece of advice Alan Schechter of Gordon Brush Manufacturing Company had: “Have a strong voice to your politicians to support American made.” That brings me to my two pieces for the week.

The kernel of one post began as a remark Andy Harris made at his recent town hall meeting. I think I’d heard it before, but the fact that Russia halted imports of American agricultural products in response to our sanctions for their bad behavior in Ukraine reminded me that “made in America” still has to serve a global market, and trade wars hurt all of us. Yet trying to put these pacts together and iron out differences is akin to herding cats, particularly when a dozen nations sit around the table and Congress is feeling left out. Both are the case with the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership.

So it was a somewhat slow week, although late last week I read that one story I’ve followed for awhile has reached a resolution. There’s also some movement in the energy sector that may spur a story, too.

I haven’t decided yet if I’m going to bury my next AC review on Labor Day weekend or wait two weeks, so sit tight. I guess it depends how much I write over the next week – hopefully it will be a productive one in all aspects.

AC Week in review: August 17, 2014

I put together a few things this week, and what’s apparent to me is that the political world doesn’t really take a break in August.

Take for example the late-session attempt to promote “Buy American.” Does it really have a chance in Congress before the session ends? Probably not, but it keeps Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown in the headlines and the favor of his friends in organized labor.

But labor should be more concerned about some of the points brought up by my AC cohort Ed Braxton in two articles this week, particularly if his assertion that manufacturing is moving beyond labor is correct. But he also contends that American-made is gaining credibility again in the global marketplace.

On the other hand, we seem to have an Environmental Protection Agency which is bound and determined to drive jobs back overseas. Coal miners and their allies came out in force to recent EPA hearings in Pittsburgh, driven by a proposed standard which they contend would all but wipe out their industry. As a buttress to their contention, it was also revealed that a separate EPA effort to reduce ozone standards to as low as 60 parts per billion (from a current level of 75 parts per billion, established in 2008) would cost the American economy dearly. Perhaps the worst thing is that the EPA doesn’t even know itself how compliance can be attained.

Having sat down and written a couple pieces for next week, I can tell you trade will be on my radar screen. As is often the case, politics will play a role there but you’ll have to wait and see how I interpreted it.

AC Week in review – August 10, 2014

Thanks to a slow week a few days back I skipped an installment of my AC week in review – but I’ve come back with some new stuff.

On Friday I posted a piece about Andy Harris’s Salisbury town hall meeting. It was intended to be a followup of sorts to this piece I posted at the AC site regarding questions which should be asked at these gatherings – and as you hopefully read Friday, my question in that vein was indeed answered by the Congressman.

Oddly enough, the answer to my question at that town hall touched on a concern expressed by my AC blogmate Ed Braxton, who wrote about America’s high tax rates in a piece he did a week ago. But in a seeming contradiction, Ed penned a piece dealing with the decline in the necessity for manufacturing labor because workers today are much more productive than our forefathers were, while I noted that manufacturing employment was on the upswing last month.

One thing I didn’t ask Andy Harris about was his inclination to support the Ex-Im Bank, a saga which has played out over the last few months as some manufacturers would like to keep it going while conservatives consider it a piece of corporate cronyism. There aren’t too many session days left before the September 30 deadline, a fact I mentioned in this piece from last week.

There is one more item I wrote last week, and I’m hoping it gets on the site early next week because it looked at the recent EPA power plant emissions hearings in Pittsburgh. Regardless, it’s a topic which deserves comment and the opportunity is still there.

As I recall, there are a couple other stories I’ve been following which reach milestones as well. We may learn the fate of the OCTG complaint against South Korea this week, and there’s movement elsewhere on the trade front, too. I might see about writing a piece on something I learned Thursday night as well.

So hopefully my next installment will be chock full of good information. Generally I spend time on the weekends writing for AC so it’s ready early in the week. Looks like I may be busy.

AC Week in review – July 27, 2014

Thought I was missing something this morning. Oh well, it gave my previous post a little time to breathe.

Actually, I had a busy week outside the AC realm – actually, outside the entire realm of writing. Running around for the outside job will do that to you.

Fortunately, my slack was picked up around the AC world. Take, for example, the news that Volkswagen’s new SUV will be made in America – more specifically, at the Chattanooga plant that just became unionized via the back door. So it’s good news for the plant and perhaps better news for American consumers, even those residing locally as we have a relatively new Volkswagen dealership.

While German-based VW brings more production to America, though, others are considering the opposite move. AC colleague Ed Braxton reveals one reason why in his look at high domestic business tax rates, but the practice of tax inversion has led to a call from the Obama administration for “economic patriotism.” (I got to expand on this a little bit on the Patriot Post as well.)

But whether it’s Volkswagens coming in or businesses moving out, infrastructure remains a concern. Barack Obama’s recent stop in Wilmington was the site of his unfortunate Malaysian Flight MH17 comment, but it was originally intended as the backdrop for a new infrastructure initiative and announcement of an upcoming summit on the subject, all thanks to the I-495 bridge debacle.

(When you think about it, though, we really have to give credit to those up in Delaware who discovered the issue and are addressing it. You may recall a couple other interstate bridge collapses in recent years with tragic results.)

Next week should be a more fruitful week, although Washington will soon be in vacation mode. I’m sure I can find something to write about.

