Giving Substance to 'Made in America'

07/20/2017 11:35 am ET

With his announcement that this is “Made in America” week, President Donald Trump returned to a place where he has always excelled: campaign mode. No matter that this initiative is a cynical distraction from the growing Russia scandal, from his plummeting approval ratings, and even the hypocrisy of the Donald’s previous blatant anti-American manufacturing decisions.

And let’s not even discuss where First Daughter Ivanka gets her shoes manufactured. Now The Donald is talking about “jobs” and “America” with as much nuance and thoughtfulness as a texting teen driving a bulldozer through Walmart.

On its surface “Made in America” is a welcome policy. Goods that are made in America by American workers create jobs, and jobs are good for the country. But beyond a slogan that fits nicely on the front of a baseball cap, there’s so much more that leadership in Washington could – and should -- be doing to ensure that “Made in America” has an impact that lasts beyond the duration of a Sean Spicer press briefing.

To start, we must guarantee that that any newly-created manufacturing jobs pays well. We can begin by increasing the federal minimum wage which has been stuck at $7.25 an hour since 2009. New York City’s minimum wage is set to go up to $15 an hour by the end of 2018; Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. will reach that threshold by 2020; and other cities across the country have taken similar action.

However elsewhere in this country, the federal minimum wage only adds up to a full-time worker earning $15,000 a year, and 43 million Americans continue to live in poverty. Shockingly, Missouri even took a step backwards last month, rolling back an increase in the minimum wage for St. Louis. We need wages that fairly compensate workers that will allow them not just to get by, but to thrive.

But even beyond wages, healthcare benefits are key to strengthening America’s middle class. People who are sick should be able to go and see their doctor. People who are seriously ill shouldn’t become bankrupted by their condition. Despite the successes of the Affordable Care Act, more than 28 million people in the U.S. still lacked health insurance in 2016. We need policies that increase health insurance coverage for American workers, rather than jeopardize it.

If Donald Trump wants to Make American Great Again by promoting American jobs, his administration should enforce and expand workplace protections that either don’t exist or are outright violated. This includes cracking down on wage theft violations, like forcing employees to work off the clock, which cost American workers billions of dollars a year and promoting paid family leave for more employees.

The Trump Administration’s emphasis on “Made in America” ignores significant sectors of the workforce including the service, retail, health care and education industries. A manufactured product is tangible – something you can literally hang your MAGA hat on – but we must not dismiss workers in sectors such as long-term home care and hospitality. Increasingly the men and women of these are becoming the backbone of the American workforce.

Trump says that he wants to “honor the amazing American workers.” Let’s honor them not just by signing proclamations and giving speeches, but by providing them and their families with the wages, benefits and job protections that truly make America great.

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