Policy and Legal

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.

Policy and Legal

Second Quarter GDP Is Terrible; The Fed Stays Put

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The bad news is that GDP cratered in the second quarter of 2020, falling by a record 32.9% (on an annualized basis). The good news is . . . it wasn’t as bad as expected? Not much of an upside, but true: economists were expecting a 34.7% drop. Neither the Depression nor the Recession—nor, in fact, any economic slump in two centuries—caused such an extreme, sudden decline.

Meanwhile, the officers of the Federal Reserve met yesterday, and things pretty much went as expected, according to CNBC.

  • The Fed stuck with its low interest rates, holding its overnight lending rate around 0%.
  • It also said it would maintain bond purchases, as well as a range of lending and liquidity programs that have been part of its response to COVID-19.
  • Their statement said the rate would stay where it is until officials are “confident that the economy has weathered recent events and is on track to achieve its maximum employment and price stability goals.”

The bottom line: While the state of growth has improved over the worst months of the COVID-19 pandemic—when businesses were shut down across the country—we’re still well below the level of economic activity and employment at the beginning of the year.

Policy and Legal

How to Measure the Threat of Liability Lawsuits

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How many lawsuits have been filed over alleged COVID-19 exposure at businesses? That’s not the real question, say the NAM’s legal experts. The real question is: how many will be filed over the next three to five years?

A recent legal analysis shows that only 5% of lawsuits filed since March fall into the category of COVID-19 liability—but don’t be misled by that, says NAM Vice President of Legal and Deputy General Counsel Patrick Hedren.

Here are some pertinent facts to keep in mind:

  • The vast majority of states have a two- or four-year statute of limitations period for bringing tort lawsuits.
  • No state has a limitation of less than one year, and some allow lawsuits after four or even six years. Which means . . .
  • The flood of COVID-19-exposure litigation isn’t expected until spring 2022 when these claims start to expire.

In other words, focusing on today’s numbers obscures a coming wave that could overwhelm businesses at a time when they can least afford it.

And here’s the case for targeted liability protections, says Hedren:

  • Business leaders have been doing the best they can with the information they have in an evolving situation.
  • Guidelines from the early days of the pandemic have been refined, rewritten and sometimes replaced.
  • In many cases, local, state and federal guidelines have all conflicted with one another, creating a no-win situation for businesses that could face trouble no matter what they do.

The solution: Legislation offered by Senate Republicans—and vigorously pursued by the NAM—actually gives teeth to evolving safety measures by shielding businesses from liability if they make reasonable efforts to follow public health guidelines. (In many ways, it seems that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is reading from the NAM’s liability playbook.) If businesses engage in “gross negligence or willful misconduct that caused an actual exposure to coronavirus,” they remain open to lawsuits.

The last word: “The way to deal with safety is through thoughtful guidance that can stay fresh as the science evolves—not through a mess of court cases in thousands of jurisdictions across the country,” said Hedren. “Businesses across the country need commonsense liability protections that depend on adherence to safety standards, promote certainty and strengthen their ability to serve their community and the country.”

Policy and Legal

What’s Going on in China?

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U.S.–China relations are at a low ebb, after a matched pair of consulate closings in recent days. Last week, the U.S. ordered the Chinese consulate in Houston to be closed, whereupon the Chinese closed the U.S. consulate in Chengdu.

That’s the headline story, but a number of other stories are important for evaluating U.S.–China relationships—and Chinese strength—going forward. Here are some recent data points.

A potential catastrophe: First, there’s another horrible development for 2020: China’s massive Three Gorges dam is under some strain, thanks to the worst rains the surrounding region has seen in decades. Though Chinese officials assure the public and the world that the dam is holding, its reservoir is alarmingly full. Tens of millions of people have already been affected by severe flooding.

COVID-19 returns? On Sunday, China reported its highest rate of infections since March 6. (Though the emphasis there should probably be on reported).

Meanwhile, on the diplomatic front . . .

Human rights abuses: The United States has sanctioned 11 Chinese companies for involvement in the persecution of Muslim minorities, including for the use of forced labor. The sanctions forbid U.S. companies from selling parts or technology to these Chinese companies, not from purchasing anything. But in practice, The New York Times (subscription) says, American firms are likely to forgo doing business with them entirely.

Competition over rare earths: In a bid to find sources for rare earths that aren’t in China (which now supplies 80% of what the United States uses), the U.S. Department of Defense is funding Lynas Corp.’s rare earths processing plant in Texas—slated to be completed by mid next year.

