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Wednesday, February 03, 2010

How to destroy American jobs

Matt Slaughter is right on the money. Obama's proposed tax on US multinational firms only destroy American jobs, not protect them:

How To Destroy American Jobs

by Matthew Slaughter

Mr. Slaughter is associate dean and professor at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research, and senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. From 2005 to 2007 he served as a member of the White House Council of Economic Advisers.

Deep in the president's budget released Monday—in Table S-8 on page 161—appear a set of proposals headed "Reform U.S. International Tax System." If these proposals are enacted, U.S.-based multinational firms will face $122.2 billion in tax increases over the next decade. This is a natural follow-up to President Obama's sweeping plan announced last May entitled "Leveling the Playing Field: Curbing Tax Havens and Removing Tax Incentives for Shifting Jobs Overseas."

The fundamental assumption behind these proposals is that U.S. multinationals expand abroad only to "export" jobs out of the country. Thus, taxing their foreign operations more would boost tax revenues here and create desperately needed U.S. jobs.

This is simply wrong. These tax increases would not create American jobs, they would destroy them.

Academic research, including most recently by Harvard's Mihir Desai and Fritz Foley and University of Michigan's James Hines, has consistently found that expansion abroad by U.S. multinationals tends to support jobs based in the U.S. More investment and employment abroad is strongly associated with more investment and employment in American parent companies.

When parent firms based in the U.S. hire workers in their foreign affiliates, the skills and occupations of these workers are often complementary; they aren't substitutes. More hiring abroad stimulates more U.S. hiring. For example, as Wal-Mart has opened stores abroad, it has created hundreds of U.S. jobs for workers to coordinate the distribution of goods world-wide. The expansion of these foreign affiliates—whether to serve foreign customers, or to save costs—also expands the overall scale of multinationals.

Expanding abroad also allows firms to refine their scope of activities. For example, exporting routine production means that employees in the U.S. can focus on higher value-added tasks such as R&D, marketing and general management.

The total impact of this process is much richer than an overly simplistic story of exporting jobs. But the ultimate proof lies in the empirical evidence.

Consider total employment spanning 1988 through 2007 (the most recent year of data available from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis). Over that time, employment in affiliates rose by 5.3 million—to 11.7 million from 6.4 million. Over that same period, employment in U.S. parent companies increased by nearly as much—4.3 million—to 22 million from 17.7 million. Indeed, research repeatedly shows that foreign-affiliate expansion tends to expand U.S. parent activity.

For many global firms there is no inherent substitutability between foreign and U.S. operations. Rather, there is an inherent complementarity. For example, even as IBM has been expanding abroad, last year it announced the location of a new service-delivery center in Dubuque, Iowa, where the company expects to create 1,300 new jobs and invest more than $800 million over the next 10 years.

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