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Will Conservatives Support American Companies… Or Chinese Companies?


Will Conservatives Support American Companies… Or Chinese Companies?

by Dave Johnson

Which is better for an economy: millions of future jobs and trillions of future dollars, or a few people making a quick buck today by selling out their country? For decades America’s 1 percent-backed conservatives have chosen the latter course, and we can see the results all around us. Now the Obama administration has imposed stiff tariffs on Chinese solar panels because China was “dumping” — selling below cost — to drive American manufacturers out of business. Will conservatives support their country and our companies or will they continue to side with our country’s competitors?

U.S. Imposes Stiff Tariffs

The Commerce Department yesterday concluded that Chinese solar panel companies are “dumping” product — selling below the cost of production — into the U.S. market, and imposed stiff tariffs. According to the New York Times’ “U.S. Slaps High Tariffs on Chinese Solar Panels”:

The United States on Thursday announced the imposition of antidumping tariffs of more than 31 percent on solar panels from China.

… The antidumping decision is among the biggest in American history, covering one of the largest and fastest-growing categories of imports from China, the world’s largest exporter.

Industry of the Future

Again and again technology revolutions come along and disrupt economies. Countries that jump on new technologies are the countries that win the industries and jobs and revenue. This is how the United States became the world power that it is was. Railroads, steel, automobiles, airplanes, electronics, semiconductors, computers, the Internet, pharmaceuticals, biotech and software are a few examples. And in every case our government helped these new industries get off the ground. When these industries took root the payoff was enormous.

Green energy is one such technology of the future. Producing solar panels, wind turbines, etc. will bring millions and millions of jobs and trillions of dollars, and several countries are competing to win a share of this new industry.

China is fighting hard for those jobs and dollars. They are being smart, and they are also pushing past the limits of the rules. From the New York Times story:

Alan Price, a partner who heads the international trade practice at Wiley Rein, the law firm representing the United States companies in both the solar and wind cases, said that China posed a particular threat to America’s developing green energy sector.

“China’s method is straightforward: it sets forth industry-specific Five-Year Plans and then uses all forms of national and local subsidies and other governmental support to quickly transfer jobs, supply chains, intellectual property and wealth, to the permanent detriment of U.S. and global manufacturers,” he said. “China’s ability to ramp up and overwhelm an industry is unique and particularly devastating with new and emerging technologies, where global competitors may be less established and can be knocked out more easily and quickly.”

To compete for a share of this new industry we need to be proactive. We need national efforts to develop the industrial commons, or ecosystem, that will foster green-tech industries. We also need government policies that promote a market for these products until they take hold, just as our defense industry did for aircraft and other new technologies. And we need to enforce the rules for international economic competition, which is what has happened with the tariff decision.

Decision Not Political

The New York Times story points out that this was not a political decision by the Obama administration,

The American decision was made by civil servants in a quasi-judicial process that is heavily insulated by law from political interference and does not represent a deliberate attempt by the Obama administration to confront China on trade policy. But that distinction has been largely lost in China, where the solar panel issue has been one of many causes embraced online by the country’s vociferous ultranationalists, who put heavy pressure on Chinese officials to respond forcefully to perceived snubs to China.

The rules say that if a country is dumping, then we must impost tariffs. The Commerce Department investigated and concluded that China has been dumping so they had no choice. If we do not enforce trade rules, they are meaningless and countries that cheat gain an advantage, driving out the honest players. That is how cheating, accountability and enforcement work. (Hint: this also applies to banking fraud laws.)

In the case of solar-panel tariffs, we were losing companies and jobs and facing losing the possibility of losing the entire industry to China. From “Tariffs On Chinese Solar Might Help Prevent The Next Solyndra”:

You have probably heard about a solar-energy company named Solyndra, but probably what you have heard is a bunch of negative, conspiratorial, anti-alternative-energy, anti-Obama stuff from the corporate/conservative spin machine. The real story is that our government is trying to help us capture some of the new green energy industry that will create the jobs of the future. But China is, too. And China doubled down, and then quadrupled down on government support. They even directly subsidize their companies so their products cost less. This helped put Solyndra out of business. But the Obama administration is doing something about it.

China cheats, and we don’t usually do anything about it. They let companies pollute, don’t do much about worker safety, pay low wages, and make people work long hours. So-called “free trade” lets companies cost us more than 50,000 factories in the Bush years, and millions of jobs. And it empowers companies here to tell their workers to shut up and behave and accept wage and benefit cuts, or they’ll send their jobs to China, too. We continue to just let China take jobs, factories and industries because powerful interests, like Wall Street, make tons of money off of it.

