Hoping to reverse the ongoing trend of outsourcing Americans jobs to low-wage nations to save on production costs, a lawmaker plans to introduce legislation next week that would incentivize domestic multinationals to repatriate those jobs that they have shipped overseas.
Republican Representative Frank Wolf of Virginia will introduce the Strategic Manufacturing and Job Repatriation Act to "develop a national strategy to bolster our manufacturing base and create American jobs." According to the Northern Virginia Daily, Wolf asks, "If you're an American company with, say, a call center in India, why not put that in the Shenandoah Valley?"
The era of free trade and globalization has not been kind to the American economy. Lowered trade barriers, improved communication and transportation technology and an abundance of cheap labor have led to millions of American jobs sent to places like China, India and Mexico.
Proponents of free trade have long argued that labor intensive manufacturing jobs would be replaced by higher paying white collar jobs, which would improve the standard of living for all Americans. That, however, has not been the case. White collar jobs have increased while the nation's manufacturing base has dwindled. Those newfound service sector jobs have hardly been lucrative.
Retail sales, cashiers, general office clerks, food preparation and service workers, and nurses were the occupations with the highest levels of employment in 2009, according to U.S. Labor Department's 2009 Occupational Employment and Wages report.
In fact, nine of the top 10 jobs in the survey pay such low wages that they put a worker supporting a family of four in near poverty.
While the fast food, health care and financial services industries have been booming, the manufacturing sector has not. The U.S. had just 8.9 million workers in what the report refers to as "production" occupations. Workers in those occupations average a salary of over $33,000 per year. By comparison, there were 11.2 million workers in food preparation and serving related occupations in 2009, who made just a little over $18,000 per year, on average.
While millions of manufacturing jobs were disappearing over the past decade, fast food workers increased by 43 percent. Child care employment increased 68 percent over the decade as the number of one-income households dwindle due to the lack of jobs that pay well enough to support a family.
"America needs to make things again. We can't be a nation of fast-food burger flippers, one completely dependent on services," Wolf said.
The legislation would seek to achieve that goal by reviving a Reagan-era program under a new name, the American Economic Security Commission, that would identify and monitor potential emerging threats and opportunities for the American economy.
"This will ensure that American firms can capitalize on revolutionary technologies and create new jobs in the U.S.," Wolf writes in The Hill.
A Repatriation Task Force would also be created to study how federal tax incentives could encourage American businesses to return domestic jobs and work with states to achieve that goal.
"The task forces would proactively seek out opportunities for firms to repatriate and work with states to facilitate a mutually beneficial repatriation of jobs and facilities," Wolf writes.
The bill would also compel the Secretary of Commerce to develop a national manufacturing strategy with clear job creation goals. It would also restrict foreign access to pending patent applications and streamline the application process to encourage innovation.
"As the Congress turns its attention to job creation, we need a comprehensive strategy and program to bring jobs back to America and identify and support critical new technologies to jump-start our manufacturing base of tomorrow," he writes. "I believe my legislation help lead the way."