Canton Repository

September 16, 2004

Building Big Macs not same as making cars, lawmaker says

By Paul M. Krawzak
Copley News Service

WASHINGTON — Call it the McManufacturing amendment.

Rep. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio (Lorain), on Wednesday won House approval of a measure barring the government from listing fast-food jobs as manufacturing jobs in an upcoming economic report.

Brown suggests the Bush administration seeks the change because it would inflate the number of manufacturing jobs and undercut criticism Bush has faced over the loss of manufacturing jobs since he became president.

The only problem is the White House denies making any such proposal.

“It’s pretty clear to anyone who has read the economic report of the president that the administration has never suggested that the definition of manufacturing be changed,” Bush spokeswoman Claire Buchan said.

Fast-food workers are classified as service employees under a definition used by the Census Bureau, other government agencies and industry.

Brown, referring to a 417-page report issued last February by the President’s Council of Economic Advisers, said the document speculates “as to whether the manufacturing sector ought to include fast-food workers.”

“The American people know that, if it comes on a sesame- seed bun with secret sauce, it is not manufacturing,” Brown wrote in a letter to colleagues.

“It’s Manufacturing, not McManufacturing,” the letter said in a play on McDonald’s Restaurants. It featured a picture of a car under the caption “manufacturing” and a hamburger labeled “not manufacturing.”

The House passed Brown’s measure, an amendment to a spending bill, on a voice vote. As a result, there is no official record of how each member voted.

Rep. Ralph Regula, R-Ohio (Bethlehem Township), voted in favor of the amendment after it was accepted by a House subcommittee that was the source of the spending bill. Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio (St. Clairsville), was unavailable to say how he voted.

Brown based his charge on a sentence that appears in a box titled “What is Manufacturing?” in the report. The report contends that the definition of manufacturing is “somewhat unspecific,” and asks, “When a fast- food restaurant sells a hamburger, for example, is it providing a ‘service’ or is it combining inputs to ‘manufacture’ a product?”

The report goes on to caution policymakers against using “arbitrary” manufacturing definitions as the basis of policy.

“Suppose it was decided to offer tax relief to manufacturing firms. Because the manufacturing category is not well defined, firms would have an incentive to characterize themselves as in manufacturing,” the report states. As a result, the tax relief “may not extend to the firms for which it was enacted,” it said.