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Fighting with Our Hands Tied. How Structural Costs Imposed on U.S. Manufacturers Threaten Competitiveness Presented by Jeremy Leonard Economic Consultant Manufacturers Alliance/MAPI, Inc. Tauber Manufacturing Institute March 26, 2004. Background.

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Fighting with our hands tied

Fighting with Our Hands Tied

How Structural Costs Imposed on U.S. Manufacturers Threaten Competitiveness

Presented by Jeremy Leonard

Economic Consultant

Manufacturers Alliance/MAPI, Inc.

Tauber Manufacturing Institute

March 26, 2004


  • Emerson Electric approached MAPI and NAM in summer 2003 on the burden of “overhead” costs.

  • Research carried out in fall 2003; final study released in December.

  • Analysis reflects input from MAPI, NAM and Emerson.

  • Manufacturing costs closely related to “offshoring” at the center of current political debate.

Key findings of study
Key findings of study

  • U.S. manufacturing renaissance since early 1980s.

  • Increasing competition from emerging markets, notably China and Mexico.

  • Nonproduction costs outside of manufacturers’ direct control have spiraled, with disastrous consequences:

    • Total manufacturing costs are HIGHER than for our industrial trading partners.

    • U.S. nonproduction costs are almost as high as TOTAL manufacturing costs in China.

    • Soft pricing environment = ↓ cash flow, ↓ investment, ↓ jobs

  • The U.S. is shooting itself in the foot by not adopting policies to rein in these costs.

Renaissance in u s manufacturing
Renaissance inU.S. manufacturing

  • Manufacturing accounted for 22 percent of GDP growth in 1990s expansion, more than its share of output.

  • Annual trend productivity growth accelerated to more than 4 percent, higher than any post-WWII expansion.

  • An engine of innovation: 90 percent of patent approvals and 75 percent of R&D in manufacturing and allied industries.

  • Innovation and investment fanned out to other sectors of the economy, helping double productivity growth in nonmanufacturing industries.

  • U.S. material living standards began to pull away from Canada, Western Europe and Japan.

Shift in global competition since 1990
Shift in global competitionsince 1990

  • Majority of trade is with advanced economies, though share declining.

  • Mexico and China have become major players in US market.

  • Some imports from Japan and SE Asia have migrated to China.

Note: Southeast Asia includes Taiwan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand and Indonesia

Emerging markets have moved into high value goods
Emerging markets have moved into high-value goods

  • Office machines and telecom are the most important main category.

  • China is making inroads in other higher-value industries.

  • “Traditional” labor-intensive industries are becoming less important.

Note: Miscellaneous manufacturing includes toys, sporting goods, and other small consumer goods

Manufacturing cost pressures are eroding productivity gains
Manufacturing cost pressures areeroding productivity gains

1. Regulatory compliance costs reflect growth from 1992 to 1997 and likely understate more recent growth

Excess burden of u s nonproduction costs is heavy
Excess burden of U.S. nonproduction costs is heavy

Total manufacturing costs, U.S. dollars per hour

  • U.S. manufacturing costs are higher than all trading partners; without EXCESS nonproduction costs, they would be lower than industrialized partners.

  • Dollar value of U.S. excess costs almost as large as TOTAL production costs in China.

Implications of high and escalating nonproduction costs
Implications of high and escalating nonproduction costs

  • Manufacturers cannot compete internationally (trade deficit is more than a currency problem).

  • Relocation of operations offshore becomes more attractive option.

  • In a soft pricing environment, escalating costs reduce cash flow (manufacturing CF declining since 1997).

  • Declining cash flow discourages hiring, investment and R&D.

Manufacturing nonproduction costs the big 4
Manufacturing nonproduction costs: THE BIG 4

  • Corporate taxation.

  • Employee health benefits.

  • Tort litigation.

  • Regulatory compliance.

The burden of


is much in the news but is much smaller than these in quantitative terms.

Statutory rates not the only tax problem
Statutory rates not the only tax problem here

  • Until JGTRRA in 2003, no deductibility of dividends from US individual income tax (unique among trading partners).

  • Partial dividend exclusion scheduled to sunset in 2008.

  • Treatment of foreign-source income very unfavorable relative to countries with value-added taxes; costs manufacturers $60 billion annually.

  • Foreign sales corporations, the tool to compensate for VAT rebating, have been ruled illegal by WTO.

Us health care costs are out of control
US health care costs are hereout of control

2001, percent of GDP

  • US businesses shoulder a much larger share of health care costs than their international counterparts.

  • Businesses typically pay ¾ of employee premiums, a share that has risen since early 1990s.

Tort litigation
Tort litigation here

  • US tort system notorious for its high cost ($230 billion in 2002), inefficiency with regard to compensating plaintiffs, and inability to link damages to negligent behavior.

  • Proportionally, US manufacturers bear an actual litigation burden that is three times heavier than most of its major trading partners.

  • Threatened litigation can at best increase product safety requirements and at worst discourage new product development.

  • Looming asbestos crisis ($275 billion in potential damages across the industrial spectrum?) urgently needs resolution.

Regulatory compliance the silent killer of competitiveness
Regulatory compliance: the silent killer of competitiveness here

  • Most expensive in terms of direct costs are environmental; other main categories are workplace safety, tax compliance, and economic.

  • Rarely pass basic cost-benefit hurdles and often stay on the books long after their useful life is over.

  • Total compliance cost to US manufacturers: $160 billion, equivalent to a 12 percent excise tax.

  • Sarbanes-Oxley and related corporate governance changes will add a yet unknown amount to this.

  • Well-designed regulatory measures can reach intended goals at a much lower cost.

International comparisons pollution abatement
International comparisons: pollution abatement here

  • Pollution abatement costs are higher for US manufacturers than ALL major trading partners, even so-called “green” economies of W. Europe.

  • Why? US pollution regs are toughest in the world and still rely too much on command-and-control.

  • If international data existed, similar story might be told for workplace and product safety.

1. Data for China and Taiwan are not available. This analysis assumes that manufacturers in these countries bear a pollution abatement burden equal to half that of Mexico, the lowest value.

Conclusions and implications
Conclusions and implications here

  • Current debates about offshoring U.S. jobs skirt the fundamental issue of overall cost.

  • Manufacturers doing their part: ↑ investment, ↑ innovation, ↑ productivity has lowered unit costs since 1990.

  • Nonproduction costs outside of manufacturers’ direct control have spiraled, mainly as a result of benign neglect on the part of government policies.

  • Commerce Department manufacturing report provides good blueprint for policy action on the “Big 4” nonproduction cost drivers.

  • Our mission: take this message to Washington and the state capitals.