home field advantage

The Trade Lesson the Wine Industry Taught

Former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm gave an impassioned speech on economic togetherness at the 2016 Democratic National Convention. It was a lesson she may have learned from the wine industry, which challenged legislation that gave her wineries a home field advantage.

Former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm gave an impassioned speech on economic togetherness at the 2016 Democratic National Convention. It was a lesson she may have learned from the wine industry, which challenged legislation that gave her wineries a home field advantage.

Before last week's Democratic National Convention, Jennifer Granholm, the former governor of Michigan, was best known for defending the auto industry and trying to give her in-state wineries an online edge.

At the convention, Granholm gave one of the most under-reported speeches of the week in which she identified herself with the frustration of dislocated manufacturing workers, but said they need a champion with plans, not promises.

Critics panned the part of her speech where she re-imagined lyrics from music legend Carly Simon with, "You're so vain, you probably think this speech is about you." But that missed the heart of the speech, which touched the national nerve about how to address the many people left behind by economic progress.

"I'm a fierce Democrat. But I know there are Democrats and Republicans across the country who want to create jobs in America. Liberals and conservatives. Public sector and private industry. Because we're not in this alone – we're all in this together."

Granholm recalled how Michiganders like her resented how globalization shifted good-paying manufacturing jobs to low-paying nations overseas. Her response: Quit bitching and start pursuing advanced manufacturing opportunities.

Then the Great Recession hit and the U.S. automobile industry went into a death spiral. "In 2008, we elected a Democratic President for us to work with," Granholm said. "And you know what he did? He saved the American auto industry. And then that renewed auto industry paid America back in full. And that's what we can do when we work together."

In simple terms, the former governor of Michigan spelled out the plan to address the impact of global trade, international financial flows and technological innovation. Stop complaining. Don't yield to fear-mongering. Trust people with real plans and the guts to implement them.

"Some people are worried. Some people are angry. I get that," Granholm said. "But the answer isn't to tear our country down, it's to build our country up. Not to build walls that keep the rest of the world out but to keep building the industries and universities that the rest of the world wishes they could get into."

Hillary Clinton has stumbled in her attempts to deliver the message that Granholm capsulized in a paragraph. It was perhaps the best testimonial Clinton could have received.

Granholm learned about economic togetherness the hard way. During her governorship, Michigan enacted legislation to allow Michigan wineries to ship wine directly to Michigan residents, but it also prohibited out-of-state wineries from the same privilege. Wineries challenged the law, and one like it in New York, which eventually went to the U.S. Supreme Court and was ruled unconstitutional.

Attorneys representing Michigan and New York argued in Granholm v. Heald that states had carte blanche authority to regulate liquor sales and distribution. A majority of the Supreme Court disagreed and said the dormant Commerce Clause prevents unfair restraint of trade between states.

The chastened former governor who appeared on the DNC stage in Philadelphia bore the scars of trying to give the home team an even greater home field advantage. "Our great country spans a continent," she said, "but we're all connected to each other, no matter where we live. When a miner in Virginia has the dignity of a new job in the advanced steel industry, we all have dignity.... When the autoworker in Detroit builds the electric vehicle, that drives all of us forward.”

Gary Conkling is president and co-founder of CFM Strategic Communications, and he leads the firm's PR practice, specializing in crisis communications. He is a former journalist, who later worked on Capitol Hill and represented a major Oregon company. But most importantly, he’s a die-hard Ducks fan. You can reach Gary at garyc@cfmpdx.com and you can follow him on Twitter at @GaryConkling.

Fumbling Away Home Field Advantage

Sports teams know the value of a home field advantage. They do everything they can to preserve it. The U.S. Congress appears on the verge of making an unforced turnover that could surrender our advantage as the global reserve currency.

Even though a handful of conservative lawmakers believe defaulting on the national debt is no big deal, financial leaders around the world think it is. They are beginning to question the stability of the mighty U.S. dollar.

Not waiting to find out if Congress can manage an 11th-hour deal to avoid debt default, the Chinese called for replacing the dollar as the world's reserve currency, citing the "pernicious impasse" on Capitol Hill.

The European Union has sounded alarm bells about the financial crisis that could occur if the United States falls into a technical default later this week. Its central bankers also seized on the occasion to return the lectures American officials gave them during the EU's most recent financial difficulties, saying the United States needs to "get its act together."

The British, our best friends in Europe, haven't been as snarky as other Europeans, but just cut a deal to serve as the main offshore hub for trading China's currency. It is step toward the Chinese yuan taking its place as a world currency. According to a Reuters report, London and Beijing also agreed to allow the yuan to be traded against sterling directly, rather than through the dollar, thereby reducing transaction costs. 

Economists say there is no real alternative to the dollar as the world's gold standard. But the conversation going on around the globe about "de-Americanizing" the world economy should be sobering to Americans.

Like sports team, there are definite advantages to being the world's reserve currency. One of the biggest is reduced transaction costs when an export or import is made with dollars in or dollars out. There also is less risk of currency valuation fluctuations that easily can turn a profit into a loss. Of course, the most significant benefit is attracting investment from around the world, which comes in handy when running domestic fiscal deficits and foreign trade imbalances.