Manufacturing has been the Economic Engine of the USA
I want to remind everybody about the importance of manufacturing and its vital importance to the U.S. economy. Manufacturing has been the heart of the soul of America. It has been the main “Job Creator” since the 1800s. It is too bad we have abandoned manufacturing by offshoring millions of these U.S. jobs to other countries over the past three decades. It is not only the United States that has had to deal with the loss of manufacturing, but, also, the countries in Europe (except Germany) and Australia. It has been a very difficult adjustment for all of these countries. This one of the major reasons why there is so much unrest in these countries. For the United States, the areas that have been hardest hit have been small towns. Once upon a time, these small towns were agricultural (farming). Over time, with less need for people to work in the fields, these previous “farm” towns became great places to set up for manufacturing because of its lower cost of living. Many jobs were ciphered from the large cities to the small towns. Many big cities have been able to adjust (not all) with this transition. However, the small towns have been decimated by the loss of manufacturing since 1980.
Let us look at a few issues regarding history and globalization.
Is Globalization good?
It depends on how you look at it. Globalization has meant there has been a great improvement of infrastructure to many third world countries. Global poverty has greatly improved over the past three decades. For Europe and the United States, globalization has meant the loss of manufacturing to these third world countries. In the USA, it has caused the loss of 20 million manufacturing jobs to these lower-cost countries since 1980 (8 million manufacturing and 12 million associated manufacturing jobs). Globalization has meant economic hardship for the US, Europe and Australia.
Manufacturing: The Heart of the US economy for More Than a Century
Question: When did the United States first become a major player in economics?
Answer: 1870. The United States was re-building from the civil war. Government was free to complete infrastructure projects such as building railroads, making new trails, canals, and new shipping ports. Industrialization with its ability to make mass-produced, cheaper and newly innovated products created new jobs. And with its newly improved infrastructure, the US could send its products to its ever-expanding borders as well as exporting its products to other countries. Soon, American steel production surpassed the combined total of Britain, Germany and France. By 1890, the USA surpassed Britain for first place in manufacturing output.
A Graph of the Greatest World Economies from Year 1 A.D. to 2008
In the early years it was China and India who had the greatest economies based on their shipping of its wealth of goods.
The following graph shows the history of the World’s GDP and the percentage contribution by major countries.
The shrinking of the US economy started when the U.S. deliberately allowed manufacturing to disappear with the passage of Free Trade Acts in the 1990s. China, as of 2015, is the number one economy in the world.
Why is Manufacturing so Vital for the US Economy?
- According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, every dollar spent in manufacturing generates $1.48 in economic activity, more than any other major economic sector.
- Each manufacturing job creates three other jobs. In the U.S., the Economic Policy Institute has found that each manufacturing job supports three other jobs in the wider economy, through something called “the multiplier effect.”
- The growth of manufacturing machinery output, (and technological improvements in that machinery), are the main drivers of economic growth. Just consider the explosion of the Internet, iPhones, and the like — all made possible by a small subset of production machinery called semiconductor-making equipment (SME), which itself is dependent on other forms of production machinery.
- Global Trade is based on goods, not services. A country can’t trade services for most of its goods. According to the WTO, 80% of world trade among regions is merchandise trade — that is, only 20% of world trade is in services.
- Services are mostly the act of using manufactured goods.
- While manufacturing is only 12% of the U.S. economy, it accounts for two-thirds of all private spending on R&D. While it provides only 9% of U.S. jobs, it employs one out of three engineers. Fully 60% of royalties from licensing intellectual property go to manufacturing firms.
- Manufacturing is the engine that drives U.S. innovation.
There are still Free Traders who feel that U.S. manufacturing is not important. Of course, the Free Traders have a hard time contradicting the following graph.The graph demonstrates what happens to the middle class when we abandon supporting manufacturing.
When we employed Top Down Economics – We cut taxes. Technology and competition from abroad started whittling away at blue collar jobs and pay. The financial markets took off. And so when growth returned, it favored the investment class — the top 20 percent, and especially the top 5 percent (and, though it’s not on this chart, the top 1 percent more than anybody).
How Free Trade Has Hurt The US Economy
Since the beginning of the United States, in order to protect U.S. Businesses from being overrun by products from other established countries, our Founding Fathers did what other countries did to protect their own country’s businesses, they levied an import tax. The import tax kept the price of foreign goods more expensive, giving our own business a fair playing field. The import tax fee was anywhere from 50 – 200% on each item.
Then, in the 1970s, some new school economic geniuses thought that it was silly to stay with the tried and true. So, they pressed for “Free Trade” – which meant import taxes are eliminated. It meant lower prices for imported goods, people would spend more. A win/win situation thought these geniuses. These same geniuses also thought Trickle-down economics would also be beneficial – which has caused 90% of all profits to go to the top 1% and caused the greatest economic inequality since the 1920s. The Free Trade agreements (NAFTA, CAFTA, WTO) did eliminate many import taxes especially into the USA, but corporations started to notice that they could maximize profits by moving their companies to other countries with their lower cost of living. So, they started new companies in China, Mexico and started closing factories in the United States to open factories in these third world countries (offshoring). This is our present situation. The United States is still a Free Trade nation with manufacturing continuing to wobble – making only 4% of what Americans need.
Which Political Party is for Free Trade?
The Libertarian Party is the greatest backer of Free Trade by far. Gary Johnson, their Presidential candidate has said they are definitely Free Trade at all costs and would like to pass The Trans-Pacific Partnership Free Trade Treaty – a deal with the USA and 13 other Asian Nations (not including China at this time). The TPP waits is Congress waiting to be ratified. The Libertarian Party is Pro- Big Business, feels that consolidation of business into fewer larger corporations (monopolies) is fine, thinks that the “Citizen United” decision is good – Corporations can put unlimited money into elections. They are against “entitlements” like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
The Democratic Party has always been the political party against Free Trade. Backed by Unions who felt that Free Trade jobs would take away American jobs – the unions were correct. Unions within private businesses comprise only 7% of companies where it used to run about 45-50% in the 1950s. The Democrats who have been for Free Trade are the so-called “Business Friendly” Democrats. During the 1990s, when Free Trade was the most popular the split was 60% against Free Trade and 40% for Free Trade. Today, the Democratic Party is 80% against Free Trade and 20% for Free Trade.
The Republican Party has always been Free Trade. They are still 95 to 98% Pro Free Trade. The exception is Donald Trump. Now, the question is whether Donald Trump is truly against Free Trade. He has always said I have been the greatest Free Trader. Trump has always been a follower of polls and once he saw that a substantial number of Americans were skeptical of Free Trade he changed his tune. But he has really no plan. He rarely tells the truth. The question is whether the Republican Party is the Trump Party and would get rid of Free Trade (highly doubtful) or that Donald Trump is Pro- Republican and nothing would change (it is more likely that the TPP would pass silently under the cover of darkness under his administration).
The future is now.