Friday, June 30, 2006

The Kind of People One Meets on a Campaign


Back in 2004, I did some work for political candidates. I did some "door to door" work for State Representative Ricca Slone and then drove to Iowa to help out the Kerry campaign in Davenport.

During these activities I had the pleasure of meeting Bill Edley. Bill was once a representative in the State House of Illinois.

Anyway, we had long discussions as we drove to and from the Quad Cities area.

He is in the news and one of his programs has made the front page of the Peoria Journal Star:

http://www.pjstar.com/stories/063006/TER_BA83RNDT.009.shtml

Just in time for the Fourth of July, a patriotic initiative from central Illinois takes the spotlight on the national stage.

It's called the Patriot Corporations of America Act. It is designed to provide tax incentives for companies that employ American workers instead of sending work overseas. And it is a direct outgrowth of the USA Patriot Corporation Project Inc. outlined by former Democratic state Rep. Bill Edley and political scientist Robin A. Johnson of Monmouth College with support from West Central Illinois Building Trades head Dan Silverthorn.

"This is federal legislation which fights against outsourcing," says Ben LaBolt, press aide for U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Evanston. "For too long, the government has provided the means for corporations to do the wrong thing."

Schakowsky was one of 10 Democratic legislators who introduced the proposed law in the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday. Labor groups are also behind it, and they hope for bipartisan support. But she gave the credit to Johnson and Edley, who was present for the Washington D.C. news conference.

"The bottom line is, we're saying that we're going to target the tax incentives for corporations to companies that care as much about the American worker as they do about the American market," Edley said from the airport on his way back. "It's fine if they want to move to Mexico. But why are we providing the tax incentives for them to do it?"

If that sounds familiar, it is. Edley had Maytag in mind. The profitable company took 1,600 Galesburg jobs to Mexico in 2004 in a bid to become even more profitable. But it sells 90 percent of its products in the United States.

"Ask anybody on Main Street: Do you think Maytag should have been able to write off $124 million and stick the taxpayers for $30 million?" he says.

Well, no. So Edley and Johnson proposed incentives to go to the companies that keep jobs and money here. They wanted to be positive, not negative. So The Patriot Corporations Act is a streamlined, voluntary version of their idea, which is supposed to be revenue-neutral for Uncle Sam.

It offers preferential treatment in government contracting and a 5 percent tax rate reduction to companies that:

- Produce at least 90 percent of their goods and services in the United States and do at least 50 percent of their research and development here.

- Limit top management compensation to no more than 100 times the wages of their lowest-paid full-time workers.

- Contribute at least 5 percent of payroll to a portable pension fund and pay at least 70 percent of a health insurance plan.

- Comply with federal regulations on environment, workplace safety, consumer protection and labor relations.

"Instead of just passing tax cuts and hoping it trickles down, this makes corporations earn them," Johnson says.

"It's not just keeping jobs in this country," says Silverthorn, "But they're head-of-household jobs that have pension plans and benefits."

At one time, Edley says, American workers relied on two oceans to protect those jobs. Under a global economy, that isn't working. New tax incentives should be investigated to reflect the new reality. It won't prevent corporations from moving, but it will try to influence those decisions.

"When the deck is stacked against you, sometimes the only way you can win is a new deal . . . or at least to re-shuffle the deck," Edley says. "This is the New Deal for the new century."

Deal 'em up.

TERRY BIBO is a columnist for the Journal Star. She can be reached at tbibo@pjstar.com, 686-3189, or 1-800-225-5757, Ext. 3189.

This has been discussed in The Nation magazine:
http://www.thenation.com/doc/20060206/schakowsky

Patriot Corporations

by JAN SCHAKOWSKY

[from the February 6, 2006 issue]

If you want to make Americans of all stripes mad, tell them about the billions of dollars in subsidies and tax breaks our government gives to companies that outsource jobs, exploit workers (both here and overseas) and dodge taxes. Tell them about Accenture, for example, which advises other companies how to outsource jobs overseas while avoiding its fair share of tax payments by incorporating offshore in Bermuda. Yet like many other US corporations, Accenture continues to qualify for tax breaks, and it currently has more than $500 million in government contracts--courtesy of taxpayers.

Meanwhile, urban communities and small towns are devastated by plant closings. Often these plants are owned by profitable corporations like Maytag, which moved its Galesburg, Illinois, plant to Reynosa, Mexico, in 2004, leaving 1,600 workers without their good-paying jobs. The number of manufacturing jobs in the United States has fallen all the way back to the level it was in 1945. And our government continues to provide carrots--and no sticks--to companies harming our economy.

To end this race to the bottom, we must stop rewarding outsourcers and tax dodgers, and start rewarding companies that care about America and American workers.

A sensible proposal to create "Patriot Corporations" was developed by Bill Edley, a former State Representative in Illinois, and political scientist Robin Johnson of Monmouth College. Funded by rolling back all of President Bush's tax cuts and recouping taxes lost through corporate offshore loopholes, the Patriot Corporations program would be entirely revenue-neutral and voluntary. It would give significant tax advantages and shareholder incentives to corporations that agree to create a real partnership with American workers. Patriot Corporations would also move to the front of the line for federal contracts--no small incentive.

To qualify, corporations would have to produce at least 90 percent of their US-sold goods and services in the United States. They would also have to:

§ limit top management salaries to 100 times the lowest-paid full-time worker;

§ spend at least 50 percent of their research and development budgets in the United States;

§ operate a profit-sharing plan for all employees, contribute at least 5 percent of payroll to a portable pension fund and pay at least 70 percent of the cost of a standardized and portable health insurance plan;

§ agree to neutrality in employee organizing drives;

§ be in good standing with EPA, OSHA and NLRB regulations;

§ and agree not to price-gouge consumers.

Companies that meet those standards are the ones that deserve carrots. With Patriot Corporations we can create a new class of companies as committed to American workers as they are to selling goods in the American market. And we can create a new patriotic ethic in America--one that unites workers and their employers in the mutual goal of building a stronger, more prosperous, more democratic business sector that can vigorously and proudly compete in the twenty-first-century global economy.

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