Rust Belt Dems want Congress to rein in outsourcing

Melissa Nann Burke

Washington — A number of Senate and House Democrats from Rust Belt states are calling on Congress to rein in American companies that are outsourcing jobs abroad.

Hailing from Michigan and other states won by President-elect Donald Trump in November’s election, the Democrats say they welcome the attention Trump brought to the impact outsourcing has had on middle-class families.

In recent letters to congressional leaders, they urged swift action in the next session of Congress on measures that would, among other things, consider a company’s history of outsourcing when awarding federal contracts, and when evaluating whether a company should receive tax breaks or other tax incentives.

Federal laws should “claw back” such incentives and tax breaks if the companies decide to outsource jobs or factories “instead of investing in America,” according to a letter signed by Michigan Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters, as well as senators from Ohio, Indiana, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

Stabenow of Lansing is up for re-election in 2018. Trump narrowly won Michigan with nearly 48 percent of the vote.

“The loss of manufacturing jobs in our states has contributed to the decades-long trend of the declining middle class,” the senators wrote. “We believe these principles — which we intend to introduce as legislation — are critical to our shared commitment to encourage companies to invest in the United States and in American workers.”

A group of 24 House Democrats, led by Reps. Debbie Dingell of Dearborn and Mark Pocan of Wisconsin, made a similar appeal this week.

“The frustration and despair felt by workers in our region is palpable, and the discourse during the year’s election detailing the lack of opportunity for the working class underscores the need for solutions to these challenges,” they wrote.

“Congress has a responsibility to address their concerns and work together to strengthen the economic stability of these communities.”

The House members would like to see Congress close tax loopholes that “reward” corporations that ship jobs overseas. They also want to boost investments in education programs to prepare workers for advanced manufacturing jobs, as well as retraining programs for workers whose jobs are displaced.

“I’m going to fight for the working men and women of the Midwest,” Dingell said in an interview. “Donald Trump hears what I heard, but I don’t need Donald Trump to tell me what to do.”

Michigan Reps. John Conyers Jr. of Detroit, Brenda L. Lawrence of Southfield and Sander Levin of Royal Oak also signed the letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Minority Leader-elect Chuck Schumer, House Speaker Paul Ryan and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

The Democrats did not endorse or mention Trump’s plans to impose taxes — as much as 35 percent — on products sold in the U.S. by a business that fired American workers and built a new factory or plant in another country. He tweeted in early December that companies should be “forewarned prior to making a very expensive mistake.”

Trump, who campaigned on promises to bring back American manufacturing jobs, has promised to call every U.S. company with plans to ship jobs overseas and ask them to reconsider.

“I can call them myself,” Trump said in a Time magazine interview this month. “Five minutes apiece. They won’t be leaving. O.K.?”

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