Manufacturing in America

Bruce Bartlett doesn't think we are headed towards a nation of hamburger flippers.

Everybody seems to be worried about manufacturing these days. All the Democratic presidential candidates condemn the practice of "outsourcing" — laying off manufacturing workers and buying their output more cheaply from China. This is not surprising, given that organized labor has made it a high priority issue. But they are being joined by some on the right-wing fringe as well, such as Pat Buchanan and Paul Craig Roberts, who warn that we are exporting our sovereignty along with our jobs. They all seem to think that more trade protection is the answer.

The truth is that manufacturing is doing just fine in every way except employment. However, few economists would judge the health or sickness of any industry solely based on employment. By that standard, agriculture has been the sickest industry of all for decades. Rather, such things as output, productivity, profitability and wages better determine industrial health. On this score, manufacturing is actually doing quite well in the United States.

He raises some good points. It's true that even without sending jobs overseas we could lose manufacturing jobs to productivity increases. Yet I doubt any politician will campaign against productivity.