BY GOV. JENNIFER M. GRANHOLM, 3/6/16, COURTESY HUFFINGTONPOST.COM
We had great news on Friday—another 240,000 jobs created. Seventy-two straight months of private sector job growth. We’ve come a long way since the abyss of the recession.
Like many Michiganders, my memories of 2008-09 are still raw — the auto industry entered bankruptcy and our manufacturing sector was convulsing due to jobs shifting to low-wage countries. I can still see the faces of so many anguished people – the 50-ish guy who approached me in the Lansing coffee shop, embarrassed that he had to wipe a tear rolling down his cheek, telling me that he couldn’t put his kids through college because his auto supplier job shut down.
Or the tattooed guy in the bomber jacket in the Saginaw breakfast cafe, swearing in frustration about “f-ing trade deals” because Delphi was selling off its steering operation after he had worked there for two decades.
Or the nervous fellow in the dated green three-piece suit who came to the American Wind Energy conference in Chicago with copies of his resume, and who waited in line to make sure that I heard that he was taking care of his elderly mother, desperate to replace the job he lost when the GM factory closed in Grand Rapids.
And so many others.
Because of our large manufacturing base, thousands of our people were impacted during this grueling time. If you are from Michigan, no doubt you know someone who was hurt then too.
Enter the Obama Administration. As Hillary Clinton highlighted yesterday, we’ve saved the auto industry, added over 900,000 manufacturing jobs, and American exports are up 40 percent. The auto industry just had a record year. Make no mistake: the auto industry rescue was instrumental in the jobs recovery in Michigan and Ohio. By 2010, Michigan’s economy was creating jobs at the fastest rate in the nation. For this we can thank the Obama Administration, which gave us the partnership needed to invest in autos, energy, batteries and middle class jobs in Michigan.
Yet all of the Republican candidates for president oppose the auto rescue. The choice is real.
Yesterday in Detroit, Hillary Clinton laid out an aggressive plan to build on those successes, starting with trade. No state understands the impact of poorly enforced and poorly negotiated trade laws like Michigan does. Acknowledging that we have learned from the pain caused by NAFTA, Hillary said yesterday: “I won’t support any agreement unless it helps create good jobs and higher wages for American workers … I need to be able to look into the eyes of any hardworking American anywhere in our country and say this deal will help raise your income.”
Which is why she voted against CAFTA.
Now, if we want to build things here stamped “Made in Michigan” for the world to purchase, walling ourselves off from global trade is not a solution. We need to tear down walls blocking us from exporting, and then punish countries that seek to dump low-cost products here built through slave wages and environmental degradation. We need to be tough on US companies who chose to offshore jobs in the name of profits. We need to play relentless offense and defense. We need to be creative, smart and aggressive to compete for jobs.
When she was Senator Clinton in New York, Hillary represented hard-hit areas that were similar to cities in Michigan, such as Buffalo and Rochester. She saw those same looks of despair on workers crushed by outsourcing. She founded and was the co-chair of the Senate Manufacturing Caucus. She gets it.
The contrast with Bernie Sanders is important.
In the Senate, Sanders joined Republicans as the only member of the Democratic caucus to vote against reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank. This bank helped support $10.1 billion in exports from Michigan since 2009 and 143 small business in Michigan. Sanders’ vote was a vote against those small businesses.
Similarly, Sanders voted against the New Market Tax Credit — a way to incentivize jobs to locate in hard-hit areas like Flint and Detroit.
While Trump wants a physical wall with Mexico, he and Bernie Sanders also want a trade wall. Yet building a trade wall would restrict exports and eliminate jobs here in Michigan and across our country. In order to be a jobs magnet, we also have to export. Which means having robust-but-fair trade.
We need a grand strategy to attract and grow those middle class jobs. Hillary Clinton revealed what her approach will be: sticks for corporations who outsource by revoking their tax credits; carrots for businesses who locate in underserved communities, through New Market Tax Credits; assistance with training for manufacturers who need a skilled workforce; clean energy jobs to meet the growing global demand for carbon-reducing products; industrial clusters that build upon President Obama’s Manufacturing Institutes; beef up the enforcement of our trade laws by adding a trade prosecutor, and set a high bar for any new trade agreements; infrastructure jobs rebuilding roads, bridges and underground pipes like those in Flint; raising the minimum wage; rewarding companies that share profits with their employees, and more.
Her vision is big. It is comprehensive. It is borne of experience. And no one will work harder to make the vision become reality. She’s looked into the faces of workers who have lost their jobs to globalization too. She carries their stories with her; their dignity fuels her determination.
That’s why I’m with her, because she’s with us.