The answer is at least three. That point is made pretty clearly in an article covering a talk made by Emerson chairman David Farr, and rebuttal comments by a guy named Kevin Griffis, the mouthpiece for the US Secretary of Commerce, Gary Locke.
Farr took over running Emerson after the legendary Chuck Knight left a few years back. Knight was an odd guy – brilliant, abrasive, and committed to both outstanding quarter to quarter financial performance and excellent manufacturing. Emerson was a booming, growing, extraordinarily successful company during Knight's 30+ year run.
Farr is absolutely correct when he says that "Washington is doing everything in their manpower, capability, to destroy U.S. manufacturing.” He goes on to cite “Cap and trade, medical reform, labor rules" as examples. The administration has been in the all-out assault mode on manufacturing from day one – seeing it as the county fair winning Poland China hog to be carved up among its labor union supporters and environmental zealots. The lawyer in charge of Commerce, who should be the manufacturing advocate, wouldn't know a milling machine from a surface mount machine, but he has the political talking points down cold.
“This attack isn’t supported by the facts,” Kevin Griffis, a spokesman for U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, said today in an e-mail from Singapore, where they are attending the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meetings." Well, yes it is Kevin. There is a great article in today's Wall Street Journal that you and Gary ought to read on global warming before they rush off and saddle American manufacturing with Cap and Trade. And rather than slam the manufacturing community represented by the US Chamber of Commerce because they have ideas on health care that are different from the government take-over scheme your boss urges, you ought to shut up and listen. And even the Democrats who control the Senate won't support your ridiculous Card Check scheme to try to bring labor unions back from the dead. You set up a labor lawyer as the manufacturing czar and a certifiable nut case on the NLRB. You have attacked manufacturing at every turn since taking office.
The overwhelming majority of the manufacturing community is screaming stop – don't do it. Your refusal to listen to them, saying, "This administration has made a significant commitment to U.S. manufacturing" falls somewhere between being incredibly naive and an outright lie.
But the Commerce boys are not the only ones blowing smoke – trashing American manufacturing and trying to mask it with palatable rhetoric. A little further down the article, Mr Farr says, "Mature markets such as the U.S., Western Europe and Japan continue to decline in importance and the company will keep investing in emerging markets." He adds, “We as a company today are putting our best people, our best technology and our best investment in these marketplaces to grow."
What? It seems that it doesn't really matter what the Obama administration does. We are in a "mature market" and Farr is taking his business elsewhere. "36 percent of manufacturing is now in 'best-cost countries' up from 21 percent in 2003." [when Chuck Knight was running the Emerson show] So our good Mr Farr may well be outraged at the administration, but he actually started bailing out of the United States way back when Obama was just another Chicago hack in the Illinois legislature.
The Pope said, "Business management cannot concern itself only with the interests of the proprietors, but must also assume responsibility for all the other stakeholders who contribute to the life of the business: the workers, the clients, the suppliers of various elements of production, the community of reference."
He placed the blame for the world's woes largely on the backs of "a new cosmopolitan class of managers … who are often answerable only to the shareholders generally consisting of anonymous funds which de facto determine their remuneration."
He urged giving "serious attention to the damage that can be caused to one's home country by the transfer abroad of capital purely for personal advantage."
Farr says, "My job is to grow that top line, grow my earnings, grow my cash flow and grow my returns to the shareholders." No mention of his employees, his suppliers, his customers, or the communities in which Emerson does business. You sound like a very cosmopolitan sort of a guy, Mr Farr.
Farr may be correct in his criticism of the US government, but his opinion is irrelevant. He sold out US manufacturing, tens of thousands of US Emerson employees, a number of American communities long ago as a matter of his own business values and management philosophy, and blaming it on Obama – or anyone but himsef - is about as disingenuous as it gets.
You laid off those people, Mr Farr. You trashed the communities. You decimated your US suppliers. You obviously decided to get out of US manufacturing years ago and now you are trying to use the Obama administration's policies to justify yourself? You aren't fooling anyone. How about you buck up and be a man and accept responsibility for your decisions, instead of blaming others?
Let those of us who are committed to manufacturing, not just in the United States but everywhere – regional manufacturing where the people in each part of the world can grow a vibrant manufacturing economy to support their own regional markets for the benefit of everyone – do the talking. Farrcashed in his right to express an opinion on American manufacturing policy a long time ago.