Sunday, September 7, 2003

Let's talk: Readers respond on the week's hot topic

What should the government be doing now to ensure that America has good enough jobs in the future? This is the question we asked readers in our Aug. 31 report on workplace worries. Below are some of your responses.

Leadership needs long-term vision

To ensure the growth of available quality jobs, the government needs to implement a long-term plan and break the habit of quick fixes. For example, the federal tax cut may have spurred some short-term stimulation, but the resulting budget cuts and deficit growth make it a one-step-forward-and-two-steps-back result. When the president declared the fighting in Iraq to be over, it created a brief positive reaction, but the combination of finding the fighting was far from over plus the breach of trust from the false declaration makes things worse in the long run. What we need is leadership with a vision that is inclusive and built on economic facts.

Sam Labin, Burlington


Leadership needs long-term vision

The current No. 1 job of the Bush administration must be to ensure that America has enough good jobs in the future for all Americans. As important as protection from terrorism, we must immediately review all avenues to enable Americans to enjoy the "American Life."

A three-step procedure needs to get national attention to direct all efforts to this cause. First, President Bush must establish and convene a national jobs and employment task force. Combined of politicians, leaders of business and education, white- and blue-collar workers, the objective would be to draft guidelines to keep American jobs and employment here in America.

The second step is to immediately stop the movement of good jobs to other countries. From manufacturing in Mexico to call centers in India, America is continually seeing good jobs move outside its borders. The government must insist on halting this immediately, with large tax fines for those continuing this practice.

The next step is to understand where jobs will be required in the next 20 years and what talents and skills will be needed to successfully compete in that job market. These must be documented so our trade schools, vocational schools and colleges have a curriculum aimed at these needs. Any school not doing so should be assessed tax penalties.

Bob Lipp, Delhi Township


Level the playing field and boost education

The definition of a "good" job depends on whom you ask. All countries are competing for jobs. The United States generally has "had it made" in this competition for a long time.

This has allowed us to have OSHA, the EPA, huge monopoly closed-shop unions, and lots of tax money to spend, all at a cost to business. I believe the government should sell these programs in other countries as quickly as possible in order to begin "leveling the playing field" for our companies. If Howard Metzenbaum and Ted Kennedy are available, we should send them on a world tour to instigate these programs.

Of course, this is not going to happen, and the countries competing with the United States are going to have a cost advantage for a long time until their companies finally comply with all the rules that our companies must follow.

Therefore, the government, from local to federal, must improve the product emanating from our educational system. If anyone expects our children to have "good" jobs, then they must be competitive.

John R. Myers, Springdale


Congress needs to fix health care and unions

If America wants to ensure that there are enough good jobs in the future, then Congress must fix the health care crisis. Escalating health care costs reduce our competitiveness in the global marketplace and force employers to lay off employees.

Congress must also act to eliminate corrupt labor unions. Strikes, restrictive work rules and unreasonable union demands have forced many companies to move their operations to Mexico, China and other low-cost countries. Recent legislation in Congress to hold unions more accountable via improved accounting rules has been fiercely resisted by fat-cat union bosses who do not want to be accountable to the very members they claim to represent. Now, unions such as the UAW, Teamsters and UNITE have started to force workers to join via card checks and "neutrality" agreements.

Brian Howard, Dry Ridge


China gains from U.S. manufacturing setup

Of the some 2.7 million job losses, 85 percent have come out of manufacturing. A recent estimate suggests that more than half of the manufacturing loss is due to Chinese competition.

In assessing this staggering loss of U.S. manufacturing jobs, it is important to emphasize how unfair and subsidized Chinese products are. The Chinese buy $600 million dollars a day to keep their currency deflated by 40 percent. They also have a value-added tax (VAT) rebate scheme that rebates 18 percent on exported items, making Chinese goods less expensive in export than they are in China.

There are many on the U.S. side that gain from this unbalanced system, namely multinationals that can exploit the subsidies, and many investment banks that bundle capital and make great returns buying assets with artificially strong dollars.

Cheap labor certainly is an advantage, but shipping costs, and duties largely offset the labor advantage. At most, China's labor advantage should lead to an advantage of 5 percent to 10 percent in selling price. Manufacturers could compete with this level of competition by improving efficiency, providing higher quality product lines, by providing shorter lead times, and through better service.

The currency manipulation and VAT subsidy give China the additional 40 percent in pricing power, and makes it impossible to compete. The business and jobs that are lost today are just the beginning. The transfer of industrial technology and the loss of American know-how is staggering and will affect American quality of life for decades.

Jeb Head, Covington


Why are firms heading overseas? Blame laws

What should government do now to ensure jobs for the future? Two things: Repeal all regulations on private corporations and entrepreneurs, and reform the tort laws.

On Page 1 of the Forum is the article stating more companies are heading overseas because of cheaper labor costs. They are going overseas because of interminable regulations on how they can run their businesses and because of the very real problem of unreasonable settlements in stupid lawsuits.

It can take more than a year to clear all the regulatory hurdles to start a new business. Only the most persevering even try. As soon as government starts to micromanage a business, the more costly that business is to run. Money that could go toward wages and benefits has to go toward filling out innumerable forms. My second point was the very real problem of unreasonable settlements in stupid lawsuits. Companies are being sued for people's inability to accept responsibility for their actions. These people are being encouraged by greedy lawyers. Tobacco companies hand out billions of dollars because someone misuses their legal product? I have never smoked, but I can't see suing a company over something for which I have control. It may be addictive but as long as it is legal, these suits are ridiculous. Now they are after SUVs and fatty foods. Government can help reform the torte laws to prevent lawyers from bringing these unreasonable suits. There are plenty of cases to keep lawyers busy for decades where real injustices have been done.

In short, government needs to get out of the way of entrepreneurs, and people need to take more responsibility.

Sally Hyde, Lawrenceburg

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