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“Make It in America” Should be Required Reading for Freshmen in Congress

Posted: 11/27/12 at 10:54 AM

By Lawrence D. Sloan, SOCMA President & CEO -

About 80 new members of Congress are coming into office in January as part of the freshman class for the 113th Congress, and many of them are looking to leave a legacy that supports a strong and vibrant U.S. economy. For those interested in achieving these goals, I highly recommend they read “Make It in America: The Case for Re-Inventing the Economy” by Dow Chemical Company Chairman and CEO Andrew Liveris.

Earlier this fall, I heard Liveris speak candidly about his ascension to the helm and his perspectives on how business and government need to work together more collaboratively than ever before. And now, after reading his book, I’d like to share some of his insightful thoughts and how SOCMA’s initiatives fit in.

Manufacturing and innovation fit hand in hand. Outsourcing production overseas today gives our competitors a leg up on developing next-generation manufacturing techniques, which spurs further innovation outside the U.S. Increasingly, countries like China, Brazil and India are not only offering enticing tax incentives to set up manufacturing operations abroad; they are now aggressively going after R&D, and it’s working. Innovation is the key to a vibrant 21st century manufacturing sector, and SOCMA members and other specialty chemical manufacturers are among the most innovative in the chemical industry. Without innovation, the U.S. is doomed to falling further behind, worsening our balance of trade, and becoming further indebted to other nations for their technical know-how.

Our corporate tax rates need to become more competitive with our major trading partners. The Cato Institute reports that, on average, tax rates in Europe have dropped 14 points since 1996 (to 24 percent). If you include state taxes, the U.S. corporate statutory rate is 39.1 percent today – second highest in the world next to Japan. Coupled with this, the uncertainty around reauthorization of the R&D tax credit isn’t helping. It makes it difficult, especially for small companies like those that make up the bulk of SOCMA’s membership – to plan ahead when you don’t know whether this incentive will be renewed or not.

Overly burdensome regulations are crippling manufacturing. According to a World Economic Forum survey of 13,000 business executives worldwide, more than 50 countries have less burdensome regulations than the U.S. We aren’t opposed to regulations, just those that are impractical (an unfavorable cost-benefit ratio) and which contradict others already in place.

Free trade is a tool to economic growth. Liveris (and SOCMA) applauds the Obama administration for approval of FTA’s with South Korea, Panama and Colombia this past summer. Much more work needs to be done.

Energy powers our plants and feeds our chemical plants. Liveris provides examples of what Germany and China have done to spur innovation in renewable energy, as an example. While the federal government has provided temporary incentives, and some states have offered up plans of their own, the fact is we lack a “coherent, comprehensive national energy policy.”

Manufacturing needs an educated workforce and upgraded infrastructure. Liveris touches upon two critical components to building a stronger manufacturing sector, namely (a) an educated workforce – preparing the next generation’s workforce with the skills they need; and (b) investing in upgrading a rapidly decaying infrastructure. SOCMA partnered with the Manufacturing Institute this fall to help address the skills gap crisis facing U.S. manufacturers.

I invite you to read his book and, if you agree with his position statements, recommend it to your members of Congress, local and state officials and regulatory agencies. 

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