Senator's Book Offers Economic Solutions

Politicians are constantly writing books…when they have the time is beyond me since I was busy every minute of the 26 years I served in Congress.

I rarely read books by politicians. Most are self serving and are written as a way of promoting their next campaign for higher office, usually a run at the presidency.

A clear exception is the new book by Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., entitled “Take This Job and Ship It…How Corporate Greed and Brain-Dead Politics are Selling Out America.”

This book is an easy read. It contains a number of very compelling anecdotes about recent actions by companies to move jobs and whole plants outside the United States and what this has done to the American workforce.

However, it also contains a number of very specific recommendations about what we should do as a country to reverse this trend. I’m not sure I agree with all of Sen. Dorgan’s proposals, but they are well worth consideration and some of them are dead on.

Sen. Dorgan and I recently took part in a panel discussion presented by the Dallas-Ft. Worth Council on World Affairs and I read his book in preparation for the program. I’m glad I did. We served together in the U.S. House for 12 years and he has since then served another 12 years in the U.S. Senate. His presentation to the World Affairs Council was just as compelling as his book.

We all know the basic story. Manufacturing jobs are being shipped to places like China, Vietnam and Central America every day. Wages in these countries are much lower than they are in the United States and the bottom line rules corporate behavior. Isn’t this just what the free enterprise system is all about?

Not exactly. Sen. Dorgan has pointed out how American tax policy actually rewards corporations that move jobs offshore. Companies can move their headquarters offshore and avoid taxes; companies can set up subsidiaries that manufacture goods in foreign countries and not pay taxes on these profits until they are brought back to the United States (often at much lower rates in tax “holidays.”) Sen. Dorgan has some specific ideas about changing our tax code to curb corporate greed and they clearly should get serious consideration by Congress.

American companies have every right to make a good profit but they should not be able to avoid U.S. taxes while doing so. We are fools as a nation if we let this continue because we both lose jobs and lose revenue needed to improve our education and health care system so that our workers can be more competitive in the jobs that remain.

Also, Sen. Dorgan advocates a very innovative approach to bringing our trade deficit into balance, an idea hatched by that very creative Midwestern investor Warren Buffet.

Here’s how it would work: our country would issue import certificates which would entitle businesses to import goods made in foreign countries (presumably at cheaper wages). However, the dollar value of these certificates would only equal the dollar amount of U.S. made goods that were exported by American firms.

The certificates would be issued to the firms that did the exporting and could then be sold to firms that wish to import goods into the United States. They would be traded in the open market and would be a source of additional revenue to the firms that were selling American goods abroad. With this additional revenue, U.S. firms could then lower the price of the goods they were selling in foreign countries and this would make their products more competitive and increase sales.

Not only would these certificates make American goods more competitive in the world market but they would help balance our trade by placing an aggregate limit on the dollar value of goods that could be imported into the United States (the same aggregate amount of goods that was being sold abroad by U.S. companies).

I don’t know if it would work, but at least it’s an interesting idea that should be considered.

There are a number of other important topics discussed in Sen. Dorgan’s book…the absence of a rational national energy policy and its implications on our budget and trade deficits; the failure of our nation to devise a comprehensive health care system and how this drives up the cost of American goods ($1,500 of the cost of manufacturing a domestic auto is due to health care costs for auto employees) are two examples.

Reading Byron Dorgan’s new book won’t make you feel better, but at least it might make you think. I highly recommend it.

Martin Frost served in Congress from 1979 to 2005, representing a diverse district in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area. He served two terms as chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, the third-ranking leadership position for House Democrats, and two terms as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Frost serves as a regular contributor to FOX News Channel and is a scholar in residence at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C. He holds a Bachelor of Journalism degree from the University of Missouri and a law degree from the Georgetown Law Center.

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