Every day, my priority as a member of the Virginia Senate is how best to help my constituents. Over the past couple of years, I have seen many struggling in this lackluster economy. Struggles that began with the passage of NAFTA in the mid-nineties that led to the closing of many of our textile and furniture manufacturing companies have gotten progressively worse as unfair international trade practices have further challenged our manufacturing community. Many families have been directly impacted by manufacturing jobs disappearing across Virginia, especially in the region I represent.
For decades, my constituents relied on manufacturing jobs to support themselves and their families. But due to unfair competition from foreign countries, manufacturers have closed or had to lay off thousands of hard-working Virginians. Meanwhile, countries such as China continue to dump cheap goods in the United States.
As a result, key manufacturing sectors in the United States are at risk of falling back into recession. That’s a huge threat to the broader economy, which grew only 0.5 percent in the first quarter of 2016. Nationally, manufacturing gained only 30,000 jobs in 2015 compared to 2.7 million across the entire economy. No wonder economic activity in the manufacturing sector declined in January for the fourth consecutive month according to the Institute for Supply Management Index.
Virginia alone has lost more than 135,000 manufacturing jobs since 2001 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The impact of these job losses hits hard right at home with more than 6,000 manufacturing jobs lost in the 5th Congressional District and an additional 5,300 in the 4th Congressional District.
If our national leaders took action, Virginia could easily see 131,300 new manufacturing jobs, according to a report from the Economic Policy Institute. 12,000 of those would help Virginians in the 5th District and another 12,100 in the 4th District. Instead, our record $367 billion trade deficit with China is only expected to grow larger this year.
Worst of all, a weak manufacturing sector is a threat to our national security. In a time when terrorism is threatening our homeland and our allies, we cannot afford to be undercut by a torrent of illegally subsidized and dumped imports swamping our market from China. A healthy domestic manufacturing sector is critical to sustaining the quantity and quality of capabilities needed to preserve our security.
We need to push back against foreign countries that are snatching jobs away from hard-working Americans. Trade enforcement is the only way to make sure countries like China will no longer cheat on the global stage, ultimately hurting American families and threatening their security. I hope the next president and congress share my concerns.
World War I/II Update
As I reported in the spring, Virginia is planning events to recognize the efforts of Virginians in the World Wars. Our first public event will be in December with a kick off at the University of Richmond. UR was selected because of the ease of getting those with mobility problems into the facility. We are inviting veterans and their families. There will be a program with lunch provided at no charge followed by a chance to either video record veteran stories or see displays from others. We hope that the various VFWs and American Legion units can help with transportation for those whose families cannot be with them that day. Please contact us if you want to be part of this event.
We love to hear from you! You can contact us at Sen.Ruff@verizon.net, 434-374-5129, or P.O. Box 332, Clarksville, VA 23927.