The Issues: Outsourcing

CBS News continues a month-long series – titled "What Does It Mean To You?" – focused on where the presidential candidates stand on major issues and how a vote for one or the other candidate might affect average people's lives.

In this report, CBS News Correspondent Cynthia Bowers compares what George W. Bush and John Kerry propose to do about the outsourcing of U.S. jobs.


Steve Prahl always felt he embodied the American dream. The son of an immigrant who built a business from scratch – a tool and die plant that employed a dozen or so. By all accounts a success.

Until a couple of years ago, when Prahl's customers started saying his costs were no longer competitive with Asia.

"We would sit down with the whole company in the lunch and say, 'Boys here are the facts of life. Here is the pricing structure that we are getting from Taiwan' at the time," he says.

Prahl says trade deals gave his Chinese competitors tax breaks that cut their costs to next to nothing. Then, one of his largest customers, refrigerator maker Electrolux, announced plans to close up shop. Why? It's moving 2,700 jobs to Mexico.

Recent reports about new jobs being created nationally don't mean much locally. And people here worry that unless something changes and changes quickly, the so-called new economy is going to bypass places like Greenville.

"Whichever individual that steps up to the plate and can clearly define a policy that is going to protect the American citizenry and the jobs that are necessary to fuel the economy, they're going to be sitting in the White House," Prahl says.

President Bush and Sen. John Kerry supported most-favored nation status for China and the North American Free Trade Agreement, both of which have hit U.S. manufacturing hard.

"American workers can compete with anybody, anytime, anyplace, so long as the rules are fair," Mr. Bush says.

And although he acknowledges those rules haven't always been fair, the president wants to expand free trade to Central America, a region also likely to undercut U.S. manufacturing.

As a candidate, Kerry has backed off his free trade stance a bit, saying he won't support CAFTA as is, and he promises a review of every single trade agreement.

"We will make certain what agreements are working for us and what agreements are not working for us," the Massachusetts senator says.

As he considers the candidates' positions on trade issues, Steve Prahl is being kept busy with his new job, appraising machinery at area plants, often at plants that are going out of business.
  • Joel Roberts

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