Politics

"No one in Youngstown, Ohio has a Swiss bank account"…Except for Maybe That Big New Swiss Employer in Town?

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Youngstown

Another day, another economically illiterate bleat by a Democratic politician about Swiss bank accounts. Bra-vo, Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio):

"No one in Youngstown, Ohio has a Swiss bank account. Or Akron, or Cleveland, or down the Ohio River, or in the Appalachian part of Ohio," Ryan said. […]

"So I think it's gone too far -- that's why you're seeing these very high levels of inequality," he added. "Hopefully, there will be an appreciation for speaking to that. And then governing that way too, that your focus is going to be on people in Akron and Youngstown, Ohio, and what can be helpful to their quality of life, not just how many houses in the Hamptons can you have."

Really? No one in Youngstown has a Swiss bank account? That might come as news to executives at this new local job-creator:

YOUNGSTOWN - Another major player in the oil and gas industry has decided to set up shop in the Mahoning Valley, bringing about 150 jobs with it.

Geneva, Switzerland-based Weatherford International Ltd. plans to put a "multipurpose operations facility" into a building it bought April 20 at 1110 Performance Place in Youngstown's Salt Springs Industrial Park.

The company said it will employ about 150 at the facility, which tentatively is scheduled to start operating in late September.

Geneva

Remember: Because of the populist, economically illiterate Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, Swiss citizens working in the United States at American-job-creators like Weatherford are being unceremoniously dumped by their banks back home. Imagine for a moment going to your ATM to pull out money, and seeing the message "account closed." I have talked to multiple Swiss expatriates and bankers alike who say that that's now commonplace.

Why should we care about a bunch of goddamned fondue-eating Novartis executives? Switzerland was by several accounts the largest source of foreign direct investment into the United States in 2010 [PDF], and is consistently among the top foreign investors in the presumably Ohio-friendly field of manufacturing. The Swiss government estimates that Swiss companies employ a half-million Americans.

So we are now actively infuriating not only some of the roughly five million American expatriates who are seeing their bank accounts shuttered all over the globe, but also the very type of job-creating Swiss investors and executives to whom a prudent country might be a tad more welcoming. As this Congressional Research Service report [PDF] puts it, "Foreign direct investments are highly sought after by many state and local governments that are struggling to create additional jobs in their localities." Do tell.

Like the January statement from Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) that "There is no such thing as an ordinary Swiss bank account," Tim Ryan's claim that "No one in Youngstown, Ohio has a Swiss bank account" is becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy, precisely because of consequence-oblivious millionaire Democratic politicians like Carl Levin and Barack Obama. And it's cities like Youngstown that stand to suffer most.

I wrote last week on "The Dark Side of Anti-'Swiss Bank Account' Politics."