Policy and Legal

Policy and Legal

Payroll Tax Deferral Confuses Businesses

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President Trump’s plan to have businesses defer the employee’s share of payroll taxes is not going smoothly. The logistical difficulties are significant, and businesses have been expressing their frustration to the Treasury Department, reports The Wall Street Journal (subscription).

The problem: Employers are worried about the administrative burden. Plus, they’re concerned they may be liable for the taxes of employees who have changed jobs. And lastly, if Congress refuses to forgive the taxes, companies will be on the hook for a huge tax bill next year.

While companies await guidance on how to implement the President’s executive order, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said in an interview on Wednesday that he can’t force firms to stop withholding those taxes. Some tax experts say that companies will be disinclined to take the chance.

NAM involvement: In remarks yesterday to NAM members, IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig urged companies to continue weighing in with policymakers.

Policy and Legal

China Turns Inward with Domestic Economy Plan

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Chinese President Xi Jinping has been outlining an economic plan that will focus more on domestic consumption and markets, easing back from China’s reliance on trade and foreign investment, the Wall Street Journal (subscription) reports.

Xi has been speaking publicly about this “domestic circulation” (as it’s translated) since May, according to Chinese officials. The details haven’t emerged yet, but more news should come out of the October “plenum,” the meeting of the Communist Party’s top leaders.

The chips are down: U.S. sanctions are already having an effect, with telecom company Huawei reporting a shortage of processor chips that will stall production. The Chinese government recently announced it would provide tax cuts and other forms of financial help to its domestic chip industry.

What’s the prognosis? Some experts think these measures won’t make much of a difference, however. As Paul Triolo, head of the geo-technology practice at Eurasia Group, told CNBC, “The preferential treatment outlined in the new policies will help in some areas, but in the short-term will have only marginal impact [on] the ability of Chinese semiconductor firms to move up the value chain and become more competitive globally.”

Interpreting China: The Financial Times (subscription) gives another read on U.S.–China relations: that China has taken a much more cautious attitude toward confrontation in the past month or two. For example, top Chinese officials have seemed to suggest that China is willing to talk and unwilling to let the relationship degrade further.

Meanwhile, in Taiwan . . . U.S. Health Secretary Alex Azar discussed a trade deal with Taiwan on a high-profile visit to the country (though he didn’t spell out the details). While he was there, Chinese fighter jets flew across the median line in the Taiwan Strait.

Policy and Legal

Wholesale Prices Rise by 0.6%

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Producer prices in the United States surged 0.6% in July, the largest jump in almost two years, according to MarketWatch. Meanwhile, core prices—what you get when you take out food, energy and trade margins—rose 0.3%. That was the third month of an upward trajectory.

What’s going on: Congress’s frantic spending to help us weather the pandemic isn’t increasing inflation. But that’s because there’s so little demand nowadays—businesses can’t raise prices because they need more customers to start buying again.

The NAM breaks it down: “Even with sharp increases in raw material costs in July, overall costs remain in check for now, especially on a year-over-year basis,” said NAM Chief Economist Chad Moutray. “Given the deflationary pressures seen in the economy in the spring months, it should not be a surprise that prices would bounce back strongly at some point.

“For its part, the Federal Reserve has pursued extraordinary monetary policy measures to help prop up the economy—providing a financial ‘bridge’ for consumers and businesses during the slowdown in activity, and it remains committed to its stimulative stance for the foreseeable future.”

Policy and Legal

COVID-19 Is Delaying Infrastructure Projects

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Along with the many other things not happening this year are a wide variety of infrastructure projects. A report released by the American Road & Transportation Builders Association lays out the extent of the delays and even cancellations, reports ConstructionDive. A few of the numbers:

  • About $9.6 billion in projects have been delayed or cancelled.
  • 16 states have nixed or postponed projects worth about $5 billion.
  • 20 local governments are responsible for the rest, at $4.54 billion.
  • 44 states, transportation authorities and local governments expect to see a drop in revenues . . . which could translate into less funding for infrastructure down the road (so to speak).

Why infrastructure matters: One industry that relies on infrastructure is, of course, transportation. And very soon, transportation will help save our economy and public health: once the COVID-19 vaccine is ready, it must be distributed nationwide.

Right now, delivery companies like UPS, FedEx and DHL are bolstering their networks and capacity to ship medical goods in anticipation of the vaccine, Transport Topics reports. Here are some of the details:

  • Preparations include building “freezer farms” capable of storing millions of doses of the vaccine at low temperatures. UPS has started work on two such facilities, while FedEx is adding at least 10 freezer facilities.
  • The companies will also need a lot of dry ice, which keeps medical supplies cold during transport.

This will be the largest vaccine distribution effort in history. Preserving and improving our infrastructure means that future generations, when faced with other health challenges, will be able to distribute medicines easily. And meanwhile, it will enable manufacturers to keep the economy thriving as only they can.

