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Gilbert B. Kaplan

Gilbert B. Kaplan

Posted: November 12, 2010 11:10 AM

Put on Your Workboots, America

What's Your Reaction:

Wouldn't it be nice if someone would come forward with a real jobs program? Instead the debate in Washington is on things like tax cuts and what to do -- next year -- with health care and the budget deficit. These are important subjects, but none of them will have any near-term effect on the unemployment level (9.6 percent officially and probably 20 percent unofficially). It is no accident America largely turned one party out of office for another. A party in control of the White House and both houses of Congress that does not have a radical reemployment program at a time the sustained unemployment level is at a record high is not going to get a lot of sympathy.

Yet there is something which can be done immediately, which will have an impact on U. S. jobs, particularly in the manufacturing sector. The Democratic party can do this now; they still have control of the Senate. If they want to send a message to America, there is a step they should take when they get back for the lame duck session starting Monday. The Senate should pass the China currency bill which already passed the House of Representatives in September, and which will make it much more likely the Department of Commerce will impose duties on imports of products from China to offset currency manipulation. The bill would remove an objection the Department of Commerce raised when it refused to investigate currency manipulation in two trade cases earlier this year, and clear the way for trade investigations of this pernicious, unfair practice.

The next step is in the hands of the large Democratic majority in the Senate, which is not altered by the election in the upcoming lame duck session. And the action could have a dramatic effect on the job base of the United States on a fast-track basis. There is hardly a manufacturing company in the U.S. that is not being impacted by low cost Chinese imports. Yet there is very little that is being done about that. The Fed's monetary moves will lower the value of the U. S. dollar, but not against the Chinese yuan, as long as the Chinese do not change their strategy of essentially pegging their currency against the dollar.

There is not a commitment by the Democrats to take action on the currency bill. What are the implications of waiting until next year? In a word, disastrous for working Americans (and even worse for the millions of not-working Americans). Representative Kevin Brady (R- Texas), the likely next Chairman of the Ways and Means Trade Subcommittee, has already said he does not expect the House to act on currency legislation next year. So assuming the Republican House would ever act, which is doubtful, we are looking at well over a year before a bill would get back to the Senate. Meanwhile Americans watch their jobs move to China.

That puts the issue starkly before the Senate Democrats. America has sent a strong message: we will not sit idly by while the folks in Washington ignore the jobs situation. And yet by not acting, that is exactly what the Senate will be doing. Once again, in the lame duck, our legislators will take up issues that most Americans don't understand and don't really care about, while a common sense pro-U. S. jobs bill is ignored. I would think this is a step the Senate should only take at its peril.

So on second thought, America, leave your work boots on the shelf, gathering mold. At least until you see if the Senate has the guts to stand up for American jobs.