Skip to main content

C&H Sugar factory across the Carquinez Straits from Vallejo, CA
Traditionally, manufacturing jobs paid well, at least for jobs that didn't require a college education. They were a foundation of America's broad middle class. But no more. There's been an obvious trend in low-wage, non-union manufacturing jobs, and now, the Washington Post rounds up some of the depressing numbers:
U.S. manufacturers have added a half-million new workers since the end of 2009, making the sector one of the few bright spots in an otherwise weak recovery. And yet there were 4 percent fewer union factory workers in 2012 than there were in 2010, according to federal survey data. On balance, all of the job gains in manufacturing have been non-union. [...]

It used to be that factory jobs paid substantially better than other jobs in the private sector, particularly for workers who didn’t go to college. That’s less true today, especially for non-union workers in the industry, who earn salaries that are about 7 percent lower than similar workers who are represented by a union.

By one measure — average hourly earnings — a typical manufacturing worker now earns less than a typical private-sector worker of any industry. Throughout the 30 years before the recession, the reverse was the case. [...]

The typical non-union factory worker earned less in 2011, after adjusting for inflation, than he or she did in 2009.

Proponents of this trend say that becoming a low-wage nation is the way for the United States to compete globally. They try to dress it up, but that's what it boils down to: Let's compete with China for bad pay and long hours. For unions, the rise of low-wage manufacturing once again highlights the importance of improving conditions for workers in even lower-wage occupations like retail and fast food—if you raise standards in these industries, low-wage manufacturing won't look as good by comparison.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 09:16 AM PST.

Also republished by In Support of Labor and Unions and Daily Kos.

EMAIL TO A FRIEND X
Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags

?

More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

  •  all the more reason to fix the minimum wage and (22+ / 0-)

    separate benefits (retirement and health care, primarily) from employment.

    In other words, social security, medicare and medicaid are more important than ever.   This is not the time to cut them - but everyone seems to be lining up to do just that.

    You didn 't talk about benefits - how do they stack up in this low wage environment?

  •  I'm happy to see a senior staff member... (22+ / 0-)

    ...of Daily Kos posting something like this. (I know, there've been posts similar to this by senior Kossack staffers in the past, too.) Nonetheless, we'll continue to see highly-rec'd posts here by the rank and file regarding how great our recovery is, just as along as we don't look "under" the numbers, such as this post does, today.

    Thank you.

    "I always thought if you worked hard enough and tried hard enough, things would work out. I was wrong." --Katharine Graham

    by bobswern on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 10:17:01 AM PST

  •  What do we do after we lower the bar far enough? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Aspe4, Sarenth, OooSillyMe

    I think we have an answer...

    /snark

    I don't blame Christians. I blame Stupid. Which sadly is a much more popular religion these days.

    by detroitmechworks on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 10:30:57 AM PST

  •  So your argument is (0+ / 0-)

    that we should be pushing for higher wages for low-wage low-skill jobs in order to raise manufacturing wages and unionization? Maybe I'm just not following.

    On a side note, the issues in manufacturing are created by two things. First, automation is reducing the demand for manufacturing jobs, leading to an over supply of manufacturing workers who are now bidding down manufacturing wages. Second, because these are easily trainable jobs, they are being competed for by people in other countries who can perform these jobs at lower wages to improve their already lower standard of living.

    •  I would take issue with one of (10+ / 0-)

      your points:  "...because these are easily trainable jobs,..."

      Some of these positions are no longer simple widget making jobs and I would even point to some of the auto making jobs that have now become fairly sophisticated.  Manufacturing isn't always some kind of haven for 8th grade dropouts.

      •  Very true (0+ / 0-)

        And these are the higher paying and harder to offshore jobs.

      •  Once upon a time (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        rbird, fallina7, Oh Mary Oh

        Companies considered training employees part of doing business, it helped by setting the standards that were expected and, more importantly IMO, it created a bond between workers and their employers that benefitted both.
        Contrary to a lot of what we hear from our betters, American workers are ready, willing and very much able to master new skills with very basic training programs.  I spent many years in manufacturing and I won't accept for one minute that our workers aren't capable of learning and mastering any skills that modern manufacturing requires.

    •  What about the Henry Ford idea that (6+ / 0-)

      employers should pay employees enough to be able to afford their products? By keeping wages low, I guess those manufacturers can do their part in reducing the trade deficit.

    •  Corporations receive big tax breaks to manufacture (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      rbird

      overseas.  Take away or  reduce those tax incentives to manufacture overseas and a lot of those jobs will come back.  

    •  So your argument is (8+ / 0-)

      that we should join the race to bottom and allow the living standard for most of our citizens to be the same as it is in Guatemala or Viet Nam?