NAM involvement: Last month, the NAM and 118 manufacturing organizations sent a letter to Congress urging it to pass a long-term surface transportation bill, in part because of the challenges surrounding COVID-19.

The big picture: The NAM has been an advocate for infrastructure reform long before the pandemic and will continue long after. NAM Vice President of Infrastructure, Innovation and Human Resources Policy Robyn Boerstling recently made the comprehensive case for infrastructure investment in a blog for Trade Vista.

And for the full slate of NAM recommendations, check out its “Building to Win” plan for candidates and elected officials, which the NAM will keep promoting throughout the campaign season and during the next administration.

Press Releases

Manufacturers Congratulate Senator Harris

Timmons: When diverse voices have a leading role on the national stage, we are all better off

Washington, D.C. – National Association of Manufacturers President and CEO Jay Timmons released the following statement on the selection of Sen. Kamala Harris to join the Democratic ticket in the 2020 election.

“Sen. Kamala Harris has made history, and this is a milestone for America. When diverse voices have a leading role on the national stage, we are all better off. If Sen. Harris’ candidacy helps more young Americans see a place for themselves in public service, that is progress for our country. The selection of a running mate is one of the great mile markers in any presidential campaign—and manufacturers look forward to keeping our industry, and our issues, front and center with both the Biden–Harris and Trump–Pence campaigns.

“The path for the success of manufacturing in America is found in our ‘Competing to Win’ policy agenda—and we call on all candidates at every level to draw from it and rally Americans around these post-partisan ideas. Whether the issue is bold infrastructure investment, comprehensive immigration reform, strengthening the American workforce, expanding export opportunities, protecting research and innovation or many others, we will work with all leaders ready to advance our shared priorities.

“The men and women of America’s manufacturing workforce contribute mightily to the success of our nation. Just as we have been the arsenal of democracy during the major conflicts in our history, manufacturers are also playing a decisive leadership role in America’s response to COVID-19. By ensuring our industry has the right policies in place at the federal level, there is no doubt manufacturers will significantly drive our country’s recovery and renewal as well.”

-NAM-

The National Association of Manufacturers is the largest manufacturing association in the United States, representing small and large manufacturers in every industrial sector and in all 50 states. Manufacturing employs more than 11.7 million men and women, contributes $2.37 trillion to the U.S. economy annually and has the largest economic multiplier of any major sector and accounts for 63% of private-sector research and development. The NAM is the powerful voice of the manufacturing community and the leading advocate for a policy agenda that helps manufacturers compete in the global economy and create jobs across the United States. For more information about the NAM or to follow us on Twitter and Facebook, please visit www.nam.org.

Policy and Legal

The U.S. Needs Better Broadband Access

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Most of us are extremely grateful to have the internet nowadays—it keeps manufacturers’ high-tech operations running and provides entertainment for our socially distanced evenings. But the U.S. needs continued, substantial investment in broadband access and will do so long after the pandemic is over. One reason, of course, is that manufacturing is increasingly high-tech and high-skilled, which means demand will keep rising for fast, reliable and universal connectivity.

So in light of our renewed appreciation of all things digital, here’s a quick reminder of the policies that the NAM is promoting, courtesy of NAM Director of Innovation Policy Stephanie Hall. As she puts it, the federal government needs to take the following steps:

  • Modernize federal partnership programs and appropriate funds to increase broadband deployment in hard-to-serve areas and to close the digital divide.
  • Fund broadband mapping efforts to help us understand where broadband is needed and who needs it most.
  • Create a smart regulatory environment that allows the private sector to design, build, finance, operate and maintain our digital infrastructure.

Recent actions: The NAM—and manufacturers across the country—are calling on Congress to include broadband funding in its COVID-19 response. In a May letter to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, the NAM asked Congress to “support investment in our broadband infrastructure system, maximize consumer choice in how they connect and reduce regulatory barriers that can slow manufacturers’ ability to deploy current and next-generation broadband infrastructure.”

As Congress continues to work on COVID-19 response funding, the NAM will keep pushing for broadband access.

Policy and Legal

Trump Threatens Executive Actions for COVID-19 Relief

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President Trump threatened to use executive actions if Republicans and Democrats can’t reach a deal on the next round of stimulus, reports The Washington Post (subscription). How much he can accomplish unilaterally is unclear, however.

What he said: “We’re negotiating right now as we speak, and we’ll see how that works out,” Trump said. “In the meantime, my administration is exploring executive actions to provide protections against eviction . . . . As well as additional relief to those who are unemployed as a result of the virus. Very importantly, I’m also looking at a term-limited suspension of the payroll tax.”

Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill: Democrats and Republicans intended to come to a deal by the end of this week. The latest word is that it will happen “in the near future,” according to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

NAM connection: The NAM has been urging Congress to include liability protections in the next stimulus package. To that end, it organized a “Day of Action” yesterday on social media, calling for “commonsense protection from opportunistic lawsuits in order to fuel our recovery and help creators respond to this crisis.” A range of groups and organizations participated in the Day of Action, including the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, the Michigan Manufacturers Association and the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association.

