Democrats & Liberals Archives

Politics of Manufacturing

Politicians across the nation, as part of their plan to increase employment, keep discussing the need to increase the number of manufacturing jobs. A number of the Democratic candidates mentioned this as a key point to their economic policy during the “Rock the Vote” debate on Tuesday night, and union favorite Dick Gephart didn’t even participate.

But it’s not just a democratic hot point. George W. Bush also has emphasized the need to stem the loss of manufacturing jobs. During a Labor Day speech announcing the creation of a “manufacturing czar”, he stated:

One way to make sure that the manufacturing sector does well is to send a message overseas, (to) say, look, we expect there to be a fair playing field when it comes to trade. See, we in America believe we can compete with anybody, just so long as the rules are fair, and we intend to keep the rules fair,”

But is that really an answer, to point fingers at other nations and demand they "play fair?" Because the reality is that our manufacturing sector's doing better then most. On NPR's MarketPlace, former Labor Secretary Robert Reich noted that the loss of manufacturing jobs is a global trend. Tremendous productivity gains have reduced the need for human involvement in the manufacturing proces. In fact, the U.S. has seen less of a drop in manufacturing jobs than other nations, even those developing nations to which politicians on the left and right point fingers. While our manufacturing sector has declined 11% in the past decade, even countries like China and Brazil have seen larger declines in manufacturing jobs at the same time production has skyrocketed.

This trend is not new. As Reich mentioned in his commentary, we grow most food now than ever despite farmers dropping from 33% of jobsto under 3% over the past century. What politicians need to do is stop clinging to the past and lay the groundwork for real achievable solutions to the ever changing labor market. There will always be some dying industry that prefers protection over adaptation, but that's not in anyone's best interest. Change in inevitable and we need to be prepared to change with it.

Posted by blipsman at November 6, 2003 12:25 PM