Americans Deserve More From Presidential Candidates on Jobs, Economy

06/02/2007 05:42 pm 17:42:40 | Updated May 25, 2011

The presidential candidates--Democratic and Republican--will have plenty
of opportunities to discuss jobs and the economy at the scores of
debates scheduled over the summer. But two questions will determine
whether or not voters will actually hear the real discussion that's

First, will the debate panelists or moderators ask any pertinent
questions on jobs and the economy? So far, the signs are not
encouraging. These issues have received scant attention to date. Our
nation faces many critical issues. The war in Iraq and immigration
policy both deserve lengthy debate. But jobs and a strong
manufacturing economy are also critical to the American people and to
the early primary and caucus states in particular.

New Hampshire has lost a larger share of its jobs due to our
unsustainable trade relationship with China than any other state in
the nation. South Carolina has shed 91,000 manufacturing jobs since
2000. And believe it or not, unfair trade practices have undercut
honey producers in Iowa, costing the industry over $127 million
nationwide. In all three states, manufacturing is still the leading
economic sector--but unfair trade practices, illegal currency
manipulation by China, as well as health care, retirement and energy
costs, are threatening producers' ability to generate more of these
well-paying jobs.

Second, will the candidates be able to move beyond bland statements of
support for "free trade," "fair trade" or some combination thereof?
The elites and mainstream media want to pin these labels, or even
worse, the dreaded "protectionist" label, on the candidates. But these
descriptions are neither helpful nor accurate. They divert our
attention from the real truth: open markets can benefit
everyone--investors, consumers, companies, and workers--but only if the
rules are fair and only if those rules are aggressively enforced and
appropriately enhanced.

An effective and meaningful manufacturing and trade strategy will make
a difference to the American people in the following ways:

-- Whether tomorrow brings the layoff notice or the productivity bonus;

-- Whether their community has a top-notch public school, or one that is
struggling to keep it doors open because the town's factory--its
largest source of tax revenue--shut down and shifted production to

-- Whether the jobs of the future for their children will be flipping
burgers or careers in nanotechnology and advanced manufacturing; and

-- Whether their nation will have an industrial base that can supply the
critical materials that allow us to defend our nation, or if we will
be forced to depend on the goodwill of other nations to do that for

Let's hope that in their allotted 30, 60 or 90 second increments, the
candidates will ignore the labels and focus on the solutions.

The Alliance for American Manufacturing is a non-partisan, non-profit labor-management partnership forged to strengthen manufacturing in the U.S. AAM promotes creative policy solutions on priorities such as international trade, energy security, health care, retirement security, currency manipulation, and other issues of mutual concern. For more information: and