CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- July Fourth would be a great time for us to start talking about economic patriotism, not only in West Virginia but in America.
During the first 12 years of this new millennium, it seems the only measure of patriotism discussed was whether or not we supported the expenditures of human and monetary capital as we waged wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
On the Fourth of July, I'll be in Ripley with thousands, many of whom return each year to renew friendships and celebrate our nation's independence with no concern of who's red or who's blue but to collectively show patriotism to the old Red, White and Blue, flying over the courthouse.
Economic patriotism can be the solution to our nation's current financial problems. I don't believe anyone can deny we have a spending problem in America, but the debate concerning which programs get cut to reduce spending by its very nature is divisive, as is the ongoing debate regarding the need to raise taxes on wealthy individuals and corporations to increase revenue. We must make being an economic patriot a revered stature if America is to again become the America that produced goods and built the middle class.
We have lost more manufacturing jobs over the last decade (as a percentage of totals) than during the Great Depression, thanks to U.S. corporations moving facilities to Mexico, South America and overseas. From a 2009 study by economists Alan Binder and Alan Krueger, we learned that 1 in 4 American jobs is vulnerable to offshoring; this is not corporate economic patriotism.
Corporations have leveraged their political power with vast sums of money to create economic policies in America that are indeed stacked in the favor of corporations and the wealthiest 1 percent of our citizens rather than the 99 percent of working families. I suggest to you that we label them guilty of being economic traitors at this time of great financial distress and suffering a vast number of Americans are experiencing on this Fourth of July 2012.
Economic patriotism could be exhibited by corporations bringing our jobs home and supporting legislation that would put an end to giving tax incentives to American corporations who offshore our jobs. Economic patriotism can put an end to currency manipulation by China and other foreign governments to artificially increase our trade deficit, further eliminating American manufacturing jobs.
Economic patriots like Warren Buffett may be remembered someday in a similar vein as the American warrior in battle who defended all that is just and right for America as he speaks of the need to eliminate tax loopholes and tax shelters for the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans.
It's time to bring our jobs home and rebuild our economy by eliminating tax incentives to corporations that ship our jobs overseas. It's time that the wealthiest 1 percent pay their fair share, in the name of patriotism. Hopefully when economic patriotism prevails, wealthy individuals and corporations will become true American job creators, not just greedy wealth accumulators.
Matheney is secretary-treasurer of the West Virginia AFL-CIO, a group of more than 575 unions.