Manufacturing and the Presidential Elections

The pundits tell us that the numerous television debates in this presidential cycle have been more important than in the past, more important perhaps than the retail politics of giving speeches, shaking hands and kissing babies.  So what are the Republican candidates saying about manufacturing? According to the Alliance for American Manufacturing, the word “manufacturing” does not even appear in the transcript of the September 8 debate at the Ronald Reagan Library in California.

In other debates, however, all the Republican candidates have spoken about jobs, the economy, health care, trade, energy, the environment, taxes and other topics related to manufacturing. But two have spoken out most clearly, most forcefully and most specifically about what they would do to strengthen manufacturing in the United States.

From my reading of their direct quotations from recent debates, those two were Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney.

Rick Santorum

“…that’s why I focus all of the real big changes in the tax code at manufacturing. I cut the corporate rate for manufacturing to zero, repeal all regulations affecting manufacturers that cost over $100 million and replace them with something that’s friendlier, they can work with. We repatriate $1.2 trillion that manufacturers made overseas and allow them to bring it back here, if they invest in plants and equipment. They can do it without having to pay any — any excise tax.”  10/19/2011 at the debate sponsored by CNN and the Western Republican Leadership Conference.

Mitt Romney

“First, taxes. I will cut the corporate tax rate to make America a more attractive place for manufacturers to invest. Second, regulation. I will reduce the regulatory burden on American companies, which falls disproportionately on manufacturers. Third, trade. I will open new markets for our goods around the world by completing free trade agreements. Fourth, energy. I will move aggressively to develop our natural resources and domestic energy supply. Fifth, labor. I will reform our labor laws to protect the principles of free enterprise, free choice and free speech. Sixth, human capital. I will reform our retraining programs to facilitate on-the-job training provided by real employers. Seventh, fiscal policy. I will rein in the out-of-control government spending that threatens our long-term prosperity and discourages investment in our economy. This includes the repeal of Obamacare.”  11/2/2011 response to the Des Moines Register after he missed the Manufacturing Forum in Pella, IA, on 11/01/2011.

You can track all the candidates’ latest statements on manufacturing (as well as debate transcripts) at Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM), ostensibly a non-partisan, non-profit partnership between leading American manufacturers and the United Steel Workers. (To the extent that I could detect any bias, it was toward those issues on which management and labor in the steel industry agree, e.g. China’s currency manipulation.)  AAM’s “mission is to promote creative policy solutions on such priorities as international trade, energy security, health care, retirement security, currency manipulation and other issues of mutual concern.”


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