      And, of course, the reason for allowing that to happen is so that the top 1% can continue to increase the gap between their wealth and everyone else's.

      In Soviet Russia, you rob bank. In America, bank robs you.

      by badger on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 12:09:31 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I don't have an argument (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Sarenth

        I have a description of why things are the way they are.

        Regarding living standards, I think same pay and same living standards for the same work. American manufacturing workers don't deserve more pay and better conditions than people in other countries for the same work.

        •  Well then - you do have an argument (7+ / 0-)

          It's in your second paragraph, and it's pretty much what I guessed it was.

          You, of course, deserve more pay, I'm sure. Good luck maintaining it - you'll be outsourced, offshored, deskilled or automated away too.

          In Soviet Russia, you rob bank. In America, bank robs you.

          by badger on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 12:36:47 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Don't turn this into a personal attack. (0+ / 0-)

            I also note that you didn't respond to the moral element of this that I outlined.

            •  That's because I didn't see a moral element (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Jarrayy, rbird, Oh Mary Oh

              A moral element would be something like solidarity with your fellow citizens, making sure that people can earn enough to feed themselves and their families, procure shelter, healthcare, education and other necessities. A moral element might also be making sure that their contribution to the economy is compensated sufficiently so that their wages allow expenditures that help others maintain a decent standard of living. A moral element might be compensating them in line with their contribution to the wealth and operation of the nation, or for the risks and health consequences of the work they perform.

              I don't think a moral element is endorsing your system for valuing other people's work.

              But does you morality extend to getting paid the same wage for your work as someone doing it in India or China? Are you going to phone your boss and ask him to cut your pay correspondingly?

              In Soviet Russia, you rob bank. In America, bank robs you.

              by badger on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 12:57:53 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  If someone can do my job in China... (0+ / 0-)

                I'm happy to compete for my job. Fact is, I provide a service that is difficult to offshore.

                But again, this isn't about me. This is about why you think Americans are entitled to higher wages and a higher living standard that people of other nationalities for the same work.

                I have solidarity with my fellow humans more than i do with my fellow citizens.

                •  When it's the monied class, how they scream about (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  rbird

                  "the high cost of living" and how $250K is a "miserly pittance" they could just barely get by on.

                  The moneyless class? Let 'em fight each other for the crumbs that drop from the monied class's tables - or crawl off and die quietly, homeless and starving.

                  I'm looking at YOU, Ebenezer Scrooge. And I hope Dickens comes back to haunt you.

                  If it's
                  Not your body,
                  Then it's
                  Not your choice
                  And it's
                  None of your damn business!

                  by TheOtherMaven on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 07:12:36 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                •  Easy to say (0+ / 0-)

                  when it is not your standard of living being driven into the toilet.  

                  •  No it's easy to say because (0+ / 0-)

                    I've spent real time in developing countries, and I have personal first hand experience that being poor in the US is vastly superior to how almost everyone lives in rural villages in India. Worse, in India, I see that the people who get the factory jobs put 50% of their income into their kids' education. Here, the difference between 25k and 50k is more fast food and cable. Obviously, this isn't true for all cases, but I do believe other countries are at a point in their development where the money they make from outsourced jobs is reinvested in things that are more beneficial for the global economy than the way that money would be spent here.

        •  All Of Which Is A Great Argument (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Oh Mary Oh

          As long as you extend the assertion.

          In other words, at the point that my citizenship, my membership in a 'union' really has no value, i.e. I am truly competing in a global marketplace, then what real value does my citizenship have, and why am I paying the defense bill for much of the rest of the world, why am I paying for foreign aid, why in fact am I paying for any kind of social program which doesn't benefit me personally, etc.?

          When you tacitly state that Americans should pretty expect to compete for $692 per year (the average yearly wage in Colombia and 47% of the global average), be careful what you wish for 'cause you might just get it, and it comes with a whole lot of unintended consequences I'll bet you haven't thought of.

          I won't be coming home tonight, my generation will put it right - Genesis 9:3

          by superscalar on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 06:42:53 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Not least of which is you'll get the social unrest (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            rbird, Oh Mary Oh

            that also plagues those countries....

            People who have nothing, have nothing to lose. Louis XVI found that out the hard way. So did Tsar Nicholas II. And in both cases their innocent(?) families suffered also. (There is some question as to whether Marie Antoinette was a clueless boob, an arrogant fool, or both. No one questions that she wasn't the smartest of Maria Theresa's daughters.)

            If it's
            Not your body,
            Then it's
            Not your choice
            And it's
            None of your damn business!

            by TheOtherMaven on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 07:16:05 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

        •  One might argue (0+ / 0-)

          that those workers in other countries might have better living conditions because they probably at least have some sort of national health care system.  Low wages being equal, they would come out ahead of our workers.

