As Manufacturing Jobs Flounder, New Book Has Answers

Dave Johnson

“Going down to Mississippi wages does not signal a bright future for American economy.” – Harold Meyerson

President Obama campaigned with a promise to add 1 million new manufacturing jobs in his second term. So far only 13,000 have been added. The AAMeter illulstrates the progress made toward this goal:

ReMaking America is a new book offering a story of hope and outlining policies for remaking manufacturing in America — if we make the changes now.

Accompanying the recent launch of the book a few of the book’s authors held a Google Hangout. I found it well worth watching, an excellent discussion of ways our country can boost the economy and create better-paying jobs. Scott Paul was joined by Carl Pope, Harold Meyerson and Richard McCormack (bios below). A quick summary of important points from the hangout: (all quotes are from notes, might be off a bit…)

Richard McCormack: “We can’t have a strong robust economy without making things, creating wealth.” “Look at the talk about resourcing, there is not much evidence other than anecdotal stories. The economy is stagnant, the trade deficit is going up not down.”

Harold Meyerson: “A large growing number of American workers in well-paid manufacturing jobs are now hired on to low-paying jobs, partly due to lower-wage and anti-union states.” A study by Boston Consulting Group noted wage stagnation in the US and wage increases in China. Compare to Mississippi, this is positive for US. “But going down to Mississippi wages does not signal a bright future for American economy.” “A leading example of higher pay and benefits is Germany. Their companies have preserved the highest level of manufacturing in home markets, have offshored less-skilled jobs. There is an increasing tendency for German companies to locate jobs here in the South for cheap labor. This is not realizing the promise of manufacturing.”

Carl Pope: “The fundamental challenge if we take climate change and sustainability seriously is that everything we have built in US in last 200 years we must modernize or replace in the next 30. We need to rebuild a new America. This is not just an economic imperative, it is an ecological imperitive. … We spend roughly 300 billion a year importing oil and exporting jobs. The only way to solve energy problem is to shift to clean energy and source the clean energy here. … If we transition to clean energy it will be easy but not automatic to source the supply chain in the US. … [Continuing to use] fossil fuels means we must be a third-world power in 50 years. The Chinese are not going to do that if we want to stay in the game we have to do that ourselves.”

Scott Paul asked the participants what they thought were the biggest myths about manufacturing in an economy, the discussion got into the idea of “industrial policy” (not having one is a policy), trade agreements, who is obstructing efforts to revive manufacturing, energy policies, infrastructure, finance and other areas that are actually exciting to someone who is onto this the way I am.

Here is the Hangout – enjoy:

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DpVqi0g0870[/youtube]

Authors of sections of the book are:

  • Richard McCormack, Editor of Manufacturing & Technology News.
  • Leo Hindery, Chair of the U.S. Economy / Smart Globalization Initiative at the New America Foundation and former CEO of AT&T Broadband.
  • Eric Garfinkel, Member of the Adjunct Faculty at the University of Colorado Law School and former Chief Council for China Trade in the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.
  • Carl Pope, former Executive Director of the Sierra Club.
  • Harry Moser, Founder of the Reshoring Initiative and Chairman Emeritus of Charmilles Technologies Corp.
  • Harold Meyerson, Executive Editor of the American Prospect and columnist for the Washington Post.
  • Irene Petrick, Director of the Enterprise Informatics and Integration Center at Pennsylvania State University.
  • Sridhar Kota, Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Michigan and former Assistant Director for Advanced Manufacturing at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.
  • Stacey Jarrett Wagner, Manager of Workforce Systems Development at the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Manufacturing Extension Partnership.
  • Scott Paul, President of the Alliance for American Manufacturing.

More information on ReMaking America is here.

A press release and description are here.

A description of and link to the Hangout are here.
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