THE BLOG
08/11/2011 05:52 pm ET | Updated Oct 11, 2011

The States Can Bring Manufacturing Jobs Back

The Tea Party gridlock and paralysis in Washington and state houses requires middle-class voters to take direct action to bring back jobs. That is why "The Bring Manufacturing Jobs Back Act" has been submitted to the California State Attorney General's office to begin the process of qualifying this proposition for the November 2012 statewide ballot- in this key state.

The Bring Back Manufacturing Jobs to California Act is a necessary first step to end the decline of manufacturing jobs that is at the root of our economic crisis.

Almost two decades ago, Michael Boskin, President George H. W. Bush's chairman of the President's Council of Economic Advisors, signaled the death knell for American manufacturing jobs when he reportedly stated, "It doesn't make any difference whether a country makes potato chips or computer chips!"

Instead of focusing on building our manufacturing base, the backbone of middle class prosperity, our national leaders focused instead on "financial services" -- the finance, insurance and real estate sectors which were supposed to be the cornerstones of high tech new economies of the 21st Century.

We all know what happened to that theory. With 25 million people unemployed, underemployed, or missing from the rolls of the fully employed, our nation faces an unprecedented challenge: how to create new jobs that won't disappear.
What we do not need is more studies bemoaning the lack of capital formation, or critiquing the fact that corporations are sitting on over $2 trillion in cash or cash equivalents (toxic assets?), yet still not hiring.

We need to figure how to leverage the purchasing capacity of the world's largest economy by harnessing the one sector which must consume regardless of economic conditions: state and local governments.

Each year government agencies in California spend over $400 billion. Of these expenditures -- if the California state budget is any guide -- approximately 7 percent or $30 billion is spent on procurement contracts for the purchase or lease of goods and services. Discounting services, we have remaining the purchases of goods, knows as tangible personal property, anything that can be seen felt or touched, in other words:
things, most of which are manufactured, and materials and structural components which become part of buildings or permanent structures.

Unfortunately, many of the things which used to be manufactured by American workers have been outsourced due to significantly lower wage costs.

The mighty Eastern Span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge is not being fabricated in an American factor by high wage workers. It is being built in China by workers paid $12 per day. This represents over 3 million person hours of high wage work manufacturing a product overseas that should have been built in America.

This is the most glaring example, but there are other examples of key projects throughout the U.S.A. which are no longer built here.

Rebars, flatware, televisions, business telephone instruments, etc., the list goes on and on of the Made in America products that gradually got outsourced while government turned a blind eye or was actively complicit in encouraging the outsourcing of American jobs.

We take this for granted because as consumers we can look for products made in America, but our clout is limited to our own individual choice.
We may want to buy a telephone or a television made in America, but we have no choice. So many products simply are not made here anymore.

This collective acceptance on the part of American consumers has come with a price. Over the past ten years, California has lost well over 600,000 manufacturing jobs - a figure that exceeds the entire populations of Stockton and Riverside put together!

State and Local Governments, funded by our taxpayer money, however do have a choice.
They can exercise their collective purchasing clout and commit unequivocally that they will purchase only products Made in America.

California state and local governments represent a buying cohort with tens of thousands to billions of dollars of purchasing power, ready to execute contracts with manufacturers willing to take the risk of making their products in America.

That is why we are submitting to the California Attorney General for preparation of title and summary an initiative entitles "The Bring Manufacturing Jobs Back to California Act."

What this initiative would require is that beginning in 2014, all state and local governments, political subdivisions, or districts, would have to begin purchasing all tangible personal property or materials or structural components used incorporated real estate that are manufactured in the United States substantially all from materials produced in the United States.

Quite simply tangible personal property is anything that can be felt or
touched and that is moveable and not permanently attached. Materials or
structural components to be incorporated into real estate are other examples of things which can and should be Made in America. These materials or structural may include walls, partitions, floors, and ceilings, tiling, plumbing, electrical wiring, light fixtures, escalators, sprinkler systems, and so on. This would also include big things like the decking and other structures for the Bay Bridge, which are now being made in China.

The Bring Manufacturing Jobs Back to California initiative is an opportunity to take some real action using real funds to assure that investments will be made in companies that put Californians back to work.
It is time for the hand-wringing and the nostalgia to stop. The time has arrived to seize real, creative solutions to the loss and outsourcing of American jobs.

The Bring Manufacturing Jobs Back to California initiative is an important first step that deserves to be copied by other states. Governors and legislatures in other states should use The Bring Manufacturing Jobs Back to California Act as model legislation and build a national consensus around bringing jobs back to every state and community in America.

A copy of the Bring Manufacturing Jobs Back to California Act of 2012 can be found on the California State Attorney General's initiative website here.