And lastly . . .

Now that’s just weird: Bewilderingly, many Americans are receiving unsolicited packets of unidentified seeds in the mail—sent from China. Several states have had to warn residents not to plant them.

Policy and Legal

What Will the Fed Say?

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With the end to the COVID-19 pandemic nowhere in sight, all eyes are on the Federal Reserve as officials meet today.

The Fed is expected to stick with its low interest rates, according to Yahoo! News. This week’s meeting could give us a clue about how long rates are likely to remain where they are and what the Fed’s approach will be as infections increase around the country.

Here’s something we do know: the Fed is extending its emergency lending programs until the end of the year. According to CNBC, a series of initiatives that were set to expire on Sept. 30 will now run until at least Dec. 31. Those programs include:

Some good news: CNBC reports that June’s new orders for U.S.-made capital goods saw their biggest increase in nearly two years. Non-defense capital goods gained 3.3%—the biggest increase since July 2018. The rise was likely driven by renewed demand as businesses began to open after months of closures.

But it’s not all good news. While the U.S. manufacturing sector has been showing strength, the surge of COVID-19 cases across the country threatens to wipe out gains as businesses nationwide are forced to close or pause reopenings. That threat to the industry—and to the reopening—continues to spur the NAM’s PSA campaign. Take a look at the latest artwork making the simple but powerful point: #MasksEqualMoney.

Press Releases

Manufacturers on SAFE TO WORK Act

Washington, D.C. – Manufacturers of all kinds have been called on to continue to operate as critical infrastructure to support our nation’s response to the COVID-19 crisis. For that reason, they risk becoming targets in a wave of COVID-19-related lawsuits or enforcement actions based on product liability, alleged workplace transmission and even Good Samaritan efforts. National Association of Manufacturers Senior Vice President and General Counsel Linda Kelly released this statement after lawmakers announced the Safeguarding America’s Frontline Employees To Offer Work Opportunities Required to Kickstart the Economy (SAFE TO WORK) Act:

“Throughout this crisis, we have seen clear bipartisan support for provisions like these that protect companies doing their very best to implement the latest guidance, even in a difficult and confusing environment. The SAFE TO WORK Act mirrors the liability recommendations proposed by manufacturers as part of our ‘American Renewal Action Plan’ in April.

“Importantly, the SAFE TO WORK Act also provides clear avenues for holding bad actors responsible for reckless behavior, while providing powerful incentives for all employers to do everything they can to prevent the spread of COVID-19. This is the type of thoughtful, responsible approach we need that will provide manufacturers and other frontline businesses with targeted protections limited only to the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s about supporting manufacturers that have risen to the challenge and supported our nation during this unprecedented crisis, finding solutions to make PPE for health care workers, to produce food and supplies for families and to develop vaccines and treatments for us all.”

NOTE: In April, manufacturers laid out their “Pandemic Liability Policy Recommendations” as part of the NAM’s “American Renewal Action Plan.”

-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

Republicans Release $1 Trillion Stimulus Proposal

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The next round of stimulus is in the works, with Senate Republicans releasing their proposal and Democrats meeting with White House officials yesterday, reports The Washington Post (subscription). Some highlights of the new proposal:

  • Five-year COVID-19-related liability protections for businesses, health care providers and schools.
  • $100 billion or more for the Paycheck Protection Program, which benefits small businesses.
  • Another round of $1,200 checks for Americans and financial support for schools.
  • A reduction in emergency employment benefits from $600 to $200 per week, until states can set up their own unemployment programs to pay 70% of income. (A reminder: the current benefits run out very soon.)

The NAM says: NAM Vice President of Government Relations Jordan Stoick points out some of the advantages of the plan for manufacturers:

  • “Manufacturers were glad to see many of the priorities from our ‘American Renewal Action Plan’ included in this proposal, including targeted liability protections for manufacturers and other essential frontline businesses that have operated during the COVID-19 pandemic, and increased funding for the Paycheck Protection Program, which has provided critical liquidity for manufacturers.”
  • “The proposal also includes more funding for testing as well as tax incentives for manufacturers that keep their employees on payroll during the COVID-19 pandemic and to help manufacturers invest in PPE and other safety measures to keep their facilities clean and their employees and customers safe.”
  • “The NAM will remain fully engaged in the days ahead with members of the House and Senate to urge them to come together in a bipartisan way to finalize a plan that includes these important provisions.”
Press Releases

Government Mandates Will Not Lower Drug Costs

Timmons: “We should not import failed socialist price controls”

Washington, D.C. – National Association of Manufacturers President and CEO Jay Timmons released the following statement on the administration’s proposed rules to address drug pricing.