So the decision is made, our country is engaging in the economic war that has been underway against us. Will our country’s conservatives take our country’s side?

Solyndra, Chevy Volt And The Anti-Green Propaganda Campaign

Oil-backed conservatives have been waging a campaign to discredit green energy, trying to stop government efforts to move us away from dependence on oil and coal. (Please click the links.)

They have used the failure of solar-panel manufacturer Solyndra — partly due to Chinese dumping — to paint green tech in general as a bad investment. They have even tried to turn the public against the Chevy Volt, claiming that it “ran out of juice in the Lincoln Tunnel” when it actually just kicked over to the gas-engine charger, and that the car is “flammable” because on test battery got too hot — as compared to cars that run on gasoline! (Gasoline car-fire data at the link.)

These anti-dumping tariffs change the dynamics of this oil-backed anti-green campaign. Now when conservatives slam Solyndra or the Chevy Volt and otherwise join in this anti-green-energy campaign they are taking China’s side against American companies at a time when the country is engaged in economic conflict. This presents a tough choice to the conservative movement: Do they continue to accept oil and coal company funding and side against their country and support China, or will they return to their pro-American roots and side with their country in a time of conflict?

Installers Hit Hard?

Low prices from trade-cheaters are always attractive. But if we want a slice of the jobs, factories, industries and economy of the future we have to fight back when our competitors cheat.

The solar-installer industry is worried they will be hit hard by this because prices for solar panels could increase sharply. According to BusinessWeek’s “U.S. Solar Tariffs on Chinese Cells May Boost Prices”:

The tariffs “will increase solar electricity prices in the U.S. precisely at the moment solar power is becoming competitive with fossil fuel generated electricity,” Shah said in a statement. “This new artificial tax will undermine the success of the U.S. solar industry.”

[…] The U.S. decision to impose import duties on Chinese solar panels will raise their price to $1.11 per watt, according to calculations by Bloomberg New Energy Finance, a London-based researcher owned by Bloomberg LP. That price is 17 percent higher than the current spot price of non-Chinese panels.

Forbes’s article “Solar Installers Caught In Cross Fire Of Escalating China Trade War” states:

On Thursday, the U.S. Commerce Department issued a preliminary decision levying steep tariffs against Chinese solar manufacturers, finding they illegally dumped cheap photovoltaic cells on the American market. But the companies that install those solar panels on residential and commercial rooftops — and which have benefited from a 75 percent plunge in photovoltaic prices in recent years — are split over the impact of the tariffs on their burgeoning business.

The government could remedy the impact on domestic customers and installers several ways, including:
•by using the new tariffs to fund tax credits and other incentives that help homeowners and businesses make the move to solar power,

•by imposing a large “carbon tax” that is refunded on a per-capita basis. This would mean high users of carbon-based fuels would pay in, the revenue is divided up evenly to everyone over 21 and paid out with a monthly check, and people could use this money to both cover their own added energy expenses and to purchase solar and other alternative energy products to lower their carbon-energy footprint,

•and by setting a national renewable energy standard, requiring power producers to use a certain percentage of solar, wind and other alternatives, creating more of a market for green tech.

Oil And Coal And “Buggy-Whip” Technologies

Of course the oil and coal companies will continue to fight this shift from their “buggy-whip” technology, and will use their tremendous influence over our government to try to hold off the inevitable. But the tide is shifting. The fact that China is fighting so hard and putting so much investment into this sector shows its value to the world economy in the future. The fact that our government is responding shows that we have a chance to win a share of the jobs and revenue that green tech promises to bring.

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

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Machinists Union wants to represent workers at Tobyhanna


MAY 2012 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton edition of The Union News

Machinists Union wants to represent workers at Tobyhanna


REGION, May 2nd- The International Association of Machinists (IAM) Union District 1 recently filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region Four office in Philadelphia requesting the agency conduct an election to determine if workers of a private contractor at Tobyhanna Army Depot in Tobyhanna Township want to be represented by the Union.

The IAM currently has several labor agreements with contractors hired by the United States Department of Defense (DOD) and does not represent workers actually employed by the Defense Department. The represented number of workers the IAM has varies because the Union only has labor agreements with DOD contractors that are hired to perform specific work.

