Election 2008
12:36 pm
Fri October 31, 2008

Candidates Plan to Aid Manufacturing Differ

Dana Davidson helped build SUVs at a General Motors plant near Dayton, Ohio for 11 years. Today she's unemployed and the automaker is closing the factory for good in December.

"You know, the people in the plant we look at as family. You build a network with people, you're close to them, you know about their children, their family, you've been to their homes. It's been a rocky road," says Davidson.

The 14-hundred jobs lost at the General motors plant mirror a common trend in suffering manufacturing states. Ohio has lost nearly a quarter of a million manufacturing jobs since 2000. The story is similar in other Midwest states that rely heavily on manufacturing and the news from the presidential campaigns has not been promising.

"I have to tell you and I have to tell you this very honestly that many of those jobs are not coming back to America," says Republican Presidential Candidate John McCain speaking in Kentucky last April.

McCain's statement was not what manufacturing workers wanted to hear. Scott Paul is the Executive Director for the American Alliance for Manufacturing. He says McCain's plan is not addressing the problem.

"Any sensible economic policy is going to include manufacturing as part of the future. Manufacturing can be competitive, but we don't have policies in place to support it. In fact, we have policies in place that drive jobs overseas," says Paul.

Paul adds that the biggest threat to manufacturing in America is flawed trade policies that allow countries like China game the system in their favor, and ultimately cost Americans jobs.

"The problem is so many plants have closed down, so much production has shifted overseas and we're importing so much, that it's really not a level playing field at all. If we stop the unfair trade practices, we'll have more balanced trade," says Paul.

Democratic Presidential Barack Obama agrees that current trade practices are problematic.

"If we continue to let our trade policy be dictated by special interest, then American workers will continue to be undermined and public support for robust trade will continue to erode. Allowing subsidized and unfairly traded products to flood our markets is not free trade and it's not fair to the people of Michigan," pledged Obama at a speech in Michigan.

But McCain says that more regulation is not the answer. He believes any move to restrict free trade will hurt American competitiveness overseas.

"95% of the world's consumers live outside of the United States. Our future prosperity depends on opening more of these markets, not closing them," says McCain.

Terry Miller is the Director of the International Trade and Economics Center at the Heritage Foundation. He agrees with Senator McCain's positions on free trade.

"Senator McCain has a very long track record of supporting free trade and the private sector and market based, free market capitalism. And I think that's a very wise and proven course for the US economy. It would be just a horrible mistake to take measures that would restrict flows of trade at a time when the economy might be starting to turn down," Miller says.

He adds that trade practices by countries like China allow for less expensive goods and services to be sold in the United States, which he says is good for the average American family's pocketbook.

But as one of those average families, Dana Davidson is not so sure. She says without a job, she's forced to make some tough decisions like cutting the family budget or even leaving the town where she's lived her whole life.

"I feel like it's us that keeps the economy going. So if we're not working, if we're not in a position to stimulate the economy, I don't think there's anything that will," says Davidson.

The Obama campaign says he will stand firm against any trade agreement that undermines America's economic security. The McCain campaign says the best protection for American workers is to make sure they can sell their products on the world market. When Dana Davidson votes, she'll have to decide which of those policies might help her find another job.