Posts from Matthew McMullan

Robots On Everyone’s Mind At the Fourth Democratic Debate

Matthew McMullan

Matthew McMullan Communications Manager, Alliance for American Manufacturing

Another hours-long primary debate is in the books. There were 12 candidates on stage last night! For another three hours! Not a great format for TV!

That said: One of these people could be in the White House in a little over a year from now, so we should probably pay a little attention, even if we're still months away from voting. So let’s boil it down. What did we notice in last night's debate?  

Elizabeth Warren on trade vs. automation 

Moderator: “Senator Warren, you wrote that blaming job loss on automation is, quote, ‘a good story, except it's not really true.’ So should workers here in Ohio not be worried about losing their jobs to automation?”

Warren: “So the data show that we have had a lot of problems with losing jobs, but the principal reason has been bad trade policy. The principal reason has been a bunch of corporations, giant multinational corporations who've been calling the shots on trade, giant multinational corporations that have no loyalty to America. They have no loyalty to American workers. They have no loyalty to American consumers. They have no loyalty to American communities. They are loyal only to their own bottom line.”

“I have a plan to fix that, and it's accountable capitalism. It says, you want to have one of the giant corporations in America? Then, by golly, 40 percent of your board of directors should be elected by your employees.”

Insta-Analysis: That is indeed Sen. Warren’s plan. Requiring 40 percent of all corporate boards to worker-elected is not the only part of it, but it’s a real big part. You can read about the rest here.

Is she right, though, that trade’s a bigger job-loss culprit than automation? It depends on which jobs you’re talking about. Manufacturing jobs have definitely been lost as we’ve run up trade deficits with China over the years. There’s a plausible argument to be made that import competition killed off factory employment in the United States.  

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Manufacturing Rebounds in August

Matthew McMullan

Matthew McMullan Communications Manager, Alliance for American Manufacturing

So check it out, we’ve got another economic indicator out. And this one – unlike another recent one – is good!

The Federal Reserve said Tuesday that U.S. manufacturing output rose by 0.6% in August on the back of machinery and primary metals production. That may sound like only a little, but it beats a forecast returned by a poll of economists conducted by Reuters. From the story:

Motor vehicles and parts production fell 1.0% last month after increasing 0.5% in July. Excluding motor vehicles and parts, manufacturing output increased 0.6% in August after declining 0.5% in the prior month. Machinery output rebounded 1.6% after dropping 1.7% in July.

The jump in manufacturing output in August together with a 1.4% rebound in mining, lead to a 0.6% increase in industrial production last month. That was the largest gain in industrial output since August 2018 and followed a 0.1% dip July. Industrial production rose 0.4% on year-on-year basis in August.

Capacity utilization rates were up too. It’s a nice rebound in fortunes from the recently released ISM Manufacturing index, which signaled a further slowdown in economic activity.

So while its numbers aren’t astounding, manufacturing isn’t completely tanking. But the longer-term forecasts aren’t great, either. MarketWatch asked around, and those it spoke to said that the negative trend is likely to continue.

We’ve said it before and we’ve said it again: Infrastructure spending is the right way to turn this around.

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Reposted from AAM

Is Manufacturing Slowing Down?

Matthew McMullan

Matthew McMullan Communications Manager, Alliance for American Manufacturing

There was new ISM data released today. And it wasn’t good. Oh no!

The Institute for Supply Management (ISM)’s monthly index is considered a pretty good gauge of activity in the U.S. manufacturing sector. ISM goes around, asks a bunch of folks whether they’re buying supplies or not, and averages them (and their comments) out. A score above 50% is good. Below is bad – it suggests a contraction in manufacturing activity. Anyway, it’s now at 49.1%.

This is no guarantee the manufacturing sector is about to slip. Somebody on the Internet who is paid to do economic analysis pointed out:

Meanwhile, another important gauge of the manufacturing sector’s health – employment data – will be out this Friday when the jobs report comes out.

But look, let's say this is fraying your nerves. The trade fight with China is dragging a little bit, the fight seems to be a drag on manufacutirng, and President Trump seems to be trying to influence it all by tweet.