          “It is the job of the artist to think outside the boundaries of permissible thought and dare say things that no one else will say."—Howard Zinn

          by musiclady on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 06:51:08 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  Your comment is wrong. (12+ / 0-)

      I am in Detroit, and I work for the state's job training system.  

      Manufacturing is no longer low-skilled.   Advanced manufacturing techniques demand advanced manufacturing skills.   Demand in Detroit is high, wages are low, and interest in manufacturing as a career is even lower.   Besides not trusting the industry, entry level pay has been cut back to 10 -15/hr.   This is barely above the poverty level.    70% of the LLS is approximately 25K for a family of four.  Nobody can raise a family of four on 25K a year.   Poverty level is food service, Walmart, and all the rest of the minimum wage jobs.   They annualize at 15K.  

      This bring us to a living wage.   If you want skilled people, you have to pay for them.   Easily trained?  lol.  You have no idea what you are talking about.   These people are not being trained on the job.   They are being trained in community colleges.   They are programming machinery, integrating skilled trades, and manufacturing on high tech equipment.  

      The middle class is worth 30% less now than it was.   All I know is that that 30% went somewhere; and we are poorer, and they are richer.     This has nothing to do with the value of the skills, and it has everything to do with greed.

      What we need is a Democrat in the White House.

      by dkmich on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 12:47:23 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  That 30% went to the top 1% (6+ / 0-)

        Since 1980 their wealth has increased over 275%.

      •  You're not supposed to raise a family of four (0+ / 0-)

        on one entry level manufacturing job. Sorry. If you want to afford the conveniences of the modern world, there are some modern choices you have to make: get educated and get a professional job, have both people working, advance beyond entry level, live in a multi-generation household, etc.

        •  Nice dictate (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          rbird, fallina7, Oh Mary Oh

          Glad you esteemed worshipness has all the answers for a 'modern' society.

          Meanwhile, in the imaginary world of the real people that exists...my niece is not even trying to raise a family. She is just trying to find a job that will pay for gas and tuition and help with rent/food for the cheap 35 year old trailer house she is renting with her fiance.

          And this is in an advanced society, the top percent of this 'modern world' of which you speak.

        •  This isn't about 'conveniences' (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          fallina7, Oh Mary Oh

          this is about staples, like a roof over your head and food on the table, and a car and fuel for it.  

          This isn't about whether I get the newest gadget this year.  

          Getting educated and getting a 'professional job' are harder then ever.  I am in the age bracket, 18-27 year olds, where 1/2 of all graduates do not even have a job, let alone a job flipping burgers.  We were sold that 'get educated, get a job' dream and you know what?  We're coming out of college with damned near a house worth of principal to pay off on student loans and nothing to show for it.

          Both people working is fine, if one of you can find work and your education/skills haven't degraded in the years that you've been out of the job market.

          This is not to say people should not keep up and keep on, but answers like this to our very real plight do not help.  We're doing all of this already and having a very hard go of it.  Hell, I'm lucky I have a job, let alone another job offer.

          "You have to let it all go, Neo. Fear, doubt, and disbelief. Free your mind." -Morpheus, The Matrix

          by Sarenth on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 09:34:54 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  Even the almighty Walmart couldn't function (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Oh Mary Oh

          without people willing to do the jobs that pay minimum wage.  Neither could this country.  We need people to do these jobs but you would deny them a living wage.  Living expenses in the United States are much higher than in the low wage countries so people here should be compensated enough to pay for the conveniences of the modern world such as a roof over the head and food on the table .

        •   Ever hear of yin and yang? (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          fallina7, Oh Mary Oh

          You can't have hot if you don't have cold.  You can't have rich if you don't have poor.   You can't have professional jobs if you don't have labor.   Not everyone can be a college grad with a professional job.  

          Are you saying they aren't entitled to marriage, family and a home? And just ignore the skill sets I said these people were required to have.   Why pay when you can steal.

          There is seriously something wrong with your upstairs.

          What we need is a Democrat in the White House.

          by dkmich on Fri Jan 18, 2013 at 02:49:42 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  I remember seeing part of segment on (11+ / 0-)

    "60 Minutes" regarding the issue of employers finding "qualified" workers.  For a while now, some employers have been pushing the BS meme that workers are simply no longer qualified to do manufacturing and well, it's not the employers fault, now is it??. I can't tell you how angry I get when I hear this garbage.

    60 Minutes interviewed one such manuafaturing employer. He was bemoaning the fact that almost none of the people he interviewed knew how to operate the specific machinery in his plant.

