Politics

Gillibrand Seeks Clawbacks for Firms that Offshore Jobs

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand proposes clawing back tax breaks from companies that ship jobs overseas.

Gillibrand, who represents New York and is among those seeking the Democratic nomination for president, fielded questions from about 30 local labor leaders, elected officials and activists Thursday afternoon during a roundtable at Cassese’s MVR.

The campaign stop was part of her two-day “Trump Broken Promises Tour” to highlight what her campaign characterized as President Donald Trump’s broken promises to the American people. She started with an event in Pittsburgh and, after leaving Youngstown, was scheduled to make a brief stop in Warren before heading to Cleveland Thursday evening and to Michigan for events Friday.

In Youngstown, the spotlight was on Trump’s pledges to bring jobs back from overseas and hold companies accountable. The campaign stop took place against the backdrop of a local economy battered by the shuttering in March of the General Motors Lordstown Complex, in the home district of U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-13 Ohio, who also is seeking the Democratic nomination for president. 

Like Ryan, Gillibrand remains far back in the Democratic field led by former Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Sens. Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren.

Coming to the Youngstown area, “a community that has really borne the burnt of Trump’s broken promises, is one of the most important things I’m going to do in this presidential campaign,” Gillibrand said. 

“The truth is, he lied to you. He lied to the American people,” she continued. “He lied to you when he said, ‘I’m going to bring back all the good jobs.’ He lied to you when he said, ‘I’m going to bring back all the good jobs and if they send them away I’m gong to hold them accountable. There’s going to be consequences.’ 

“What consequences were there? There were none. He did nothing for these communities when jobs were slashed,” she said. 

During a July 2017 rally in Youngstown, Trump told the crowd at the Covelli Centre not to sell their houses. “We’re going to get those jobs coming back, and we’re going to fill up those factories or rip them down and build brand new ones,” he said.

Since then, the General Motors Lordstown Complex, which manufactured the Chevrolet Cruze, ceased production. Trump subsequently has blamed that closing on organized labor. Since the closure, his administration has been involved with efforts to bring a small electric-vehicle manufacturer, Workhorse Group Inc., to the plant. 

Under Gillibrand’s proposed “deadbeat company tax,” companies that move a minimum of 25 jobs overseas would be subject to financial penalties and clawbacks of federal, state and local funds, including a tax equivalent to the cumulative local and state incentives received over 10 years.

Other penalties include an additional 15% abandonment tax on the total economic value of any capital assets that are moved overseas, termination of existing federal contracts, “major penalties” for consideration of future federal contracts for the following decade and clawback of federal tax credits and grants that supported the facility. 

Revenue collected from these penalties would be put into a community-specific trust fund to assist the impacted municipality, administered by a local board to help governments replace lost revenue, sustain community services and rebuild the economy. 

She also proposed establishing an economic disaster aid system modeled on the Federal Emergency Management Agency to assist communities struck with sudden financial disaster and invest in apprenticeship programs. 

“As president, I would make manufacturing and Made in America national security issues,” she said. “We need to take manufacturing seriously because it is the lifeblood of national security and it is the lifeblood of national competitiveness.” 

She further called for making the creation of green jobs and the mitigation of global climate change “a national priority and pledged to create a “green energy race.” with China, which has taken many of the green manufacturing jobs that had been in the United States.  

Gillibrand criticized Trump for not standing up to China when it manipulates its currency, dumps its steel in the United States, steals U.S. intellectual property or engages in unfair labor practices.

“You need to stand up to China, hold them accountable, use the world community to help you but not start stupid trade wars. They don’t help anyone. They undermine our markets. They hurt our producers,” she said. “President Trump doesn’t have a strategy. He just has tantrums.” 

Gillibrand blamed Trump for spreading fear and anxiety, and cast the blame for plans to prevent Mexicans and Central and Southern American immigrants from seeking to emigrate to the United States. 

“The reason he tells you your life is bad is because black and brown people around America are taking your jobs,” she continued. “Make no mistake, the racism President Trump puts out, the hate that he puts out in this country, is trying to make every worker who feels left behind blame someone else. They want us to be afraid of the stranger who needs our help.”

Gillibrand responded to a woman who questioned the focus by Democrats on white privilege, noting that the Valley has been depressed across all demographics because of loss of its industry and the opioid crisis.

The senator acknowledged the suffering of local families from economic hardship. 

“No one in that circumstance feels privileged on any level. That’s not what that conversation is about,” she said. “What that conversation is about is when a community has been left behind for generations because of the color of their skin, when you’ve been denied job after job after job when you’re black or because you’re brown. … Institutional racism is real. It doesn’t take away your pain or your suffering; it’s just a different issue. ” 

In a statement emailed Thursday afternoon, Evan Machan, Ohio Republican Party communications director, called Gillibrand a “weak candidate with an even weaker backbone” whose “record of continuous flip flops” caused U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., to urge her to “slow down” on changing her stances on key issues.  

“Her chameleon characteristics and support of disastrous policies like the Green New Deal and universal health care would cost the American people trillions of dollars, millions of jobs and completely change our economy for the worst,” Machan continued. “Hypocritical politicians touting far-left policies like these don’t resonate with Ohioans.”

United Auto Workers Local 1112 President Dave Green, who represents workers at the GM Lordstown plant, said he hasn’t committed to a candidate but applauded Gillibrand’s economic policy. “When manufacturers do leave the country, they should be accountable,” he said.

GM received $80 million from the state of Ohio in tax incentives with the commitment to keep the Lordstown Complex open for 30 years, Green said. 

“That was 19 years ago,” he said. So what is the state going to do to get that money back? We would like to see taxpayers get their money back if the company doesn’t fulfill their commitments.” .

Pictured: U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand makes a campaign stop at Casesse’s MVR Thursday.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.