Is there something Congress could do … that polls well … that Trump himself says (or at least implies) he wants … and is incredibly overdue … that could help improve the fortunes of the American manufacturing sector?

Infra … infrastruct … I can’t think of the word!

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Reposted from AAM

America’s Spies Considering What Happens if Huawei Wins the 5G Race

Matthew McMullan

Matthew McMullan Communications Manager, Alliance for American Manufacturing

There was a really interesting story published Monday morning in Politico about the U.S. intelligence community’s assessment of Huawei, the Chinese telecom giant it largely sees as a security threat because of its ties to the Chinese military. They spent the weekend gaming out what it would look like if Huawei indeed emerges over its competitors as the dominant force in 5G technology – basically, the computer infrastructure that will underpin the economy for the foreseeable future.

It’s an interesting thought experiment! It’s a complicated issue, made more complex by the fact that President Trump …

… has politicized the living heck out of the Huawei issue by essentially making it a chit in trade talks with the Chinese government. Not good!

The president’s Commerce Department blacklisted Huawei a few months ago on national security grounds because of fears the company will use “back doors” in its tech to facilitate espionage. What’s more:

“Trump has also signed an executive order that would block Huawei from selling equipment in the U.S. and Congress passed a law last year that would ban procurement of Huawei products by federal agencies.”

And yet:

“One person involved in last week’s exercise said it’s clear the meeting was focused on the long term and not meant to offer an immediate policy solution in the context of Trump’s trade fight.

“‘The timeline of this is not consistent with the way the president looks at the world,’ the person said.”

Today, Commerce announced a 90-day reprieve on its Huawei ban, so the many rural telecom companies in the States that rely on Huawei equipment will have more time to decouple. The New York Times reports that the administration is keeping up an appearance of pressure by adding nearly 50 Huawei affiliates to that blacklist.

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Move to Missouri or Lose Your Job: GM Workers Facing Hard Choices

Matthew McMullan

Matthew McMullan Communications Manager, Alliance for American Manufacturing

Around here the best stuff is $16 an hour, an hour, hour and a half from my house. Anything else is nine to 11 dollars, and that just doesn’t cut it. When I was working that before I started at GM, my credit cards just kept getting fuller and fuller just trying to make it.”

So Lincoln Fegley, a northeast Ohio native who worked at General Motors’ Lordstown plant until the company mothballed it a few months ago, took the forced transfer notice he was handed and moved his family to Wentzville, Missouri where GM makes vans.  

That’s like 600 miles from his friends and family, and not an easy decision to make. But decisions like these are being made a lot. GM says it will provide positions for the 2,800 affected workers who want one, and says 1,700 of them have already done so.

Of course, though, it’s even more complicated than that: GM’s contract with the United Auto Workers (UAW) union is up, and negotiations on the next one begin in September. Reopening some of the plants GM closed in this round of restructuring is expected to be on the bargaining table.

So, if you’re an affected worker … what do you do? Volunteer to move?

Do sell your house, pack up your family, and move to a different time zone?

Or do you hope you don’t get a forced transfer notice (like the one Lincoln Fegley got)? Turn it down when it arrives and lose your unemployment benefits and the right to transfer to another GM plant closer to home?

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Trade War Update: More Tariffs Go Up

Matthew McMullan

Matthew McMullan Communications Manager, Alliance for American Manufacturing

These days there’s enough happening on the Trump administration’s trade agenda that it warrants a weekly update. It’s Tuesday! And we’re gonna talk about trade!

It’s Trade Tuesday!

Last week President Trump, on the advice of his trade negotiator, further raised tariffs on Chinese imports after Chinese negotiators made sweeping revisions to agreements the U.S. side believed were settled.

Those Chinese negotiators still arrived in Washington for talks a few days later, apparently just to keep the talks going. The U.S. tariffs went up while they were still in town, and China has since retaliated with more tariffs against American imports of its own – and its state-run media outlets, which have until now been relatively quiet on the topic of the American trade dispute, are now getting involved. This editorial was featured in the Xinhua News Agency and the People’s Daily:

“The most important thing is that in the Sino-U.S. trade war, the American side fights because of greed and arrogance. If it does not brag and make up stories, the country’s morale will break. China is fighting back to protect its legitimate rights and interests.”