Press Releases

White House Threatens Innovation with Drug Price Indexing

Timmons: “The White House has chosen to dangle an axe above these manufacturers’ heads”

Washington, D.C. – The National Association of Manufacturers launched a new seven-figure television and digital ad campaign aimed at potential rules to address drug pricing through International Price Indexing.

“As the nation continues to battle the COVID-19 pandemic, we should not be enacting policies that could potentially stifle pharmaceutical innovation. Price-setting schemes manipulated by foreign governments have no place in our economy. They could impact our ability to develop cures for future pandemics, cancer or Alzheimer’s. So we’re unsure why the White House has chosen to dangle an axe above these manufacturers’ heads by threatening this policy,” said NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons.

“Manufacturers are constantly working to lower costs for top-quality medicines and therapies, and we know that importing policies that have failed elsewhere won’t achieve that goal.”

To view the ad, click here.

-NAM-

The National Association of Manufacturers is the largest manufacturing association in the United States, representing small and large manufacturers in every industrial sector and in all 50 states. Manufacturing employs more than 11.7 million men and women, contributes $2.37 trillion to the U.S. economy annually and has the largest economic multiplier of any major sector and accounts for 63% of private-sector research and development. The NAM is the powerful voice of the manufacturing community and the leading advocate for a policy agenda that helps manufacturers compete in the global economy and create jobs across the United States. For more information about the NAM or to follow us on Twitter and Facebook, please visit www.nam.org

Press Releases

Manufacturers Seek to Immediately Halt Administration’s Unlawful Visa Restrictions with Injunction

Washington, D.C. – The National Association of Manufacturers released this statement after filing a motion for preliminary injunction in federal court today. The motion would call for an immediate hold on a series of damaging visa restrictions that prevent manufacturers from filling crucial, hard-to-fill jobs to support economic recovery, growth and innovation when we most need it.

“These unlawful visa restrictions hurt manufacturers and their workers at a time when we need driven, high-skilled innovators more than ever,” said NAM Senior Vice President and General Counsel Linda Kelly. “Destroying the investments we have made to find and grow talent will only stifle American innovation while serving up crucial talent and a competitive advantage to other nations on a silver platter. We are asking the court to put an immediate stop to this bad policy. We know our case is strong, and we must prevent irreparable harm to American manufacturing while we await our day in court.”

To read the motion for preliminary injunction, click here.

NOTE: Last week, the NAM was joined by industry associations representing much of the American economy in filing a lawsuit in federal court opposing the Trump administration’s proclamation suspending new nonimmigrant visas.

Read the NAM’s plan for comprehensive immigration reform, “A Way Forward.” To learn more about the Manufacturers’ Center for Legal Action, click here.

-NAM-

The National Association of Manufacturers is the largest manufacturing association in the United States, representing small and large manufacturers in every industrial sector and in all 50 states. Manufacturing employs more than 11.7 million men and women, contributes $2.37 trillion to the U.S. economy annually and has the largest economic multiplier of any major sector and accounts for 63% of private-sector research and development. The NAM is the powerful voice of the manufacturing community and the leading advocate for a policy agenda that helps manufacturers compete in the global economy and create jobs across the United States. For more information about the NAM or to follow us on Twitter and Facebook, please visit www.nam.org.

Policy and Legal

A Tax Victory for Manufacturers

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After a year of pushing back on an IRS rule that would have made it more difficult for manufacturers to invest in new equipment, the NAM can declare a win, according to Bloomberg Government (subscription).

Here’s a recap:

  • Before 2017, businesses could pretty much subtract their full interest payments on debt—but the 2017 tax reform law limited the business interest deduction to 30% of earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) for tax years starting in 2018.
  • Starting in 2022, the deduction was limited even more, to earnings before interest and tax (EBIT). Excluding depreciation and amortization would make it more expensive for businesses like manufacturers to finance capital equipment purchases.
  • Here’s where it could’ve gotten worse: The Treasury Department had proposed a rule that would have effectively imposed the EBIT standard now instead of two years from now.

For a capital-intensive industry like manufacturing, where businesses use debt to finance important investments in critical technology, that was going to cause a lot of strain even before COVID-19. Throw in a pandemic and a tough economic environment, and that proposed rule looks even worse.

The NAM aggressively pushed back, leading more than 80 trade associations to oppose that change. On Tuesday, the Treasury Department released its final rules—without that provision.

The NAM says: “Congress’s goal in reforming our tax system was to help businesses invest and grow, but the proposed rule would have had the opposite effect,” said NAM Vice President of Tax and Domestic Economic Policy Chris Netram. “We are pleased that Treasury did the right thing, helping support the men and women who make things in America.”

The bottom line: Because of this rule, it will be easier for manufacturers to invest in their business, their employees and their communities.

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