Obama at Boeing Plant Calls for Tax Plan to Boost U.S. Manufacturing, Exports

 @DanRivoli
on February 17 2012 7:00 PM
Barack Obama
President Barack Obama on Friday discussed American manufacturing and exports at a Boeing facility in Washington state. Jason Reed / Reuters

President Barack Obama Friday called on Congress to reshape the corporate tax code to benefit companies that keep jobs in the United States, giving a boost to the domestic manufacturing sector and exports.

Standing by a Boeing 787 Dreamliner, Obama spoke before an audience of Boeing workers in an Everett, Wash., facility about the role U.S. manufacturing plays in the American economy. His speech included ways to offer incentives to corporations that maintain facilities in the United States.

The call for a corporate tax overhaul is the president's attempt to rejuvenate a manufacturing sector beleaguered by outsourcing, cheap foreign labor and technological advantages.

The hard truth is, a lot of those jobs aren't going to come back, Obama said. But that does not mean we've got to just sit there and settle for a lesser future. I don't accept that idea. You don't accept that idea.

'Send Me These Tax Reforms'

The tax code overhaul would include a lower corporate tax rate for companies, in an attempt to end existing tax incentives for overseas outsourcing.

Right now, companies get tax breaks for moving jobs and profits overseas, Obama said. Meanwhile, companies that choose to stay in America get hit with one of the higher tax rates in the world. That doesn't make any sense.

Part of the president's corporate tax proposal includes a minimum tax on multinational corporations that will go toward aiding companies that set up shop in America.

Every penny of that minimum tax should go toward lowering taxes for companies like Boeing who chose to stay and hire in America, Obama said. If you want to relocate in a community that's hard hit by factories leaving town, you should get help financing that new plant, or financing that equipment or training for new workers.

Obama said American manufacturers can compete with other countries like China by building high-quality products that foreign companies and consumers will want to buy.

That's how we're going to compete, he said.

To get a better product, Obama advocated funding government research that can be used in the private sector. Boeing's Dreamliner aircraft, he noted, was the first to be designed using virtual technology from NASA. Some of the company's engineers worked on the International Space Station, he said.

We've got to support this kind of cutting-edge research, Obama said. We need to maintain our innovative edge so jobs and industries take root here in the United States, not someplace else.

America's Top Exporter

The president, who has called for doubling America's exports within five years, praised Boeing as America's top exporter, noting that an increase in commercial aircraft orders overall led Boeing to hire 13,000 workers across America. Obama singled out Boeing's massive deal with an Indonesian airline that ordered more than 200 airplanes.

That deal was brokered with the help of the Export-Import Bank, a federal agency that provides loans to companies that want to sell to foreign markets. Obama said the bank will begin matching the export financing that foreign competitors receive from their governments.

If they can compete on a level playing field with workers in places like China or Europe, I promise you, America will always win, he said.

The visit to the Boeing facility was part of a trip focused on the manufacturing sector. The president gave similar remarks at a Wisconsin Master Lock plant on Wednesday.

The Boeing visit follows the aerospace giant's recent public battle with the National Labor Relations Board over its treatment of its machinists, who are union employees.

Though the NLRB is an independent federal agency, conservatives and several of the current GOP presidential candidates blasted the Obama administration for its decision to sue Boeing for allegedly building a plant in South Carolina to retaliate against unionized Washington workers. The case has since been settled after Boeing and the machinists struck a deal on a new contract.

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