“… The trade war in the United States is the creation of one person and his administration who have swept along the entire population of the country. Whereas, the entire country and all the people of China are being threatened. For us, this is a real ‘people's war.’”

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Trump, Democrats Play Nice on Infrastructure

Matthew McMullan

Matthew McMullan Communications Manager, Alliance for American Manufacturing

You’d think that President Trump and Congressional Democrats would be loathe to work together to get any kind of legislation enacted in Washington, especially as a presidential election cycle heats up. Right? That’s what I’d think, and I’m a very smart politics-knower.

But it looks like they’re going to give it a shot, though! Good on ’em!

No word from the president, who was busy after the meeting trying to influence policy at the Federal Reserve via Twitter. But that Tic-tac is a good sign. And, according to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, it was a “productive” meeting. And White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said as much, too.

Pelosi told reporters that they and the president agreed on two things. First, the entire package should be total $2 trillion, which is no small increase from the $200 billion Trump earmarked for infrastructure spending in his last budget proposal (the administration, for what it’s worth, claimed that $200 billion would seed an additional $800 billion in private spending).

Second, they agreed to meet again in three weeks to hear the president’s proposals for funding such a package – because, as Schumer pointed out, without Trump already on board it will be hard to move anything through the Senate.

The Democrats, in advance of their White House visit, sent a letter to the president saying any infrastructure package they would support must account for climate change, which is a priority on the left; and it must include “Buy America” provisions to keep all of this spending in the 50 states and create American manufacturing jobs, which polling shows is a priority for everybody.

You’ll recall that President Trump has signed more than one executive order regarding Buy America, which reveals that the administration understands just how popular these kinds of rules are, but does little else; the orders are more or less superficial.

“In terms of legislative policy and regulatory impact, there was none whatsoever,” Alliance for American Manufacturing President Scott Paul recently told the American Prospect. “The practical effect of what the administration has done is virtually nothing.”

Maybe it’ll be in an honest-to-god, humongous and long-overdue infrastructure package that the president finally gets serious about Buy America? Time will tell. 

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Reposted from AAM

New National Poll: We Want Infrastructure, and We Want it American-made

Matthew McMullan

Matthew McMullan Communications Manager, Alliance for American Manufacturing

What do Americans agree on?

Not much, man! They don’t agree on what’s the best place to get a sandwich or where to live (to settle this debate: the best place to get a sandwich is actually here, everybody). But they doagree that it’s a good idea to avoid talking politics over Thanksgiving dinner.

They also agree on this: A new poll shows that basically everybody, regardless of political affiliation, thinks the federal government should put a boatload of money into infrastructure projects and they should attach Buy America procurement policies to those dollars. Buy America rules get the support of 80 percent of us, the poll found, while only 15 percent of respondents oppose them.

It’s true. While President Trump – the same guy from this commercial – and congressional Democrats wrestle over the release of his tax returns the rest of us, according to the bipartisan poll conducted by Mark Mellman and Bill McInturff, would rather they prioritize infrastructure spending. According to the poll, we want it more than a lot of other policy proposals.

It’s pretty remarkable, and it isn’t anything new; every year polling returns similar results. Here's 201820172016, and 2015. And this consistent popularity isn’t lost on politicians. The president, for example, is down in Texas today to show off a couple of executive orders that are meant to fast-track energy infrastructure development.

O.K., Mr. President, that’s some good politicking … But voters want that infrastructure to be American-made, by American workers, so that the economic benefits from federal spending stay in American communities. And the last couple of executive orders the president has already rolled around on these very topics – building out energy infrastructure and making more federal spending American-made – have been all bark and no bite. They haven’t gone anywhere!

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The Lordstown Workers Gave Up a Lot in an Attempt to Save Their Plant

Matthew McMullan

Matthew McMullan Communications Manager, Alliance for American Manufacturing

A couple of weeks ago President Trump offered a helpful tweet to the autoworkers in Lordstown, Ohio, who had just lost their jobs after GM shut down their plant.