AC Week in review – July 20, 2014

It was a varied palette of items written about on my American Certified blog, The Sausage Grinder. Maybe it was a little more like scrapple. Regardless, I made several contributions to the discourse.

For most of the spring and summer, I’ve been following a sort of obscure Commerce Department case regarding allegations of Korean dumping of a processed steel piping product called Oil Country Tubular Goods – it’s strange that Korea is an OCTG producer when it has little oil. They made a decision favoring American steelworkers, which got positive reaction from a variety of interests.

One of those I quoted in the Commerce piece was the leader of the steelworkers’ union. His fellows at the United Auto Workers got an unexpected surprise from Volkswagen, which let the UAW in the back door despite workers at the Chattanooga plant voting against the UAW in February.

The concept of economic patriotism was brought out last week in a letter from Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, who pressed Congress to do something about the practice of tax inversion, where companies transfer assets overseas to take advantage of lower tax rates. While I didn’t bring up the argument in my piece, locally it’s just like the practice of stores selling big-ticket items locating just across the Delaware line so they can advertise their “no sales tax” prices and hope to increase volume accordingly.

Finally, I restated the obvious: Obamacare rates will go up in 2015. In a government takeover of the health insurance industry, did you really expect otherwise?

As always, I’m working on new stuff for next week, with other stories to follow.

June unemployment figure drops, but manufacturing jobs lag

Editor’s note: These were originally prepared for my American Certified Sausage Grinder blog as two different pieces but not used there. It’s a good opportunity to introduce readers who haven’t gone there to check it out (although I have to ask – why haven’t you already?) to the somewhat different style I employ there. Think of it as a sampler plate.

Last Thursday – a day early due to the Independence Day holiday – the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced the June unemployment rate had decreased to 6.1%, which is the lowest rate in nearly six years. A total of 288,000 jobs were added in June; in addition, an extra 29,000 jobs were added in adjustments to April and May’s figures.

All this should be good news, but manufacturing jobs only increased by 16,000 over the period. This brought the ire of Alliance for American Manufacturing president Scott Paul, who complained that:

While the low-wage recovery progresses full bore, the June jobs report shows that high-wage job growth is at a standstill. Manufacturing accounted for only 5.6 percent of job growth in June, far below its weight in the wider economy. Construction job growth was even slower.

Looking for a reason why? It’s all about public policy. Our growing trade deficit with China, currency manipulation by overseas competitors, and a paucity of investment in infrastructure are leaving factory jobs at a virtual standstill. President Obama’s vision of creating 1 million new manufacturing job during his second term is way off track.

According to AAM, the total manufacturing job growth over Obama’s second term stands at 156,000 – far short of the pace necessary to achieve a million new jobs before 2017. That pessimism extends to the public at large, as a Rasmussen Poll indicated just 23% of Americans believed the unemployment rate will be lower next year.

On the other hand, writing at the Shopfloor blog, economist Chad Mowtray of the National Association of Manufacturers took a more optimistic view, calling the report “mostly positive news.” And while he stressed that wages were increasing at a solid clip, he also pointed out that labor force participation rates were still a source of worry.

Strangely enough, a report on exports for May also came out Thursday, as the Commerce Department announced U.S. exports of goods and services hit a record $195.5 billion high. Many in the steel industry – as well as dozens in Congress – are awaiting next week’s determination on possible dumping penalties against South Korea, while other exporters are lobbying for Congress to act on re-authorization of the Export-Import Bank before the September 30 deadline. Going forward, these determinations could affect future unemployment numbers as well as prospects for those who want to make things in America.

On a state level, though, the news was better.

In order to make things in America, workers are needed. And recently released employment data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows manufacturing employment was up year-over-year in May in 44 of the 50 states. (Page 17 here.)

With all the winners, though, it may be time to ask about the losers. The six laggards in the field were Alaska (down 1,800 jobs), California (down 1,400 jobs), Georgia (down 900 jobs), Kansas (down 1,700 jobs), Maryland (down 600 jobs), and North Carolina (down 300 jobs).

Alaska is an interesting case as it reflects in part the fortunes of its oil industry – just a few short years ago it was the only state gaining manufacturing jobs long-term over the decade from 2001-11. But a steady decline in oil production has hampered its local economy, and the state lost nearly 13% of its manufacturing jobs over the last year.

The other significant loser is Kansas, but a regional university’s study predicts an upswing in manufacturing employment over the next three months.

Out of the six where manufacturing employment declined, there is no clear political or labor pattern which can be discerned. Four of the six states have legislatures controlled by Republicans, but that’s fairly proportionate to the 28-17 advantage Republicans have overall. Three of the six are right-to-work states, which also reflects the close 24-26 split between our national composition of right-to-work vs. forced unionism states.

Conversely, the states which did quite well over the last year tended to be the ones bordering the Great Lakes. Minnesota (up 4,400 jobs), Wisconsin (up 1,400 jobs), Illinois (up 900 jobs), Indiana (up 2,900 jobs), Michigan (up 8,500 jobs), Ohio (up 5,800 jobs), Pennsylvania (up 3,100 jobs), and New York (up 600 jobs) all benefited, with Michigan’s first-in-the-nation increase by itself making up for the six states which lost workers. It appears a healthier auto industry is leading the charge.