Democrats, Republicans spar over jobs, economy

The Colorado Statesman

Republicans and Democrats in Colorado advanced a political messaging war over jobs and the economy this week, with both sides arguing for and against policies that they believe will create and bring jobs back to America.

U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-Golden, stood with communications workers and union leaders on Monday in Lakewood to rally support for federal legislation that would offer tax incentives to companies that repatriates jobs from overseas.

There are two Senate versions and a House companion measure of the so-called “Bring Jobs Home Act.” House Bill 5542, sponsored by U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr., D-N.J., has stalled in the Republican-controlled House. But a version of the Senate proposal, Senate Bill 3364, was blocked by Republicans on Thursday. The measure is sponsored by Sen. Debbie Ann Stabenow, D-Mich.

The bills would allow companies to qualify for a tax credit equal to 20 percent of the cost associated with bringing jobs and business activity back to the United States. The measures would also close a loophole that allows a company moving jobs overseas to deduct certain relocation costs. Sponsors hope that eliminating the loophole would pay for the legislation.

President Barack Obama hailed the concept in his State of the Union this year, and he has added the measure to his “to-do-list” for Congress before it takes its summer recess in August.

U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., also praised the bill, criticizing Republicans for blocking the measure.

“This legislation was a real way Congress could have put Americans back to work and discouraged U.S. companies from outsourcing,” said Udall. “We cannot provide tax breaks for shipping jobs overseas and hope to grow our own economy at the same time. The Bring Jobs Home Act was a common-sense way to keep Made-In-America jobs on our shores, and I am disappointed that a minority in the Senate blocked its consideration.”

Union workers on Monday spoke at the rally in Lakewood about Senate Bill 2884, which is an earlier, identical bill to S. 3364. Communications workers especially spoke of the need to incentivize bringing jobs back to America, pointing to the outsourcing of call center jobs to countries like India.

Matt Valdez, a telecommunications worker at New Jersey-based Avaya, which has offices in Colorado, was told in May through an internal memo that he would be laid off on July 13. The company said that workloads had dropped, but employees believe the real reason for the layoffs stems from the company’s ability to outsource the jobs.

Customers, workers and the local union of the Communications Workers of America fought back, and in what is being called by workers an “unprecedented” move, Avaya reversed the scheduled layoffs. Valdez believes the reversal had to do with pressure from customers who said they don’t want to see the jobs outsourced to India.

“People don’t want to speak with someone with an accent, they know that we here in America are better at getting it done,” Valdez said of the technical support that his company offers customers from their posts in America. “People in India can’t learn this complicated support in a month.”

Laurie Baldwin, who works with Communications Workers of America, said her husband, Scott Baldwin, wasn’t quite as lucky. Avaya laid him off in April after having worked there for 13 years. He has since found another job in a 9-1-1 call center support, but the experience was a difficult one for him. Laurie Baldwin says the companies themselves should realize that outsourcing jobs is going to be tough on businesses in the long run.

“We’ll lose business if the customers lose quality,” said Laurie Baldwin.

Messaging turns political

Standing in solidarity with the workers, Perlmutter blamed Republicans for stalling job growth bills. He spoke in support of the Bring Jobs Home Act, but also scolded Republicans for delaying for a year the president’s jobs bill proposal.

The so-called “American Jobs Act” is the president’s $447 billion plan to cut payroll taxes, offer direct aid to local governments to prevent public-sector layoffs, prioritize job retraining and offer other stimulus measures such as infrastructure projects. The bill has stalled in the House over spending concerns, especially following a controversial $787 billion stimulus package in 2009. Those concerns come from both parties, but Republicans have vowed not to pass spending increases without offsetting cuts.

“The House Republicans, they don’t want to take anything up that has to do with real jobs here in America,” said Perlmutter. “They want to talk about Planned Parenthood; they want to talk about some EPA regulations that deal with something tiny and far away. They don’t want to be building jobs here in America.

“They’ve avoided taking up the president’s jobs bill now for almost a year,” continued the outspoken and energetic congressman. “They’d rather focus on other things like sending things overseas, providing incentives to outsource jobs, and to offshore good occupations.”

