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Bring Jobs Back? It Won't Be Easy

The plunging dollar. Rising Chinese wages. Soaring shipping-fuel costs. As it gets more expensive to import goods from China, the U.S. could be positioned for a manufacturing renaissance. But if the response to "Can the U.S. Bring Jobs Back from China?" (Cover Story, June 30) is any guide, optimism isn't high. The article cited sectors (steel, for instance) where U.S. industry is gaining, but noted that reduced capacity will make it tough for America to gear up. Many readers agreed, citing other obstacles: soaring health-care costs, high taxes, and a government that may not have the will to do what's needed to take advantage of the new economics of trade. —Pete Engardio

While I would like to see manufacturing return to the U.S. for economic and national security reasons, we need to be realistic. China and other countries heavily subsidize their industries. The U.S chases its industries out of the country with regulations—specifically, environmental rules. We can't mine, drill for oil, or operate factories without miles of red tape.

Screen name: strategery

U.S. manufacturing will rebound only when Wall Street and the government treat it as a valued economic activity. China's CEOs don't have mega-salaries, but China gives manufacturing favorable tax and importing breaks.

Incentivize U.S. manufacturing, and it will respond. Penalize it, and watch it wither.

Screen name: Marsh

Make all overseas factories that produce for the U.S. market meet OSHA and EPA requirements. Just think of all the inspector jobs it would create in the process.

Rick Sheehan

Collierville, Tenn.

Simply bringing manufacturing jobs back home is a step backward! What we need are more Googles (GOOG), more Microsofts (MSFT).

Screen name: Peter

Sure, companies could bring the jobs back: It's the bottom line that counts. That's why they left. The question: Would you work for—and trust—them again?

Screen name: Richard

Let's hope the sidebar accompanying your Cover Story ( "Job One for McCain or Obama: Jobs") is correct in stating that whoever wins in November, "Washington will likely try to do something to get factory jobs growing." But the proposals mentioned in the article for strengthening the competitiveness of American manufacturing require us to pay greater attention to upgrading the skills of our workforce. This is an area in which the U.S. has a growing competitive disadvantage.

The need for greater skills was recently highlighted by a report from the National Commission on Adult Literacy, an independent panel of labor and business leaders. It revealed that 85 million to 90 million American adults (about half of our workforce) do not have the skills to function well in the global economy or to earn family-sustaining wages. Such a trend may be explained by the fact that, alone among advanced industrial countries, American 25-to-35-year-olds are not as well educated as their parents.

The commission (on which I serve) recommends enacting a new Adult Education & Economic Growth Act that would increase the number of adults served by federal and state literacy programs from today's 3 million to 20 million by 2020. Congressmen Patrick J. Kennedy (D-R.I.) and Rubén Hinojosa (D-Tex.) have announced that they will introduce this legislation.

China and India are trying to improve their workers' skills and knowledge (and thus, their incomes). Their objective is to accelerate the transition from low-wage competition to winning a larger share of the market for high-value-added products. They seem to understand, better than we do, that this is not possible without a well-trained and educated workforce.

Ray Marshall

U.S. Labor Secretary, 1977-81

Professor Emeritus,

Economics & Public Affairs

University of Texas Austin

Overweight Kids: Don't Accessorize—Supervise

A mother discovers her daughter's increased risk for disease and premature death and turns it into a fashion statement ("Bigger Kids Want to Dress Cool, Too," What's Next, June 30)? Rather than accessorize her overweight child, a mother should make the nutritional and exercise changes needed to safeguard her 11-year-old child's health.

MeMe Roth

New York

What's Next for eBay

EBay (EBAY) appears to be at a critical juncture and needs to refocus on the community it created to re-energize the site ("eBay Auctions: Going,Going...," What's Next, June 30). While there are new offerings that have incredible potential (expanded store items in the search function, for instance), a lot of these have left people confused. EBay should slow the pace of the change, and it will thrive.

Screen name: Martin Adamo

Here's one way to eliminate "sniping" on eBay (waiting to place a bid until seconds before deadline): With an hour left in the auction, lock in the highest bid. Then allow everyone to submit one last private bid anytime in the last hour.

When the auction is finished, reveal the winner. That way, sniper bots don't have any advantage over real people.

Screen name: Andrew Faden

Corporate Europe Eyes the U.S.

While the Welches are correct that current exchange rates have generated surprisingly few large-scale deals ("While Corporate Europe Fiddles," The Welchway, June 30), this is not the case for companies of all sizes. Our consulting firm's middle-market European clients have shown strong interest in acquiring U.S. companies or enhancing their U.S. presence. We recently surveyed German companies with U.S. operations and found that 56% planned to increase their U.S. production.

Björn Röper

New York

When Lenders Rate Your Lifestyle

When you use your credit card, the bank is lending you money ("Your Lifestyle May Hurt Your Credit," News, June 30). So I don't see anything wrong with a lender knowing what you're buying with their money. That knowledge, though, should be clearly stated in the card's terms and conditions.

Screen name: Rob

O.K., let me get this straight: You can take your credit card to casinos in Las Vegas, but you can't take it to a massage parlor? If you use it in a bar, will lenders penalize you for ordering Jack Daniels as opposed to a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon? Since when did we sign on to be nannied?

Screen name: Lia

Pay your bills on time and keep your balance low. Do both of those things, and you can visit any massage parlor you like.

Screen name: WiliamJacobs

Tips for Staying Focused on the Task

Here are two possible solutions to the problem of employee distraction ("May We Have Your Attention, Please?" What's Next, June 23). Always work with your back facing your door or cubicle opening so you aren't distracted by people passing by. And stand—or even pace, if you have room—while you're reading. Such body language sends a message of urgency to would-be interrupters.

Ian Gillies

Toronto


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