Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Big Freakin' Deal 

This just came across the wire (isn't that what news-types say?):
UPDATE 1-Bush picks Nebraska CEO as manufacturing czar
(Adds more details on Raimondo, Kerry criticism)
By Caren Bohan
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President
Bush, battling for votes in states that have suffered hefty
manufacturing job losses, has chosen a Nebraska executive to
fill a newly created post of manufacturing "czar," industry
sources said Wednesday.

Sources said an announcement would be coming soon of Bush's
decision to pick Tony Raimondo, chairman and chief executive
officer of Columbus, Nebraska-based Behlen Manufacturing Co.,
for the job.

Bush promised on Labor Day in September last year to create
the new position. Raimondo's official title would be assistant
secretary of commerce for manufacturing and services. Democrats
had criticized Bush for taking months to fill the post.

Several battleground states in this year's presidential
election, such as Ohio, which Bush visited Wednesday, have
been hard hit by job losses in recent years.

Raimondo also serves on the board of the National
Association of Manufacturers. Behlen makes buildings, grain
bins, silos and other infrastructure for the farm industry.

In a congressional hearing in June 2002, Raimondo testified
about a sensitive issue for the manufacturing industry -- the
value of the dollar.

He complained then that the U.S. currency's strength was
causing great pain to small and mid-sized manufacturing

"There is a major factor beyond our control that has tilted
the global playing field against us and is causing extremely
serious harm to America's (small and medium-sized
manufacturers) -- and that factor is the overvaluation of the
U.S. dollar," Raimondo said in testimony to the House
Small Business Committee.

The dollar has been on a downtrend recently.

Even before the announcement was official, Bush's rival for
the presidency, Democrat John Kerry, issued a statement through
a campaign spokesman criticizing it.

"After losing 2.5 million manufacturing jobs, George Bush
has finally realized there's a problem," Kerry campaign
spokesman Chad Clanton said in a statement. "It's too little,
too late. Mr. President, putting another bureaucrat in the
Department of Commerce isn't going to get people back to

(Additional reporting by Steve Holland)
My thoughts: This is a sad attempt to avoid being labeled as out of touch. But more importantly, it's an attempt to avoid being called a flip-flopper. Because, as the report says, Bush promised he'd do this in September, and he hasn't done shit until today. I mean, substantively, who cares if there's some undersecretary for manufacturing jobs? There's not much anyone can do without substantially overhauling administration policy (and even that wouldn't do a whole lot for manufacturing jobs, per se.) But, this smacks of desperation. Why today and not last September? Or any day between September and now? Oh, and I wrote this before seeing the Kerry reply.

Oh, and this does not strike me as a big story. One day max, as this person will have no real power and make no real difference, and everyone knows it, including this Tony character.

And, now that I read the whole thing--this is more China-bashing and talking down the dollar, which John Snow tried last fall. I do understand that there some pros to having a weaker dollar. This is really Brad Delong territory--he posted a bunch on this last fall, and the link here goes to one of those posts.. But, basically, this is the wrong way to talk down the dollar, because it signals to everyone that we want a weaker dollar, even if it means that U.S. currency is no longer the currency of choice. And that is very bad from a current account standpoint.
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