    His solution to this was the following: rather than train potential workers on the job with pay, he got two guys who seemed to be okay, put them in an unpaid training period of 3 MONTHS.  Oh, and no guarantees on whether or not they'd get the job after that period.  The 2 guys actually were hired after the 3 months and they were grateful beyond recognition that they had ANY SORT of employment.

    A non-Union job, a work schedule that could be set any way the manufacturer wanted, it paid $12 hr. with no benefits. Let me repeat something: they were grateful beyond recognition that they had ANY SORT of employment.

    •  That's the point. For the power structure to (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      pat bunny, DavidMS, rbird, Sarenth, Oh Mary Oh

      ensure that the peasants are grateful for their crumbs.

      Kossack Conceptual Guerilla calls it "Chap-Labor Conservatism".
      http://manonfyre.dailykos.com/...

      A feature, not a bug.

      "..The political class cannot solve the problems it created. " - Jay Rosen

      by New Rule on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 11:34:48 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I'll have to check the labor law on unpaid (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Oh Mary Oh

      training periods. IIRC, it's against the law. It's also stupid, because those trainees aren't covered under Worker's Comp. You may be able to do it for a few hours, but certainly not three months.

      •  As a teacher I was required to complete two (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        gosoxataboy, Oh Mary Oh

        semesters of unpaid mentor ship and then take over a class for anther semester all for free....it was hard, because I couldn't work somewhere else, as I was full time in the district.  It was mandated by the state to be certified.  The "free training" period is even longer now.

    •  My head explodes when I hear that too (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      fallina7, Oh Mary Oh

      The unqualified workers meme is probably the biggest load of horseshit in this whole argument.
      It's very simple; many (most?) of today's employers want employees who will do the absolute most for the absolute least compensation.  These employers no longer believe that they bear any responsibility for employee development, they rail about citizens who receive government assistance and yet they demand even greater support and corporate welfare.  No longer are employees an asset, in our new society they are liabilities.

  •  I know because I ended up there. (9+ / 0-)

    I'm an office worker/admin asst./receptionist worker for most of my adult working life. One of my friends is the boss at a temp agency and I asked him to see where he could fit me because I was getting desperate. It was a factory that employs temp workers for years, fires hired employees like there's no tomorrow and generally makes you feel like you're in China when they call everybody together for a meeting about having to piss too much or buying a soda too close to lunch time---which is only 15 minutes. People had been working there for years and years with hardly an increase in hourly wage. They're starting to feel poorer every year.

    I can't keep doing that bullshit. I told my friend to find me another job that would lead to a hire and that company, I found out, was in the process of busting it's union and screwing it's employees, too. Now the temp service is paying me unemployment which is something I was told by my friend would never happen. But they casually got rid of me with no explanation. Just told me not to come back. I could feel it. I was too small for the backbreaking lifting and instead of being obligated to treat me fairly they just got rid of me and left me with nothing.

    And the temp service had nothing else for me. Too bad for me. I didn't quit, I didn't get fired but I'm not getting unemployment just because they don't want to give it to me?

    Bullshit. Yes, the fuck they are. They lost that fight.

    I saw a webpage for the temp service I worked for right after I lost the last job. They were telling the companies that they would make sure they defended the company against frivolous unemployment claims. Hahaha! Yeah, right. Get me hired at a decent place or fuck you, pay me.

    I might be one of the first people in that temp service's history to fight and win unemployment payments from those creeps being in cahootz with companies that want something close to slave labor so they can exploit workers.

    The unemployment program is helping to match me with a job I have the skills for instead of just pushing me into a labor job because I'm desperate. I get to, for the first time ever, take a little bit more time, breathe easier and look for a job I can actually say fits me. I haven't had that kind of job in years. I've been at restaurants and bars and factories and gas stations. Fuck that noise.

    I know it'll be hard for me to find another desk job but I have tools to use and support. That's exactly what slave labor factory employers and temp service DON'T want for me or anybody else.

    "It's not enough to acknowledge privilege. You have to resist." -soothsayer

    by GenXangster on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 10:55:09 AM PST

  •  I don't understand what people are 'competing for' (5+ / 0-)

    You need to give up your high-wage job, benefits, nice house, and 40 hour week to better compete for... what... a nice house?  a high-wage job? benefits?  a 40 hour week?

    Giving up what you have and 'competing for' it back is little more than servitude.

    To any wingnut: If you pay my taxes I'll give you a job.

    by ban48 on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 11:02:51 AM PST

  •  Gilded Age two point o (8+ / 0-)

    Ain't unregulated capitalism grand?

