Whatever plans for growing jobs in America President Obama may announce to the world on Thursday evening, he will be erring seriously if he elects to ignore some basic imperatives.
It is long past the time to take action that will bring American jobs back to America, to restore and reinvigorate our middle class; and to remind the rest of the world what American creativity, ingenuity and quality are about.
Ironically, our very genius created much of our current economic pain. Without American inventions like the integrated circuit, today's high-powerful Internet or the modern international delivery industry, the global economy would not be possible. Steve Jobs would not be able to design a component in Sunnyvale, build it through a supplier in Shanghai, and transport and sell it in Sofia.
Yet, while our creativity is resulting in economic freedom for developing nations, our own workforce is suffering. With unemployment holding steady around 9 percent, we recently read about another 2.4 million jobs that America-based corporations shipped overseas during the last decade, citing more favorable tax climates and cheaper labor. California-based Cisco, alone, has offshored nearly 50 percent of its 73,000-plus high-tech workforce.
As President Obama prepares to deliver another speech on job creation, he might just consider a few ideas that really can create jobs for Americans.
First, give America's business leaders a genuine incentive to bring home the billions they are currently holding overseas by declaring a tax holiday on repatriated capital. Then, reduce the corporate tax rate, which anti-business types remind us is at an all-time low level but which, they fail to add, is still among the highest in the world. For those businesses who don't suddenly find themselves flush with new capital, allow them to issue tax-free "growth bonds" so that individual investors can help fuel our economic renaissance.
A second group of ideas focuses on independence for all business, but especially for our energy needs. Drilling for and refining American oil and gas, and constructing new nuclear plants are jobs which cannot be exported. With the stroke of a pen, Mr. Obama could rein in his minions at the HHS, EPA, NLRB and the Justice Department and end the over-regulation and often harassment that keeps businesses guessing and unwilling to commit with investment dollars. By doing so, it's estimated that more than 230,000 jobs could be created in the next year alone.
At the same time, he could really do something about American energy independence by telling his agency heads to stop stalling and begin permitting. He could also follow through on a promise he hinted at in his January, 2010 State of the Union address when he declared he would support "building a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants in this country." Since Obama made that statement, not one of the 32 nuclear plants being proposed have been allowed to move forward.
A third category of ideas concerns immigration. Are there jobs Americans really won't do, even if they are unemployed? Let's end this myth and reclaim for our citizens the construction, food service and other jobs currently held by those who are in our country illegally.
The president could do this by ordering stepped-up enforcement of current laws, and by following through on prosecution of American businesses that use undocumented workers. Required employment eligibility status checks, increased workplace enforcement by I.C.E., and harsher treatment of managers and corporations who break hiring laws would be steps in the right direction and are all at Mr. Obama's discretion.
As capitalists or shareholders, all of us understand the crucial nature of competitiveness in a global economy. But at the same time, we must also realize the self-destructiveness of hollowing out our own economy. As a friend and socially conscious CEO puts it, "In becoming citizens of everywhere, we must guard against becoming citizens of nowhere."
It is quite possible that soon, American investors will take note of corporations who ignore the long-term perils involved in shipping jobs out of their country. This tactic goes beyond patriotism and includes real business issues such as weaker intellectual property protections, association, if unintentionally, being associated with human rights infringements, and a perception of American corporations no longer being "American."
One company that knows this is Apple. While it employs talent the world over, it remembers where its success is rooted by prominently labeling its much sought-after products with the phrase "Designed by Apple in California."
It will be some time before, if ever, the costs of labor and production in developing nations vs. those in America balance out. With the world's workforces linked, economic fortunes will seek their own level. But there are free-market actions we can take to slow the pain as economies elsewhere are developed by American companies, sometimes at the expense of this country's well-being.
Our political leaders need to recognize this, and take appropriate actions to encourage investment and spark employment. Equally important, our corporate leaders must take advantage of this new climate, lest they put their personal and their companies' long-term futures as thriving American corporations at major risk.
Robert L. Dilenschneider is a noted global corporate communications consultant and author of 14 books.