Clinton Promises To Help Create Manufacturing Jobs Of The Future

Sep 5, 2016
Originally published on September 5, 2016 7:21 pm
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Donald Trump has said if he's elected president, he'll bring back some of the millions of manufacturing jobs the U.S. has lost in recent decades. Hillary Clinton says she has a plan that will help create the manufacturing jobs of the future. NPR's Jim Zarroli takes a closer look at what Clinton is proposing and what it might accomplish.

JIM ZARROLI, BYLINE: Like Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton sees a vibrant manufacturing sector as essential to the economy.

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HILLARY CLINTON: We are builders, and we need to get back to building.

ZARROLI: But while Trump promises to bring back lost jobs, Clinton envisions a new model of manufacturing called Make It In America Partnerships. They're aimed at creating jobs in cutting-edge fields such as biotechnology and aeronautics. Thomas Kochan of MIT is a sometime adviser to the Clinton campaign.

THOMAS KOCHAN: It's not nostalgic in the sense that we're going to bring back a lot of the jobs that were shipped overseas, but it's focused on the next generation of manufacturing opportunities.

ZARROLI: Clinton's plan would work this way - companies, banks, universities and local governments would form partnerships that take advantage of local resources. If a college has a great robotics program, for example, and its graduates have lots of ideas for new businesses, local officials might help them find financing. High school students would learn the kinds of skills these businesses need. And if these businesses need plants or transportation facilities, federal money may be used to build them. Kochan says these partnerships can take years to develop.

KOCHAN: People will have to be recognizing that it will take a long time to turn this economy around and get jobs and wages and manufacturing all moving in the right direction.

ZARROLI: But the hope is these hubs can eventually lead to the kind of well-paying manufacturing jobs that are common in Germany and Japan. Clinton also hopes these partnerships will create the kind of ecosystem that will encourage manufacturers to stay in a region. But if they leave, the government could claw back any tax benefits they've received. Economist Peter Navarro of the University of California, Irvine who advises Trump says this strategy is mistaken.

PETER NAVARRO: Clinton's approach is kind of the schoolmarm approach where we're going to wrap their knuckles if they do it. What Donald Trump recognizes is that you have to basically realign corporate incentives so that they'll produce here rather than offshore.

ZARROLI: Navarro says if the government wants to encourage manufacturing, it should cut corporate taxes and eliminate regulations. Chad Bown of the Peterson Institute for International Economics says Trump's ideas differ from Clinton's in another way. Trump would address unfair trading practices by countries such as China by threatening to tear up existing trade pacts. Clinton is more likely to use existing mechanisms such as the World Trade Organization to settle disputes.

CHAD BOWN: I think where that's fundamentally different is the recognition that there are international rules that we can take advantage of, you know, in the form of the existing trade agreements that we're a party to, so, for example, the WTO.

ZARROLI: Many of Clinton's proposals, including the Make It In America Partnerships, are a lot like ideas put forward by the Obama administration. But while President Obama's ambitions were hobbled by the Great Recession, Clinton believes she has the opportunity to take the agenda much further. Still, Clinton faces the same reality as Trump. Manufacturers today are so much more productive. They don't need as many workers as they used to. Jim Zarroli, NPR News, New York. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.