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Wheeling Town Hall Focuses on Tax Breaks for Offshoring

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Driving across Ohio toward Wheeling you pass one small manufacturing company after another -- but not too many with lots of cars in the employee parking lot. I stopped in a coffee shop in a small township. They offered me a cookie, and when I declined, the owner said, "We're giving them away, it's our last day." After 14 years, the shop and the restaurant next door are closing because the landlord is giving up, auctioning off the building, and they don't see how they can reopen somewhere else and make it. Too many manufacturers in the area have had to close.

Every manufacturing job supports four or five other jobs in the economy. This is seven or eight more gone. The Cut Nail plant dominates a section of Wheeling. It closed last week, after 152 years in business. That's a lot more gone.

The Town Hall

Friday night I attended the Wheeling, WV, "Keep It Made In America" Town Hall meeting. This was a BIG event -- 600 attendees big . (Note -- All pictures by Ike Gittlen, USW, click any pic for enlargement, see the entire collection here.)

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Many elected officials, starting with Governor Joe Manchin (now running for Senate) attended and spoke. Quite a few candidates for Congress attended and spoke as well. And there was a panel. The Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register has a great writeup of the event. The meeting began with a flag entrance presented by an honor guard of Young Marines:

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This was a big event with a lot of speakers, so I'll only put up snippets of what was said. But the entire town hall was webcast live: See the recording of it here.

Alliance for American Manufacturing Executive Direct Scott Paul gave "manufacturing facts" between each speaker.

Why should people care about manufacturing if they don't work in a factory?
* Manufacturing provides 70 of all r&d, 90% of all patents, so if you care about innovation, next best thing...
* Manufacturing largest purchasers of technology, so if you care about...
* Manufacturing still employs 12 million, sizable portion.
* Also manufacturing has a multiplier effect, each job supports 4 or 5 others in your community. More than any other.
* Finally manufacturing jobs pay 22% better.

Vice President of the United Steelworkers Tom Conway spoke first:

aaDSC_8761Thanks for coming, having a discussion, about what we think is a crucial issue, and one that America has been struggling with for a while. We've lost 50-60,000 factories over the last few years and millions of jobs. Labor and management do not have the luxury of not being together on this. We need to be together on this. Doing it jointly, telling a common story.

Trade is good but trade needs to be balanced, but now for 30 years we have had an imbalance that has gone on and one, and you can't do that and expect to have a thriving economy, and think the country is going to exist off the growth in the financial services sector. Now 40% of our GDP comes from the financial services sector and you've all seen what's happened.

You've got to have an economy that is based on something. You can't keep having your best and brightest go to wall street.

It used to be there were two tickets into the middle class, get a union card or get a college degree.

Governor, Senate candidate Joe Mansion:

aaDSC_8781First question is will you support buy America policies? Made in America, even better.

There is not one thing in free trade that talks about fair trade. We can compete with any workforce in the world as long as it is on a level playing field.

Currency manipulation 40%, no rules or regulations on environment, and then we give tat incentives to companies to move jobs offshore.

Charlie Wilson OH-6, which borders on Wheeling:

aaDSC_8792 We all have common interest, returning to economic security, returning our neighbors back to work and returning our communities to prosperity is a priority for all of us.

We shouldn't be looking to advance new trade deals if the ones we have aren't working. I'm proud to be a co-sponsor of Repeal NAFTA. Trade is important but it has to be fair trade and we have not had fair trade.
We have been outsourcing jobs, crippling thing in our economy, voted 2 times in last few weeks to close tax loopholes that encourage companies to outsource. How can we possibly justify rewarding people with tax breaks who send our jobs to other countries. Come here I'll show you what has happened to our economy from jobs lost to trade deals.

The Conservative Tax Pledge

One speaker said something I want to highlight: Mike Oliverio, congressional candidate, WV-1, said something about the "Norquist No New Taxes Pledge" that I think was significant. Oliverio called it a pledge to keep those tax incentives for closing factories and outsourcing jobs.

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I support legislation that prevent outsourcing of jobs, these tax giveaways have to stop, my opponent signed a tax pledge to continue these giveaways to corporations. I just can't imagine how you can sign that kind of pledge in today's world.

His opponent David McKinley:

aaDSC_8805

The stimulus failed, only added debt to the government. We're driving business away by overtaxing and overregulating. National Association of Manufacturers, Chamber of Congress, Tea Party backs me, Right to Life back me.

I want to freeze tax rates where they are now to remove uncertainty. Create confidence what our tax structure is going to look like they will start hiring again. Eliminate overregulation of business.

Nancy Pelosi is toxic to our political environment.

About 3-400 other candidates spoke. The Libertarian Party, the Mountain Party, the Constitution Party, others.

The Panel

After approx 28,245 more candidates spoke there was an excellent panel discussion, moderated by Scott Paul, with:
* Tom Conway, VP USW
* Kenny Perdue, AFL-CIO West VA
* Beri Fox, CEO of the Marble King Company

Note: About Marble King. Wheeling and WV have been hit hard by imported glass. Glass used to be a very big industry in West Virginia. There were 240 glass manufacturing companies in WV 30 years ago. Marble King is one of only 6 remaining companies.

aaDSC_8825Berri -- Marble King is a 75-year-old company. We want to help keep the American Dream alive. Glass business in WV second only to coal, 240 companies 30 years ago, today six. The obstacles are substantial. Something has to be done.

We did kids' toys, supplied game companies. All moved to China, NONE manufactured in US now. This created huge stresses on what was our market share, so we began to diversify our product into other areas, creative innovative. Now, you buy spray paint, aerosol, shake it, that sound is our marbles.

Question from audience: Tax Breaks for offshoring?

Conway -- companies getting tax breaks are also the companies that have taken control of our government, big multinational companies, they leave American workers and communities behind and we can't tolerate it any longer.

I think that is the best line to close with. If you need a reason to vote, there it is.

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture as part of the Making It In America project. I am a Fellow with CAF.

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