- Democrats eye outsource tax as part of new economic policy proposals
- Also want a more populist, blue collar, agenda to take to voters in 2018 midterm elections
- The plan would establish a job security council to review potential purchases of U.S. businesses by foreign companies
Democrats are calling for harsh new punishments on companies that outsource jobs and a crackdown on currency manipulation, embracing a more populist economic agenda as they seek to win back control of Congress in next year's midterm elections.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York announced the plan Wednesday morning with fellow party Rust Belt lawmakers such as Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan and Sen. Joe Donnelly of Indiana.
The program would establish the American Jobs Security Council, which would review pending purchases of American companies by foreign corporations. Schumer said the panel would have the power to block a deal if it would hurt American workers or the economy.
"Simply put, this council has the power to slam the door shut on foreign companies who want to buy up American businesses and harm our workers," he said.
The Democrats' proposal represents the second phase of Democrats' new platform — dubbed "A Better Deal" — aimed squarely at the blue-collar workers that helped propel President Donald Trump to victory.
"This plan would level the playing field for American workers by ensuring our workers aren't competing in a race to the bottom on wages and labor protections," strategy documents state.
Democrats' proposals include penalizing businesses that move jobs or their headquarters out of the United States. Companies would have to pay a corporate tax rate of 35 percent on any profits held overseas before relocating. Currently, businesses are able to defer those taxes until the money is brought back to the country.
Companies would also be prevented from deducting the expense of moving those jobs. On the other hand, businesses that bring jobs back to America would receive a tax credit for 20 percent of those costs.
Government contractors would face more stringent requirements under Democrats' plan, including a public "shame list" for those that regularly send jobs overseas. In addition, the proposal would require companies that outsource to add as much as 10 percent to their estimated costs, making them less competitive.
"U.S. companies need incentives to in-source production that has already been lost and be forced to pay an exit tax when outsourcing" the documents read.
The proposal also tackles one of Trump's favorite targets: China. Democrats are calling for a new law that would allow the federal government to impose duties on countries that undervalue their currency — a move essentially directed at China. Under the existing system, only the Treasury Department can designate a nation as manipulating its currency.
Schumer has long been a vocal critic of China's currency and trade policies, and Democrats have traditionally been skeptical of the benefits of globalization. But Trump appealed to working-class voters — particularly in typically blue states — by breaking with Republican orthodoxy and verbally pummeling America's largest trading partner.
Some of the proposals in Democrats' new platform echo not only Trump's campaign promises, but efforts already underway in his administration: renegotiate NAFTA and tighten rules requiring the federal government to buy American. The plan would also establish an independent trade prosecutor.
Democrats are set to announce the new trade agenda amid reports in The Wall Street Journal and Axios that the White House is readying aggressive new enforcement actions against China for intellectual property theft.
Trump has also recently stepped up his rhetoric against the country as progress appears stalled on a hundred-days plan on trade and economic issues while North Korea ramps up ballistic missile tests.
"I am very disappointed in China," Trump wrote in two tweets last week. "Our foolish past leaders have allowed them to make hundreds of billions of dollars a year in trade, yet they do NOTHING for us with North Korea, just talk. We will no longer allow this to continue. China could easily solve this problem!"
Democrats began rolling out their "Better Deal" agenda last week with vows to scrutinize big corporate mergers and bring down prescription drug prices. The platform is also expected to include proposals on the cost of higher education and infrastructure.