American Forum Op-ed by NC business leader on Bush-era tax cuts

by August 27, 2012

If anyone tells you that ending the Bush tax cuts for the richest 2 percent would hurt job creation tell them to talk with me. We founded our business, TS Designs, in 1977 as a small manual screen printing company and grew to land contracts with some of clothing’s biggest brands. In 1993, we lost much of our business as a result of the supposedly job-creating NAFTA trade agreement as large brands sought out the cheapest labor costs they could in Mexico.

We decided to stick it out and keep good jobs right here in North Carolina. We invested in new technologies that reduced our energy and waste costs. We found new markets for our t-shirts. And we looked at our location in North Carolina as a virtue, not a problem. We decided to manufacture T-shirts from cotton grown, ginned, spun, knit, finished, cut, sewn, printed and dyed all within our state’s borders; or as we like to say, from dirt to shirt in North Carolina.

North Carolina is the nation’s third largest producer of cotton. We formed Cotton of the Carolinas with other manufacturers and farmers to promote the use of locally grown cotton in a supply chain that keeps jobs, investment and tax dollars right here in our own communities.

Our supply chain is completely transparent, from Ronnie Burleson’s farm in Richfield to his nephew’s cotton gin down the street in New London. From Hill Spinning in Thomasville to Mortex Apparel in Middlesex and back west to Statesville to MoCaro Dyeing and Finishing then back to Mortex before ending up at our company to be printed and dyed.

Years ago, I studied to be an economist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill – the nation’s first public university. Our public schools, colleges and universities are among the important places we can see our tax dollars at work.

When the first Bush tax cuts passed in 2001 our nation had a budget surplus and we were told the tax cuts would pay for themselves by boosting economic growth and job creation. Many people like myself thought that was bunk. You’d think the economic meltdown and large budget deficit would have shown that giving tax breaks for the best-off Americans makes them richer – it doesn’t pay for itself, it doesn’t trickle down and it doesn’t create jobs, at least not in America.

I know firsthand that investment is the key to keeping my business healthy. I know that the taxes I pay allow the government to reinvest in teachers, roads, clean water and other infrastructure and services that my business depends on to succeed.

North Carolina benefits significantly from government investment. For every tax dollar we send to Washington, we get $1.08 back in everything from supports for our cotton farmers, jobs at our military bases, investments in our national parks that bring tourists to our state, and research and education investments that support the Research Triangle.

The U.S. Senate recently passed a bill extending the Bush tax cuts on income below the $250,000 level for households. Almost everyone – 98 percent of Americans including small business owners – have income below that. The richest 2 percent would keep their tax cuts on their income below $250,000 but not their extra tax cuts above that level.

On August 1st, the House passed a bill to extend the Bush tax cuts for 2.7 million high income earners and pay for these tax breaks by raising taxes on Americans with less income – reducing the child tax credit, college tuition tax credit and earned income tax credit, which help 13 million working families, with 26 million children. North Carolina is home to more than half a million of these working families who would be hurt.

As a small business owner, taking money from the budgets of families struggling to make ends meet and giving it to the most prosperous families won’t help my business or our economy. Instead it will continue us down the path of subsidizing the already well off instead of making the investments in our economy and our people that truly strengthen our nation and our homegrown jobs.


Eric Henry is President of TS Designs, a t-shirt manufacturing and printing company in Burlington, NC.

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