    The Aggressively Ignorant Caucus is getting aggressively ignorant again.

    by Anthony Page aka SecondComing on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 11:36:39 AM PST

  •  Another blow to middle class & win for wealthy (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    fuzzyguy, Mike Taylor, rbird, Oh Mary Oh

    And the wealth concentration continues..........

  •  shock doctrine (4+ / 0-)

    draw a window on the wall to remind you of the silkrain that makes things grow - Yoko Ono

    by quinn on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 11:53:13 AM PST

  •  Very true what manufacturers are doing is (5+ / 0-)

    having a core group  of full time workers and then using a lot of temps to supplement this work force. Not only are temps being paid less they don't get benefits.

    I've worked in manufacturing for 15 as an engineer, manager, and inspector. This is they way companies are organizing these days.

    -1.63/ -1.49 "Speaking truth to power" (with snark of course)!

    by dopper0189 on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 06:38:14 PM PST

  •  Even With Unions -Maimed, Disabled, Weird Cancers (0+ / 0-)

    God knows what'll happen - back to the days of getting dismembered or killed without any compensation for the worker of their families?  If there are any legal protections, that'll be the next thing on the GOP chopping block.  

    There’s always free cheddar in a mousetrap, baby

    by bernardpliers on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 06:41:04 PM PST

  •  Workers rights are downhill so fast now that the (0+ / 0-)

    Threat of a union is so diminished in the 21st century.


    “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” --Gandhi:

    by smokey545 on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 06:45:59 PM PST

  •  Who does it help when we're 'globally-competitive' (0+ / 0-)

    Not the US working class. ‘Free’-trade is only a ‘win-win’ for those who exploit cheap labor (US workers generally have to work for less to be 'globally-competitive').
    How many decades will it take for people to figure out the 'free'-trade schtick?

  •  Let Me Take This Opportunity (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Jim R, Sarenth, Oh Mary Oh

    To break out some oldies but goodies.

    Yesterday the American people won a tremendous victory as a majority of the House of Representatives joined me in adopting our plan to revitalize America's economic future.

    Today Members of Congress have joined me to announce a new chapter in United States policy toward China.

    It is time that a unified American policy recognize both the value of China and the values of America. Starting today, the United States will speak with one voice on China policy. We no longer have an executive branch policy and a congressional policy. We have an American policy.

    Bill Clinton Statement on MFN trade status for China

    In a few moments, I will sign three agreements that will ... create a North American Free Trade Agreement. In the coming months, I will submit this pact to Congress for approval. It will be a hard fight... And though the fight will be difficult, I deeply believe we will win ... because NAFTA means jobs American jobs, and good-paying American jobs.

    Bill Clinton NAFTA signing statement 1993

    robert drake on free trade
    I hate it when people have opinions about things (3+ / 0-)

    they know little about, and with all due respect, your grasp of both the theory and the practice of "free trade" is sorely lacking. Let's begin with the theory you allude to. It's called "comparative advantage" and it was formulated by the British economist David Ricardo. Your summary is adequate. Unfortunately, Ricardo's model was, like most tenets of neoclassical economics, a simplistic, idealized abstraction that only works even in its blackboard form if you make a series of assumptions that are not evident in a real economy. Ricardo's model assumed equilibrium, (which is an economic fantasy), full employment, parity in economic outputs between countries, perfect competition, perfect mobility of factors of production within a country, and most ridiculous of all--no mobility of factors of production between countries, which is what agreements like NAFTA are designed to promote!

    While economics has scientific, or at least pseudo-scientific pretenses, comparative advantage hasn't done very well when tested in the real world. ?The most famous example is that of Wassily Leontiof, the Nobel-winning economist who proved in the fifties that Ricardo's theory, which makes a series of predictions, doesn't survive empirical scrutiny. The U.S. exports more labor-intensive goods then capital intensive goods, which as Leontief demonstrated, is the exact opposite of what Ricardo predicted. Unable to account for this empirical failing, neoclassical economists just invented an appendage to the theory called the Leontief Paradox. There have been attempts to explain it since then, but they are usually unsuccessful without impugning Ricardo's original theories, the most convincing explaination is that Ricardo's models, assuming only one, or two inputs, are too simple to be of any value, which sort of puts the skewer to comparative advantage as a theoretical underpinning of agreements like NAFTA, which are in any case, anathema to Ricardo's own assumptions.
    Free trade agreements are not free trade agreements at all, they have little to say about the actual trade of goods. NAFTA runs to 1,700 pages, only about 350 pages of the document have anything at all to do with the actual trading of goods. Tariffs between Canada, Mexico and the U.S. were only 2% when NAFTA was enacted, so the ostensible rationale for NAFTA and other agreements, to take down "trade barriers" was a crock even then. The remaining 1,350 pages of the NAFTA document is about capital protection, and various restrictions on the regulation of labor, environment, worker safety, etc. If you like I'd be glad to get into specific claims made before Congress about what NAFTAs proponents said would happen if NAFTA was enacted, and what actually happened. If free trade is such a win-win for everyone, you'll have to explain the domestic dissatisfaction with free trade, as well as the ascendancy of left-wing governments in Latin America in response to "free trade."

