Did you see the recent series, ‘Made in America’, on ABC’s World News Tonight with Diane Sawyer? A crew went into the home of an American family and removed everything that wasn’t manufactured in the US. When they were through, the house was completely empty. Well, almost. There was one lonely little bouquet of artificial flowers – not the vase, just the flowers.
A friend who shares my concern about the state of affairs in our nation told me that there are fewer than twelve million manufacturing jobs in this country. The population of the US is about three hundred million. Yes, there are other types of jobs, but manufacturing jobs have been shipped overseas. As manufacturing jobs were being taken, we were assured that other types of jobs, especially technical, computer related jobs, would replace them. That hasn’t happened. It’s unlikely that it will.
The effect of this wholesale exporting of jobs has been to impoverish us. 1) The incomes of millions of people disappeared, along with the taxes they used to pay. 2) The property taxes formerly paid by the businesses to local governments, taxes that helped support law enforcement, emergency personnel and schools, dried up. 3) The money people spend on goods manufactured overseas, everything from clothing to major appliances, leaves this country and no longer circulates within the community. 4) People who want to work cannot find jobs.
What happens when we ship off our tax base? A recent TV show chronicled the sorry condition of our infrastructure: roads, bridges, water lines, sewer lines, etc. are falling apart and there’s no money to repair them. The deterioration of the infrastructure seems to parallel the exporting of jobs. Are they related? I can’t say for certain that they are, but it sure is an interesting parallel.
Why were jobs shipped out in the first place? Personally, I wonder if they weren’t shipped out to punish and, ultimately, to destroy labor unions. I’m not a big fan of labor unions. In my view they occupy the same position as big business, big finance and government on every level – they are necessary evils, necessary because people seem incapable of controlling the compulsion to screw other people for profit.
Anyway, we were told that manufacturing jobs were shipped out to save money, so that we, the consumers, could save a dime here and there. Well, we saved those dimes – where are they? We aren’t richer; we’re poorer. We’re poorer because jobs and the income they provided have vanished, poorer because the taxes that used to help support local services have departed, poorer because what money we do have is spent on foreign goods and, therefore, cycled out of our communities forever.
What’s the downside to bringing manufacturing back? For the life of me, I can’t think of one thing. It may slightly increase the cost of manufactured goods, but the few studies I’ve seen are split on that issue. American workers do make more per hour than their foreign counterparts, but American workers are famously efficient. A recent study said that Chinese workers are 30% as efficient as American workers. In practical terms, for every 100 finished parts an American worker turns out, his Chinese counterpart turns out only 30. But does it matter that we pay a little more for American-made goods? It is, after all, bringing jobs and income, investment and taxes back home where they will benefit us and our posterity. And it will put people back to work. People want to work. As I understand it a woman’s sense of self-worth revolves around her family, but men peg their sense of self-worth to employment. A man with no work will soon question his worth as a man. I’ve been there. I know. Put him to work.
What can you and I, individually, do to bring manufacturing jobs back? We can stop buying foreign made goods. Christmas is coming. How many gifts can you purchase that were made in the US? We can tell the managers at the big box stores that we want, nay, demand, American-made goods. Don’t tell them once. Tell them repeatedly.
Light a candle.