Published August 1975 — Download PDF of the original newspaper column
Byrd's-Eye View By U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd Investment Needed Here At Home One of the contributing factors to our high unemployment rate is the fact that over the past several years, too many American companies have opted to invest overseas, rather than expand their operations here at home. Take the period between 1960 and 1970, for example. During that decade, $31 billion of American capital went directly into manufacturing and other industries abroad- which was the same as sending three to four million jobs overseas, and leaving three to four million of our own citizens jobless in the United States. The situation is alarming, despite the optimistic predictions by some labor statisticians that it will correct itself over the next few years. Wage demands by foreign workers will continue to increase, the optimists predict, and the salary gap between foreign and American workers will narrow, if not entirely disappear. True, as the salary levels in foreign countries increase, it will become less profitable for American companies to locate abroad. But, in the meantime, heavy American investments in overseas' manufacturing operations has already taken its toll on domestic production. For instance, United States manufacturing industries currently operate the oldest metalworking machinery in the industrialized world, with 67 percent of our metalworking machine tools being 10 years old or older. This is an extremely important statistic, because metalworking machinery is a central element of production. And in non-military industries in the United States the ratio of professional technicians- engineers, scientists, and the like-to production workers has fallen sharply. The ratio is currently one technician for every 100 production workers, and, ideally the ratio should be the same as exists in military industries-seven to 100. Technicians are the ones who develop means to lower production costs, thereby increasing productivity and jobs. Their absence reflects the declining investment of American companies in domestic operations. If more incentives have to be offered to keep United States industries at home, they should be offered. And if tariffs have to be raised to prevent cheap foreign products from threatening American men and women, they should be raised. The first economic responsibility of the United States government is to the U.S. economy-and we cannot protect our economy and our own workforce if American companies continue to find advantages overseas which do not exist at home.