But a spokeswoman for Perlmutter’s Congressional District 7 Republican opponent, Joe Coors, said Perlmutter’s rhetoric is in lockstep with Democratic spending proposals that set the country back economically and do nothing to increase the nation’s competitiveness globally.

“While Rep. Perlmutter says he’s for creating jobs in the country, his voting record indicates otherwise,” said Coors spokeswoman Michelle Yi. “When Rep. Perlmutter voted for the stimulus package, he voted to let 80 percent of clean-energy grants go to foreign firms that created jobs in countries like China.”

Yi is referring to concerns that millions of dollars from Obama’s 2009 economic stimulus went to subsidizing U.S. companies that expanded operations or purchased goods overseas.

She says Coors believes it is important to bring jobs home, but that the only reason Perlmutter is supporting the Bring Jobs Home Act is because the measure is fully backed by unions.

“The Bring Jobs Home Act is a 100 percent union-supported bill, so it’s no surprise that Ed Perlmutter would back a bill that creates artificial barriers to the free flow of goods and services in the marketplace,” said Yi. “Joe believes Washington needs more people who have actually created jobs like he has right here in Colorado.”

Jobs and the economy have become focal points in the presidential campaigns this summer. The Obama campaign continues to attack Republican opponent Mitt Romney on his jobs plan, suggesting that Romney is more interested in improving the business climate by offering tax breaks to big corporations and removing regulations that protect the environment, than he is with actually creating jobs. Democrats heavily criticize Romney’s trickle down approach.

Questions are also being raised as to the time Romney spent at Bain Capital, the Boston-based private equity firm that he co-founded. Romney has been accused of being at the helm of the firm longer than he has said, during a period when the firm invested in companies that were pioneers of job outsourcing. Romney denies being involved in those investments, stating that he did not have any connection to the firm beginning in 1999.

An ongoing issue related to Romney’s time at Bain has been the release of his tax returns. Romney says he will not release any returns other than 2010 and 2011, similar to how U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., only released two years of returns during the 2008 presidential election. But critics say Romney should release extensive returns in order to clarify his financial relationship with Bain since his retirement from the company.

Obama has also been hammering Romney on his proposal to eliminate U.S. taxes on American companies’ foreign holdings. The president has been bolstered by a recent report published in the journal Tax Notes that states that Romney’s proposal would create as many as 800,000 jobs in other countries, including 73,000 jobs in China. Romney, however, believes that freeing companies of the tax would allow corporations to reinvest that money in the U.S.

On Wednesday, Romney supporters, including former U.S. Rep. Bob Beauprez and Colorado Republican Party Chairman Ryan Call, fought back against the Obama campaign’s recent attacks, claiming that Obama’s economic policies have been “insane” for the country. The two Republicans held a press conference outside the Denver Museum of Nature and Science where Obama signed the stimulus package in February 2009.

“It’s no case that this president should be making that he somehow deserves another try…” Beauprez said outside the museum. “What’s Einstein’s definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. [Obama] told us he knew how to do this to manage the economy and lead us to recovery. It has failed.”

When asked by The Colorado Statesman, Beauprez was careful to point out that he was not calling the president “insane,” just the president’s policies.

“What’s their solution? Raise taxes. And if the Republicans don’t go along with them and raise taxes, they’re willing to drive us off the financial, fiscal cliff and let everybody’s taxes go up,” said Beauprez. “That part of the policy is pure insanity. The policy is wrong.”

Beauprez and Call believe the president is clueless when it comes to economic policy, to the point of calling the president’s policies “venture socialism.” They pointed to failed in-vestments from the stimulus, including bankrupt solar panel maker Solyndra, which received a $535 million federal loan. The two Republicans also pointed to stagnant economic and job growth.

Call is especially frustrated that the president recently suggested on July 13 during a campaign stop in Roanoke, Va. that business owners owe their success to government, saying, “If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that.” The Colorado Republican Party leader agrees with Romney that Obama wants Americans to be “ashamed of success.”

“The president’s remark underscores the fact that not only does he not understand it, he believes that America’s success is a result of government intervention…” said Call. “Not only does he not understand the private sector, or understand what really drives the economy here in Colorado and around the country, it’s revealing of his world view that it’s government that does it instead of the private sector… We understand that free markets and free people are what make America great.”

Peter@coloradostatesman.com