Manufacturing New Jobs

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Yesterday’s parade of endorsement speeches here at the Democratic National Convention had several themes on common. One of them was discussing the sorry state of the manufacturing industry in the US. Everyone knows the jobs in this industry have gone overseas where non-unionized workers can perform similar tasks at a fraction of the cost. As a result, far too many factories are now idled and their employees out of work.

It’s a big problem, but what’s the solution? I for one don’t think the manufacturing jobs will come back. If a manufacturer is looking at the bottom line and has to choose between paying a unionized American worker $20 an hour or a Chinese worker less $0.40 an hour to do the same job, it’s not really much of a choice. Now, I realize this is an oversimplification, but it all comes down to cost.

History has shown us that from an economic standpoint, there is no going back. The U.S. was an agriculture-based economy for many years until in the late 1800s when manufacturing took its place as the most significant driving force of the economy. And we never looked back. Now manufacturing’s time is waning. The industry that represented over a third of the jobs in the post World-War II boom in 1950 and by 2002 shrunk to about 13%.

So what to do with all these skilled and unskilled workers that are now out of work because China and India can do it cheaper? I don’t know. If I did, maybe I’d run for President. There’s been some talk about the US taking a leadership role in renewable energies — solar power, bio fuels and the like. This could create jobs and perhaps the vast manufacturing capacity and infrastructure in this country could be utilized as we finally truly go green. But that’s if the new administration truly embraces it. That’s if the money and resources are committed to the cause. And that’s if the lobbyists of the oil companies and their record profits are prevented from derailing the efforts.

That’s a whole lot of ifs.