    But enough with theory, how about your main points? Your first point is simply nonsensical, bordering on dishonest. It doesn't matter if the U.S. manufactures more goods in absolute terms then it ever has before! You'd expect that because GDP is bigger! It's like saying we have more people working today then ever before. Well no shit, we've got more working age people then ever before! Manufacturing jobs as a percentage of GDP are declining! Not just declining, but collapsing. 84% of American workers are now employed in service industries, which pay significantly less then manufacturing jobs, and do not offer the benefit packages.
    To say we have not lost our manufacturing base is inane. Look at the state of American manufacturers--Boeing, 35% of their newest aircraft is manufactured in Japan where Japanese industrial workers earn 30% more then American industrial workers, another 25% of the plane is manufactured in Europe. The U.S. auto industry is nearly bankrupt, it employs 1/3 the number of workers it did 30-years ago, automation and increased productivity you say? A little bit, but not much. Japan has more industrial robots then any other country on earth, they have the most efficient industrial sector on earth, and their automotive workforce is booming. How come?

    In 110 of the 113 manufacturing sectors the government keeps track of, there have been declines in domestic production relative to GDP--steel, pharmaceuticals, semiconductors, automotive components, textiles, finished autos, heavy machinery, aerospace, you name it, and it's bleeding jobs, but oddly enough, high value sectors in places like South Korea, Singapore, Japan, Scandanavia, Netherlands, places where the costs of doing business are greatest, have not seen collapses in their manufacturing sectors which would be the case if automation, increased efficiency, wage demands, etc, were the culprits for job loss in manufacturing.

    Your accusations that a trade war would ensue if we took steps to protect local markets is ridiculous. Since the United States imports far more then it exports, a trade war would do more harm to foreign producers then it would to domestic ones. Damage to domestic consumers wouldn't be any greater then if the Chinese actually floated their currency on the open market, which would automatically raise the price of Wal-Marts junk. The United States is consumer of first and last resort for foreign manufacturers, we on the other hand have a service based economy that could withstand a trade war rather nicely. Why do you think Japanese car manufacturers started building plants in the U.S.? They knew that eventually there would be calls to limit imports, and by having a domestic capacity to build Toyotas, Nissans and Subarus, they could get around them.
    by Robert Drake on Sun Apr 22, 2007 at 08:16:26 PM PDT

    I won't be coming home tonight, my generation will put it right - Genesis 9:3

    by superscalar on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 06:56:08 PM PST

  •  An opportunity for unions to grow. (0+ / 0-)

    This could be good in the long run.

    After all, unions got popular in the first place because of such scenarios.

    "Michael Moore, who was filming a movie about corporate welfare called 'Capitalism: A Love Story,' sought and received incentives."

    by Bush Bites on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 06:58:20 PM PST

  •  Walmart (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Jim R, Oh Mary Oh

    I'm old enough to clearly remember when Sam Walton was still alive and Walmart prominently featured in their advertising "Made in the USA". After he died, that all went away, and Walmart began expanding into small towns all across America - destroying the local economies - and became one of China's biggest trading partners. Cheap goods mean bigger profits for their biggest shareholders...some of the richest people in the world. I vaguely recall reading years ago that Walmart is China's second biggest trading partner - among all countries on Earth.

    Result? All the buildings in small towns all across America boarded up and tumbleweeds blowing through town, while the thousands of Walmart monsters serve as gigantic octopuses devouring our money and funneling it through thousands of pipelines directly back to China. That's money that used to be spent in those small town businesses...and which stayed in those small towns. A million jobs per month created in China these past ten years, making all the cheap crap that Walmart sellls...things that were made with higher quality back when they were manufactured here in the states. They cost a little more back then, but they lasted five times longer....and America's middle class had good jobs.

    Our future: Low wages like the Chinese. And gutted or non-existent environmental regulations like the Chinese.

    Our only hope: China collapses back into third-world status...or Americans wake up and stop buying at Walmart.

    Personally, I don't think either will ever happen, and we are where we are and it's here we're going to stay.

