Trade data out this week point to the serious problem for manufacturing and the notion there has been a manufacturing renaissance. I realize President Obama said the world is buying American products because they're the best, but what he didn't say is that it’s smarter and cheaper to make a lot of things overseas.
President Obama also didn't mention he wants to punish the innovators, makers, and sellers of those great American products by hijacking their profits. Operatives for the administration are sending signals of plans to attack corporate profits generated abroad before they are repatriated to build a so-called infrastructure bank. Read: a pot of money for political donors and unions.
The thing is, the dollar would have to crumble a lot more and a lot faster -- as it probably eventually will -- to make many products shipped from America more competitive in local economies around the world. This means American companies are at a disadvantage.
When the global economy slows, Americans continue to buy imports, but our trading partners seem to put buying our stuff on hold. Case in point: in July, we imported a record $37.9 billion worth of stuff from China, establishing a $29.4 billion deficit. Then there's the European Union, where our deficit exploded to $12.0 billion from $8.4 billion in June. Yes, these folks are broke, and it's only going to get worse with punishing tax hikes. (Their banks will get healthier, but not their job market -- sound familiar?)
When I hear politicians talk about companies sending jobs abroad, while at the same time they don't have the guts to force China to stop manipulating its currency, I want to laugh. But, I have to cry instead because this platform will be used to punish the most successful American companies.
For the record, there has always been a global economy. The great news is these days we are positioned to take advantage of this global economy, but mostly by producing products near the customers. I fear a second term for this administration would seek to punish American companies under the guise of the greater good and the notion they didn't build their foreign fortunes.
It would be wiser to allow American businesses to bring profits home at much lower rates instead of sky-high US rates that go on top of rates already paid in the origin of sales. Many people would be surprised to learn companies in the S&P 500 pay more taxes abroad than in America. That's why there is almost $1.5 trillion in US corporate profits outside America. It must look delicious for those looking to punish success and fund socialism.
How to Create Jobs
When President Bush offered American corporations lower taxes rates to bring profits home, it seemed to spark a massive spike of jobs in America. I think the same would happen again. In fact, America is the only industrialized nation that taxes overseas profits. Coupled with the highest tax rates in the world, you can see how any business would seek loopholes in the name of survival.
Is there a person out there who hasn't tried to find ways to lower their own tax rate? Heck, the loopholes are so great, so enticing, that even Warren Buffett must take advantage.
Overall, S&P 500 companies got 46.1% of their sales outside the United States. That number is sure to soar as Asia, South America and the Middle East and Africa continue to grow. People in those nations love Pepsi and American machines that move large chunks of earth to fuel and build nations.
The world loves American fast foods. Yum Brands (YUM), parent company of Kentucky Fried Chicken, Pizza Hut and several other restaurants, makes gobs of money in China and other nations. And the growth potential is mind boggling. Yum points out this potential in its 2011 Annual Report:
58 Restaurants in America for every 1,000,000 people
2 Restaurants in Emerging Markets for every 1,000,000 people
That same report from YUM points out the growth potential everywhere, including in Germany.
It's a lot easier to make soda in Africa and sell it locally, and it's easier to put components of giant Caterpillar (CAT) machines together aboard. I've written about this before and still point out Caterpillar in the past year created 6,000 jobs in America and 6,000 outside America, even as 70% of its sales are foreign.
I'm saying it right here and now: the war on success is going to go after great American companies, just as it goes against great American businesses like beauty salons, plumbers and auto body shops. In the meantime, in spite of all the election campaign hype, America had 12.5 million workers in manufacturing in January 2009, and it's now down to 11.97 million.
As for the stuff we are exporting aboard, the most successful is agricultural products. You can't replace great American crops with cheap labor, but unless we want American workers to earn the same salaries of Chinese workers, we have to find a better way to exploit the explosive growth of the planet.
Let American companies bring home $1 trillion, because $350 billion of it will go directly into job creation.
Charles Payne, a FOX Business contributor, is president of Wall Street Strategies. At the time this article was published he, his firm and/or his family did not own securities in Caterpillar or Yum Brands.