“We should not import failed socialist price controls, and we are surprised that President Trump and Secretary Azar would consider such actions. Our battle with COVID-19 shows just how vital pharmaceutical innovation is to our health and survival, and we cannot afford to limit companies’ ability to develop lifesaving treatments for this or future medical crises.

“Importing drugs from foreign countries that don’t guarantee the same standards for drugs made for the U.S. market poses a serious health risk, especially considering the counterfeiting challenges we already face.

“If enacted, tying any portion of our system to a foreign government-run health care system, through International Price Indexing or other means, is an abdication of free market principles.

“Manufacturers of all sectors are committed to lowering health care costs, and we call on the administration to commit to better market-based solutions that won’t hand over private-sector decisions to foreign governments, potentially impacting Medicare recipients and impacting our ability to help provide lifesaving medicines.”

-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 NAM Takes Aim at Counterfeiting

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Business advocates and policymakers have a new tool for waging an aggressive effort against counterfeiting during the pandemic and beyond. The NAM has released a new report, “Countering Counterfeits,” which includes proposed solutions for Congress, the administration and the private sector to pursue.

The numbers: According to the NAM’s research, fake and counterfeit products cost the United States $131 billion and 325,000 jobs in 2019 alone.

The rising tide: The rise of e-commerce has caused an explosion in fake products, particularly from China. E-commerce has created a pipeline to consumers that counterfeiters can exploit while hiding their identities and evading oversight. Estimates now indicate that global trade in counterfeits exceeds $500 billion per year.

The plan: The NAM’s proposal pushes for a series of actions to help curb counterfeiting, including:

  • Requiring e-commerce platforms to reduce the availability of counterfeits;
  • Modernizing enforcement laws and tactics to keep pace with counterfeiting technology;
  • Streamlining government coordination to tackle counterfeit items;
  • Improving private-sector collaboration; and
  • Empowering consumers to avoid counterfeit goods.

The NAM says: President and CEO Jay Timmons said in his introduction to the report, “The prevalence of counterfeits in the COVID-19 response has brought new urgency to this long-simmering issue. So the National Association of Manufacturers is leading the charge against fake and counterfeit goods, bringing together diverse stakeholders and driving innovative policy solutions to address these issues once and for all and to ensure the long-term success of our sector and the safety and security of the people who rely on our products.”

Policy and Legal

Report: U.S. Leads in Pharma Innovation, Thanks to Effective Policies

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The new report from the ITI Foundation offers strategies to maintain U.S. strength, spur greater innovation and increase domestic production.

U.S. policies spur success: “America still leads in innovation and drug development, in large part due to effective life-science policies, including significant federal investment in life-sciences basic research, robust intellectual property (IP) protections, effective technology transfer policies, investment incentives, and, importantly, drug pricing policies that enable companies to invest in high-risk drug development.”

Recommendations for policymakers: The paper suggests U.S. policymakers should focus on four key areas:

  • Maintaining U.S. strength in pricing, tech transfer and intellectual property—and avoiding oppressive drug price control schemes that damage competitiveness;
  • Boosting innovation through investment and additional tax incentives that promote research and development;
  • Increasing domestic production, including via tax credits and additional funding for key research institutions; and
  • Combating foreign mercantilism by making sure that America’s trading partners pay their “fair share” for new drugs, treatments and other medical products.

Innovation in the time of COVID-19: At a time when U.S. pharmaceutical companies are central to the fight against a global pandemic, the ability to innovate successfully is of paramount importance. The U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce held a hearing on Tuesday that discussed the issue, titled “Pathway to a Vaccine: Efforts to Develop a Safe, Effective and Accessible COVID-19 Vaccine.”

The NAM says: “The research ecosystem we have in the United States supports a global leadership position of biopharmaceutical innovation,” said NAM Vice President of Infrastructure, Innovation and Human Resources Policy Robyn Boerstling. “Manufacturers are committed to building upon that innovation—but it’s clear that government-led pricing restrictions and importing bad health care policies used by our competitors is not the way forward.”

Related . . . The NAM has launched a new six-figure television and digital ad campaign aimed at potential rules to address drug pricing through International Price Indexing and drug importation.

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