    "Do you realize that fluoridation is the most monstrously conceived and dangerous Communist plot we have ever had to face?" - General Jack D. Ripper

    by wilder5121 on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 07:02:54 PM PST

  •  200 word letter to my local paper : jobs make jobs (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Sarenth, gosoxataboy

    The reference is to a BMW plant in SCarolina and state investment and job multipliers :
    TITLE : Buy American, invest in America

    Solid Republican South Carolina invested (spent in Republican speak) $325M into subsidizing 2K jobs = $162.5K/job. (http://www.nctimes.com/...) Why government spending (stimulus in Democratic speak)? Because the factory, while growing to 7K jobs and lowering the per job investment, created another 14K ancillary jobs, making overall investment $15.5K per job. Republicans hate the $12B American investment in GM, an excellent yield of 1.5M jobs equaling $8K/job. (http://blogs.wsj.com/...)

    A continuing misunderstanding is that stimulus money is “lost” - gone. Stimulus money is budgeted, but curative. It creates jobs in the short-term, and hopefully creates lasting and widespread value. Jobs make spending, but during unemployment peaks, spending makes jobs. The Highway 76 improvements are a perfect example. Tax cuts are stimuli, but a costly and inefficient application, especially compared to food stamps, unemployment, infrastructure construction, or really, every other way.

    But spending needs to stay in America, making American jobs.

    The real lesson is that 7K employees made 25K vehicles; each vehicle over a quarter of a job, before the 2X job multiplier effect. So, actually,  25K cars made 21K jobs!  Look around at the cars not made here; every one is almost an American job shipped overseas. Tariffs are in order.

  •  It's been happening for a while (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Sarenth, fallina7, Oh Mary Oh

    I worked in manufacturing for the same company for 35 years.  I started in the mid 70's, made an above average wage and our annual raises were mostly >7%.  In the 80's things were still pretty good, raises were a bit smaller but we got some extra vacation time and a 401k in addition to our defined benefit pension plan.
    Around 1989 or so it started, we were called to meetings and told that workers in "the Orient" worked for peanuts and if we were to succeed we could no longer expect the level of compensation we were used to; raises dropped to 3% then 2% then even lower.  We lost our personal days and started contributing to our health insurance which the company had previously paid in full.  1st we paid $10 a week, then 5% then 10% and finally 20%.
    We made huge productivity improvements that didn't get us any more compensation but the company shed over 50% of the work force as a result.  Always was the message that, the Chinese specifically, were our benchmark.  Late in 2007 we closed, our products were relocated to facilities in Europe; very little to China.
    Due to a very strong Union / Company / Government partnership in many European countries manufacturing is still considered a very desirable enterprise, still pays well, still attracts significant funding for R&D and still provides a very strong foundation for the European economy.  
    Our jobs didn't have to go anywhere.....the American business community decided to send them away because they could.  In my mind the destruction of the manufacturing sector in the country was a by-product of the explosive growth in the financial sector.  Those of us who worked with our hands were considered less valuable than those who ultimately brought the world's economy to its knees, and still are.  

  •  As the GOP got on behalf of industrialists... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Oh Mary Oh
  •  There are more than enough good jobs (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Bailey2001, Sarenth, Oh Mary Oh

    in the USA. The problem is that those jobs are not being filled.

    There are good jobs in education, basic research, infrastructure, high speed mass transit, and clean energy.

    It ought to be the function of government to be the employer of last resort. If government raised taxes on the excess income of the very rich, and put ALL the unemployed to work in these fields, several good things would happen.

    1 - With full employment, the only people on government assistance would be those who are physically unable to work. Big savings here.

    2 - The gap between the ultra wealthy and the middle class would shrink.

    3 - The economy would grow. More money in circulation would greatly benefit the economy.

    4 - Full employment would give workers a voice that they now lack. Workers would have more bargaining power. Instead of begging for crumbs, the worker could start saying (again) "Take this job and shove it!"

    5 - Tax revenue would go up as more and more workers became employed at better and better wages.

    6 - The country would experience a major upgrade of our infrastructure.

    7 - The country's citizens would become far better educated.

    I repeat: The government should guarantee every able-bodied worker a good job. The 1% certainly won't do it. They are perfectly content to continue to accumulate the assets of the country. If we continue on the road we are on now, they will eventually own every share of stock, every building, and every acre of valuable land. We will become a nation of servants tending to their every need.

    Note to Boehner and McConnell: "You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows." --Bob Dylan-- (-7.25, -6.21)

    by Tim DeLaney on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 08:24:58 PM PST

    •  I agree with you, but I see all that happening (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Tim DeLaney

      right about the time I see pink elephants dancing with flying rabbits in the sky.

      If you think it can get done faster than that.....then do tell how?

      •  If I had a way to make it happen (0+ / 0-)

        I would certainly not hesitate.

