2003oc01:Eugene Register Guard
Guest Viewpoint: Corporations need to put American interests first,
by David Pokvitis

Pokvitis is Springfield, Oregon, business owner and director of a Chicago-based company,
director of two other companies in Oregon and on the board of advisers for the Small Business Development Center.
To put this opinion piece into a historical context even longer than the author intended,
consider the legacy of Adolf Berle's 1932 book and the even longer trends identified as the "managerial revolution"

Americans everywhere are now jumping on the anti-China bandwagon. Though I have witnessed the damage to jobs and businesses around the country from this huge low-wage competitor, we all need some perspective.

We have lost nearly 3 million high-wage, high-benefit, high-taxpaying jobs in recent years, with many millions more to be lost soon unless something is done. Before I delve into some solutions, we should first reflect on how our elected officials created this problem in the first place.

Our problems really began decades ago when the Republican Party abandoned American free enterprise in favor of the "free trade" interests of large corporations.

In the mid-1990s, the Clinton administration, along with the vast majority of Republicans and Democrats, voted in lockstep for "free trade" by pushing for China's status as a full trading partner.

I was shocked then that the Democrats sold out our unions, our small-business community, our working class and eventually our state and local budgets by siding with large corporate economic "experts" to make it easier and cheaper to move our jobs overseas. That shock has turned to amusement that many of these same Democrats today are calling on the Bush administration to do "something" about jobs. Our news media have a short memory about who caused the problem to begin with - our elected officials.

Most large corporations have no loyalty to American jobs, only to executive salaries and market share. The trickle of jobs to China became a flood in the past few years, because the Chinese people work for as little as one-tenth the amount it costs to employ American workers. In addition, these corporations avoid the huge burdens of employment lawsuits, regulatory hassles and taxes that plague American business. Large corporations have the funding, the resources and the staff to move jobs overseas, and do so to make their businesses stronger.

The rest of us who run smaller companies without such resources are stuck in competitive hell - forced to meet Chinese competition fortified by American large corporate backing. Travel the country as I do to see thousands of small companies closing under the pincers of anti-business regulation here and Chinese/corporate competition. No doubt the next job may be mine or yours.

Now for some solutions:

1) Invest in America. American businesses need help, and fast, to level the playing field. Business owners are in our communities, paying lots of taxes, supporting loads of local and regional causes, and providing decent wages and benefits to tens of millions of families. We must tolerate the lawsuits, the regulations, the hassle - but how about some significant tax and financial incentives to expand and modernize? Why not provide jobs tax credits or investment credits for jobs created in America, for equipment made and installed in America?

2) A corporate minimum tax. Many of us who own companies are hit with a minimum tax; it's part of the privilege to do business in America. You would be shocked how little our large corporations pay in American taxes. Why not impose a minimum tax on all those top 5, 000 corporations that are moving our jobs away? That tax will pay for an Invest in America program and help level the playing field a bit further. Let our corporations know that they must stay invested in America, no matter where they produce their products.

3) Cap trade deficits. America is the world's richest, largest market. If other countries want full access to our wallets, we should require them to invest as well. If we put a firm cap on trade deficits, it will force China and other countries to open plants here. More plants, more jobs and more equity in America's future will do wonders to stem the loss of jobs.

It is not too late for our elected officials to do the right thing. Though I have a business to run and sit on the board of two other companies, I would work with any senator or congressman, Republican or Democrat, to help sponsor and pass legislation to save American jobs.

Do we have legislators that can put America's interests ahead of corporate interests? Can we stop placing blame on our president and start creating more jobs? I'll let you know if someone takes me up on my offer