'The devil is in the details'

September 21, 2011

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Earlier this month President Obama delivered a speech about the proposed American Jobs Act to Congress. His speech included these remarks: "... we're going to make sure the next generation of manufacturing takes root not in China or Europe, but right here, in the United States of America. If we provide the right incentives and support—and if we make sure our trading partners play by the rules—we can be the ones to build everything from fuel-efficient cars to advanced biofuels to semiconductors that we sell all over the world. That's how America can be number one again. That's how America will be number one again" 

These remarks were noted in the September 15 issue of the "Stamping News Brief" e-newsletter delivered to more than 10,000 metal stamping professionals. The newsletter asked readers to share their thoughts about the Jobs Act—whether it should and would be passed, and whether it could have a significant impact on revitalizing U.S. manufacturing and job creation.

Reflecting on Obama's speech, a reader from Colorado chose two popular sayings to express his thoughts: "The devil is in the details" and "where's the beef?" In doing so, he echoed Scott Kuenzlie, owner of Rivet, a designer art and toy store in Columbus, Ohio, who was quoted in the article "Local businesses react to President Obama's speech" on ohiovotes2011.com. Kuenzli said, "I thought the speech was strong, rhetorically. The devil comes down to what actually gets done in Congress." 

Kuenzli also said that he is interested in hearing details about exactly how the President planned to invest in infrastructure and expressed his concern about the slowly moving wheels of bureaucracy: "While the President or any politician can talk about job creation, if Congress continues to do nothing, there will probably be little change in the general nature of the economy."

More than one SNB reader wrote about the need to "make sure our trading partners play by the rules." 

One from a conglomerate involved in aircraft, defense, and industrial products, said, "Our elected leaders need to help our country to be more competitive, not restrict our progress. We have government regulations that make us non-competitive in many markets. Our offshore competition has government assistance and tariffs that work against us. We need a more level playing field, and we need American business leaders that invest the profits back in the company instead of lining their pockets with obscene bonuses." 

Included in the plan outlined by the President is a proposed $4,000 tax credit to employers for hiring long-term unemployed workers.  At least one SNB reader believes the tax credit is great in theory, but "how can we hire the unemployed if we do not have the facilities that require them?  Hiring incentives (such as in the American Jobs Act) are absolutely worthless unless manufacturing facilities are brought back to the U.S. and we have factories that can hire the people who are now unemployed." 

A level playing field … bringing offshored jobs home … my colleagues and I have been writing about these topics for more than a decade. During that time we've seen manufacturing czars come and go and politicians visiting factories, particularly during "campaign season." A lot of talk and relatively little action, other than bailouts. 

The President presented the American Jobs Act 2011 September 8 and delivered it to Congress September 12. Since then, the House Republican leaders have indicated which components they support and which they don't.  Even some Democrats are “balking” at the bill. So far, it's politics as usual.

Due diligence is good. Checks and balances are good. Getting so caught up in debate that nothing gets done isn't. Manufacturing, the economy, and the U.S. can't afford politics as usual. To paraphrase a common saying, "Act, or get off the hill," Congress.

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