        But it cannot hurt to point out the fairly obvious solution. The arrow never goes higher than aimed.

        Note to Boehner and McConnell: "You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows." --Bob Dylan-- (-7.25, -6.21)

        by Tim DeLaney on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 09:48:54 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  There was a good article in The Atlantic... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    gosoxataboy, Oh Mary Oh

    ...a year ago, Making It in America, which is worth reading if you have not done so.

    This article points out the stark divide that exists in manufacturing between those who advance their education and those who, for whatever reason, don't. A high school degree w/o substantial additional specialized training is not likely to reliably land one a middle class manufacturing job anymore or at any time in the foreseeable future. We need to focus on education, most importantly setting expectations of achievement in our youth and this is not something "better schools" are going to be able to do without strong parental support. This requires a deep cultural change in our society.

    In the modern world of automation, anything a "robot" (I'm using the term here a bit loosely - the line between a "robot" and other more traditional forms of automation is a bit fuzzy now) can do is at risk of being given to a robot to actually do once the robot costs less than a human worker. Keep in mind, that even if a robot can only do the job at the same speed as a robot (generally robots can complete tasks faster) and at the same quality (often, robots can do a better and more consistent job), a robot works 7/24 except when down for maintenance or upgrades -- so it would likely replace at least four workers.

    Advancements in computer technology (Moore's law and all that) will continue to be rapid and this translates into robots becoming both more capable (i.e., able to do more tasks) and cheaper at a rapid pace. Unless the base skill set of those who typically take manufacturing jobs increases at a similar rate, which seems unlikely, robots are going to replace most mid and high volume manufacturing jobs in my lifetime. These jobs just won't exist, any more than jobs walking behind a plow being pulled by a horse exist today in any significant number. This is, of course, a good thing from a productivity perspective. We are, I think, better off now that, and because, the percentage of the workforce engaged in agriculture has dropped from 41% in 1900 to 1.9% in 2000 while producing more food per capita today.

    Note that raising the cost of human workers (whether it be via legislation or labor movements) simply makes the robot solution more economical at an earlier date for any particular job. The result will be that there will be fewer jobs for the same number of people of that capability -- which will, in turn, put downward pressure on wages again. There's really no way around this.

    This move to using robots more and more will of course result in more jobs for those with a strong technical education -- someone needs to design the robots, program them, and maintain them. These are, however, jobs that fewer people will be able to do (for example, those that have a math phobia or lack ability or interest in mechanical devices will not be able to do most of these jobs).

    Foxconn is a cautionary tale here. Labor costs in China have risen and, largely due to this, there are reports that Foxconn anticipates deploying one million robots in the next three years to replace human workers. They claim the human workers will be moved to "higher value" jobs -- however, it seems unlikely to me that most of the workers snapping Tab A into Slot B five times every minute for their entire shift are likely to be put in substantially higher value jobs -- more likely, those with more education and training will take those jobs.

    •  Eventually we will hit hard limits (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Oh Mary Oh

      it is just a question of when.  Infinite, exponential growth is not physically possible, nor, in my view, should it be desirable.  

      There is also this: for every bit of automation we take on there is a cost to the environment, and our attendant living condition, to pay.  Think of the Industrial Revolution and how cramped, dirty, and horrible the cities were (i.e. Chicago), especially when the factories grew up in them.  We've certainly gotten better, by comparison with that point in time, but we still have chemical companies dumping chemicals in our drinking water, chemical and animal runoff from farms, and hosts of other problems because convenience has translated into environmental destruction.

      The rich do not pay for it when Dow dumps chemicals in the nearest body of water; the poor people develop cancer.  The communities whose land is fracked get sick.  When nuclear materials are desired, Native American people are exposed.  The rich pay to develop the land and the government goes along with it, but We the People pay for it in more than just cold hard cash.

      If anything, we need to reassess our view of 'value' to include environmental quality, protections for indigenous rights, and so on.  It is not often enough a part of projections of 'profitability'.

      "You have to let it all go, Neo. Fear, doubt, and disbelief. Free your mind." -Morpheus, The Matrix

      by Sarenth on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 10:32:38 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Honey I'm home and with a new manufacturing job... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Oh Mary Oh

    Great darling that means we can get a new car, have a baby, buy a home, go on vacation and have a good retirement.

    Sorry Honey.  I only get low hourly wages but the good news is we can buy great shit made by those working for low hourly wages in other countries at Walmart.

    Honey will you go buy the Pay-day Loans store and get a loan to buy a part for the car?  The part just fell off.

    Psst!!!......Mittens you are more of a poor loser than I thought.

    by wbishop3 on Fri Jan 18, 2013 at 03:55:12 AM PST

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site