There’s been a discussion over on Google+ about getting American companies to bring jobs back home instead of continuing to ship them overseas. There have been a lot of ideas thrown around but I still like my idea and since I don’t think I’ve talked about it lately, I decided to do my dog and pony show.
We all know that sending American jobs overseas harms the economy, but companies do it because it is cheaper and often easier to set up operations in some third world country where they can pay workers pennies to do the same work that it would cost them many dollars to do here. They can also often get away with lower standards, from polluting the local ecology to lessened safety standards for the workers, as we saw with the Union Carbide disaster in Bhopal, India in 1984. Why pay a lot when you don’t have to? It makes good business sense for bottom-line conscious corporations who want to show a big profit to their shareholders.
Some people suggest just implementing a tariff on all goods entering the country from overseas, but while it does pump more money into the economy, it also just forces prices up across the board and doesn’t really solve the problem. That’s why I advocate a process that both may convince American companies to bring those jobs home, but it will also help the third world countries that are now being polluted and abused.
The process is simple. Require that all companies that are based in the U.S. follow all American labor, environmental and safety laws, no matter where they do business. Where local laws are more restrictive than American laws, the companies are required to follow the most restrictive of those laws, that keeps companies from thinking they can skimp on local laws because they’re only beholden to American restrictions. That means that no American company can pay any of their workers, anywhere in the world, less than minimum wage. That means that OSHA safety laws are the rule everywhere. That means that American environmental laws are in effect for American companies, everywhere in the world. This is going to make third world nations really happy because they won’t have to worry about American companies dumping on their environment, stealing their labor for a song and raping their resources. No more child labor, no more sweat shops, the standard of living for these workers goes straight up and the reasons companies went overseas in the first place goes down. Eventually, most will give up and just come home.
But wait, I’ve heard it said, what if paying minimum wage is actually a price break in some locales? We can also implement prevailing wage for industries where that’s true. If you’d be paying an American worker $20 for that work, you can pay an Indian worker $20 too. I’ve also heard that companies will just move operations completely off-shore to avoid having to follow American laws, but we can fix that too. For any company that leaves the United States, a 50% tariff is implemented against all of their products for 20 years. The idea is to force compliance, not to get around having to follow the rules.
Ultimately, the purpose is to bring all of those jobs back to the United States, for American workers. Is it going to drive up prices? Maybe. Is it going to drive down profits? Maybe. But I don’t think that companies should be ruled entirely by their bottom line, they have a responsibility to the nation that hosts them and to the people that work for them and to the consumers that buy from them as much as they do to their shareholders. There’s really no way this system would ever work because these companies own so many politicians, it would never pass, but hey, it’s a plan, even if it’s an impossible plan and it would work better than just throwing a tariff on importing, at least in my opinion.