Friend: Celebrate America, bring jobs home - East Valley Tribune: Columnists

Friend: Celebrate America, bring jobs home

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Rebekah Friend is a Mesa resident and executive director of the Arizona AFL-CIO. Contact her at rfriend@azaflcio.org.

Posted: Saturday, July 14, 2012 9:11 am | Updated: 9:44 am, Mon Jul 16, 2012.

Just a few weeks ago, we celebrated the best of America when we celebrated the Fourth of July. But not all homes were sites of celebration. These days, it’s hard to drive through neighborhoods and not notice all the shuttered homes and abandoned lawns, casualties of the foreclosures, layoffs and jobs that have moved overseas.

As a country we have lost a higher percentage of manufacturing jobs over the last decade than during the Great Depression. In Arizona, we’ve seen a 12 percent loss of local manufacturing jobs since 1994—the start of the North American Free Trade Agreement. Over 24,000 Arizonans have been certified by the Trade Adjustment Assistance program as having lost their job because of trade deficits and offshoring.

Our service economy is suffering a similar fate. Last week, community members in Phoenix and in Tucson held events calling attention to T-Mobile’s shutdown of several call centers across the country. As a result, thousands of U.S. jobs were sent overseas. A 2009 study by economists Alan Blinder and Alan Krueger estimated one in four U.S. jobs is vulnerable to offshoring.

Despite this growing trend, outsourcing is not inevitable, nor is it unstoppable. Many countries have strategies to keep good jobs at home and back it up by aligning their trade, tax, training and investment policies.

Unfortunately, in the United States, our economic policies are stacked in favor of corporations and the wealthiest 1 percent rather than the 99 percent of working families.

To ensure we reward companies for doing the right thing, we need to end policies that encourage businesses to ship good jobs overseas. For example, we can end tax incentives for offshoring, pass existing legislation to address currency manipulation by foreign governments, pass the United States Call Center Worker and Consumer Protection Act and push for fair trade deals that create good jobs and benefit workers.

Right now, our leaders in Congress actually have an opportunity to address one tax policy that is particularly outrageous. The tax code currently allows companies moving overseas to deduct their moving expenses—and reduce their taxes as a result. We give tax breaks to companies to offshore jobs while 8.6 percent of Arizonans remain jobless.

The Bring Jobs Home Act can help change this by eliminating the tax deduction while rewarding businesses that bring good jobs back to the United States. When House Republicans blocked the bill from coming to a vote last Tuesday, they played politics with the lives of jobless Arizonans. That cannot happen when it comes before the Senate in the coming weeks. We need all of Arizona’s senatorial leaders to fully support the Bring Jobs Home Act (S. 2884). It’s the first step toward a comprehensive plan to make the economy work for working people and reform our dangerously lopsided tax policies.

Our country is at a crossroads. We face choices about the environment and the management of nonrenewable natural resources. We face decisions about the kinds of laws and policies that shape our economy, education and health care.

These choices come down to a single question: What is our vision? Do we want an economy that invests in working families, or one that multiplies profits for CEOs? Do we want to keep our competitive edge and have the best-trained workers, or do we want to fall behind as companies move overseas and leave millions of Americans unemployed?

Just as we celebrated all the very best of America this past holiday, let’s remind our elected officials to do the same by supporting good policies to stop outsourcing, create jobs, and rebuild our economy.

Nothing is more American than creating an economy that works for all.

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