Seniors complete TAA research
After taking Grossman Professor of Economics Patrice Franko’s Economics of Globalization class this past fall, two seniors on the Hill embarked on a research opportunity with Dr. Howard Rosen, the executive director of the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) Coalition. For international studies and French double major Ann Norris ’11 and international studies and economics double major Caitlyn Fleming ’11, one month of JanPlan evolved into a head-on extensive research project looking at Trade Adjustment Assistance, and the state of the program in Maine.
TAA is a government economic initiative that addresses unemployment stemming from jobs leaving the U.S. and being outsourced offshore in other places for cheaper costs. “TAA is an interesting program because it supports globalization but at the same time it’s kind of resistant to fully opening the flood gates to free trade,” Fleming said. “It’s kind of like that balancing act to slowly being less protectionist.”
Franko explained that “what [Vice President of Academic Affairs and Dean of Faculty and Professor of Economics Lori Kletzer] really worries about is that trade creates winners and losers. So the question is, ‘Is there any way that we can compensate the losers?’ If you think about trade and globalization, it’s a different story than if it’s temporary unemployment. So we have the economic shock that affects the labor market, and people might be temporarily unemployed. But if your job has moved to China or to Mexico, your job is not coming back.”
Workers who have lost their jobs can receive TAA if the unemployment was determined to be by offshore globalization. “TAA works like unemployment benefits, but it’s way better than just a handout,” Fleming said. “There’s re-training, there’s health credit for taxes and a bunch of other beefed up things.”
The program benefits include Rapid Response Assistance, Reemployment Services, Job Search Allowances, Relocation Allowances, Income Support though Trade Readjustment Allowances (TRA) and Health Coverage Tax Credit (HCTC)—all on top of training to enter a new job-populated field.
As part of their research for Rosen, Norris and Fleming interviewed locally to learn about individuals utilizing TAA in Waterville. They spoke with training secretarial administrators, training health therapists, Kennebec Valley Community College students pursuing a higher education, state department officials and the TAA coordinator of the state of Maine.
Though Fleming and Norris conducted all their research locally or on campus, “place doesn’t limit you,” Franko said. “We have phones, we do conference calls, you can skype your boss...you do not have to be sitting in the same building as your boss. And so I think that this might open up some interesting possibilities for [JanPlans] where, if [students] have the language skills to be working with, say an engineer in Brazil, that it is possible to get involved, from Mayflower Hill, to Rio Janeiro and other places.”
Norris said that currently, “one of the more important things is for people to actually understand what [TAA] is. It’s just kind of a hot button issue. Especially right now with globalization. And there are so many courses at Colby about globalization.”
Presently, the controversy over TAA is intensifying as congressmen attempt to cut budget costs, with TAA on the list. “There is opportunity to do some research on how to make it a better policy, and how to change it,” Norris said. “I think there are definitely opportunities to do more with that.”
Fleming and Norris participated in a Goldfarb Center-sponsored panel with TAA powerhouses Rosen, Kletzer and Maine Congressman Mike Michaud (D) on Tuesday, February 22.