April Fools! It wasn’t helpful at all. The president just told the United Autoworkers local president, who represents a bunch of Ohio residents who are now weighing uprooting their lives and moving to a new GM facility against unemployment, to stop complaining:

Way to go, Mr. President! He’s just tellin’ it like it is, on Twitter. He tends to say stuff like thisabout unions whenever he catches heat (on a TV channel he watches) from a union leader for not following through on his specific promises to save American manufacturing jobs. A common suggestion is to “lower dues,” as if organized labor hasn’t done anything to keep production in unionized plants.   

Well, organized labor isn’t a monolith and not all unions operate in the same way, but the United Autoworkers in Lordstown were very accommodating to GM in their last round of contract negotiations before the company shuttered the plant. They were agreeing to what the company called a “super competitive operating agreement” in an attempt to ward off layoffs … which came anyway.

Seriously, just read some of this stuff from Bloomberg:

To cut costs, the UAW merged Locals 1112 and 1714, which saved the company $3 million a year in administrative costs. Then the union agreed to outsource non-assembly jobs like handling of parts and materials to lower-wage workers employed by a subsidiary called GM Subsystems LLC, according to a document reviewed by Bloomberg.

Next, they allowed GM to cut the number of skilled tradesmen including electricians, pipe fitters, mechanics and die makers in half to 130 by letting the company contract out for overtime skilled-trade work and by changing job classifications, said Scott Brubaker, who was chairman of Local 1714.

The union allowed outside firms to send in contractors to repair supplier parts and assembled vehicles at the plant. It also agreed to drop the number of extra workers employed to cover absentee workers to 60, from 150.

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Trade Committee Gets an Earful on Workers’ Rights in the USMCA

Matthew McMullan

Matthew McMullan Communications Manager, Alliance for American Manufacturing

The USMCA – the United States-Canada-Mexico Agreement, the trade deal that will serve as an update to NAFTA – has been signed by the heads of government of those three countries.  

But the deal was negotiated before the U.S. midterm elections in November when Democrats took control of the House. And Congress has to ratify trade deals that the United States will be a party to before they can take effect. And the president and congressional Democrats don’t often get along! This could become a problem for the White House.

Enter President Trump, most famous before winning the 2016 U.S. presidential election for his supporting role in the 2002 romantic comedy Two Weeks Notice, who is now getting involvedin whipping votes for the deal. The president is gonna rely heavily on his boys, the House Republicans, to move it. But even if he gets every GOP vote, it will still require Democratic support to gain a majority.

And yet that Democratic support is no sure thing. To begin, the deal will only get a vote in the House if Speaker Nancy Pelosi allows one. Bloomberg reports:

Pelosi is expected to only move the deal through the House if she can find a critical mass of her caucus supporting it and if she extracts concessions unrelated to trade from the White House in return, senior congressional aides say.

The administration is trying to build that critical mass. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, President Trump’s chief trade negotiator, has spent time on Capitol Hill meeting with House Democrats to try to assuage their concerns about the deal – particularly its provisions on the environment, pharmaceutical drug prices, enforcement and labor.

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Union Matters

America’s Wealthy: Ever Eager to Pay Their Taxes!

Sam Pizzigati

Sam Pizzigati Editor, Too Much online magazine

Why do many of the wealthiest people in America oppose a “wealth tax,” an annual levy on grand fortune? Could their distaste reflect a simple reluctance to pay their fair tax share? Oh no, JPMorganChase CEO Jamie Dimon recently told the Business Roundtable: “I know a lot of wealthy people who would be happy to pay more in taxes; they just think it’ll be wasted and be given to interest groups and stuff like that.” Could Dimon have in mind the interest group he knows best, Wall Street? In the 2008 financial crisis, federal bailouts kept the banking industry from imploding. JPMorgan alone, notes the ProPublica Bailout Tracker, collected $25 billion worth of federal largesse, an act of generosity that’s helped Dimon lock down a $1.5-billion personal fortune. Under the Elizabeth Warren wealth tax plan, Dimon would pay an annual 3 percent tax on that much net worth. Fortunes between $1 billion and $2.5 billion would face a 5 percent annual tax under the Bernie Sanders plan.

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No Such Thing as Good Greed

No Such Thing as Good Greed