The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) Union Local 1647 represents the workers employed by the DOD. Under federal law union security clauses are forbiden in labor contracts between government installations and a labor organization.

Because of the rule, AFGE Local 1647 must request all newly hired workers join the union.

According to the petition, which was reviewed by the newspaper, the IAM request the NLRB conduct an representation election to determine if approximately 10 employees of Allied Services Burnley Employment and Rehabilitation want to be represented by the Union for the purpose of collective bargaining.

The IAM request that all full-time and regular part-time Masking Laborers and Mailroom Delivery workers employed at the 11 Hap Arnold Boulevard location of the Tobyhanna Army Depot be allowed to participate in the election. They request that all clerical employees be excluded.

Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton MSA’s unemployment rate remains highest in Pennsylvania


MAY 2012 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton edition of The Union News

MSA’s unemployment rate remains highest in Pennsylvania


REGION, May 2nd- According to labor data provided by the Pennsylvania, Department of Labor and Industry, the region’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is 8.7 percent, decreasing by three-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report, which was released approximately fourweeks before. The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) includes Lackawanna, Luzerne and Wyoming Counties of Pennsylvania. Twelve months ago the unemployment rate for the region was 9.2 percent.

The unemployment rate in Pennsylvania is 7.5 percent, decreasing by one-tenth of a percentage point from the previous report. Pennsylvania has a seasonally adjusted civilian labor force of 6,408,000 with 479,000 not working and 5,927,000 with employment. The national unemployment rate is 8.2 percent, dropping by one-tenth of a percentage point from the previous report.

The unemployment rate does not include civilians who unemployment benefits have expired and stopped looking for work.

There are 12,673,000 civilians in the nation reported to be unemployed. That number does not include civilians that have exhausted their unemployment benefits and have stopped looking for work.

The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre MSA continues to have the highest unemployment rate among the 14 MSA’s within Pennsylvania.

The Philadelphia MSA and the Johnstown MSA are tied for the second highest unemployment rate in the Commonwealth at 8.2 percent. The Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton MSA has the third highest unemployment rate at 7.9 percent. The Reading MSA has the fourth highest unemployment rate at 7.5 percent.

The State College MSA has the lowest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania at 5.4 percent. The Lebanon MSA has the second lowest unemployment rate in the state at 5.9 percent, while the Lancaster MSA has the third lowest unemployment rate at 6.0 percent. The Altoona MSA has the fourth lowest unemployment rate at 6.6 percent.

The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre MSA has the fourth largest labor force in Pennsylvania with 286,400 civilians and 24,800 of them are without employment. The Philadelphia MSA has the largest labor force in Pennsylvania at 2,988,600 with 244,300 not working; the Pittsburgh MSA has the second largest labor force at 1,245,700 with 84,100 without jobs; and the Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton MSA has the third largest labor force at 423,900 with 33,400 not working.

The Williamsport MSA has the smallest labor force in Pennsylvania with 62,000 civilians and 4,500 of them have no jobs. The Altoona MSA has the second smallest labor force with 65,200 civilians with 4,300 without employment and the Lebanon MSA is third with a labor force of 72,800 and 4,300 of them are not working.

Lackawanna County has the lowest unemployment rate within the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre MSA at 8.5 percent, unchanged from the previous report and dropping by six-tenths of a percentage point from twelve months ago. Lackawanna County has a civilian labor force of 109,000, rising by 1,500 from the previous report.

Luzerne County has the highest unemployment rate in the MSA at 8.8 percent, decreasing by five-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report and also dropping by five-tenths of a percentage point from twelve months before.

Luzerne County has the largest civilian labor-force in the MSA at 162,900, increasing 1,300 from the previous report and rising by 2,900 during the past twelve months.

Wyoming County has a unemployment rate of 8.7 percent, decreasing by two-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report and dropping by nine-tenths of a percentage point during the past twelve months.

Wyoming County has the smallest civilian labor force in the MSA at 14,500, rising by 100 from twelve months ago.

In the MSA total nonfarm jobs have increased by 5,400 during the past twelve months to 257,200. Service providing jobs rose by 4,300 during the period while manufacturing jobs rose by 300 from twelve months before.

Meanwhile, professional and business services jobs increased by 3,300 during the previous twelve months with healthcare and assistance gained the most jobs in the sector increasing by 500 during the period to 42,700.

Government jobs have dropped by 900 during the past year with local government leading the way by losing 500 jobs. Federal government and state government jobs declined by 200 each during the past twelve months.