At one time, a job in a factory, working along the assembly line, was what so many Americans strived for. In many ways, it was the portrait of the American Dream.
Factories and manufacturing plants also, once formed the back bone of this country.In some cities and towns, manufacturing plants were the sole industry on which everything else rested.
And according to President Obama, it is an industry that’s still alive and well, and central to the American economy.
“America is still home to the most entrepreneurial, most industrious, most determined people on earth,” the President said, from a hybrid vehicle transmission company in Indiana. “America’s economy is always going to rely on outstanding manufacturing.”
“I love visiting places where people are actually making stuff,” he also said, while speaking at the Gamesa Technology Corporation in Fairless Hills, PA.
But many lawmakers are concerned that manufacturing may be an industry on the brink of extinction.US Senator Jay Rockefeller, (D-WV), said his state has suffered immensely over the last decades, as plant after plant has shut down.
“We must dig in, redouble our efforts to quote make it in America, manufacturing is critical,” Sen. Rockefeller said.
However, at a Senate Hearing last week titled “Manufacturing our Way to a Stronger Economy,” he was the only Senator to stay at the hearing.Two other Senators showed up for about five minutes each.
Mike Rowe, host of the television show, “Dirty Jobs” on the Discovery Channel, testified.
“Manufacturing used to be the thing that people would drink a toast to and now it’s not something really that we pay much attention to,” Rowe said.
It’s a trend that worries union leaders like Leo Gerard, International president of the United Steelworkers Union.
“We should have been graduating chemical engineers, aeronautical engineers, mechanical engineers and we should have been building things like the rest of the advanced society, like the rest of developing countries,” Gerard said, adding, “An improved America is the legacy we should leave our children and grandchildren, not a decrepit and falling infrastructure.”
But that is what you see across this country, both in rural towns and urban centers.
Camden, NJ has seen one of the worst domino effects in the nation, after several factories and a ship building plant shut do, leaving much of the city jobless and homeless.
In America, what is “Made in America” is no longer the norm.
“In the end we’re still going to get the car, we’re still going to get the clothes, we still have everything we need,” Rowe said. “We’re just not celebrating the people who make it.”
Bill Fletcher, Jr., a co-founder of the Center for Labor Renewal said politicians are more concerned about deficits as opposed to investment and job growth.
“As long as the main discussion is deficits, you’re not going to see any policies that really focus on the creation of manufacturing jobs,” he said. “You need a very different approach towards economic development.”
American consumers seek cheaper goods, because it is logical, but this means most of these goods are produced outside of the US. This has a negative effect on the local and national US economies and by the time the people recognize this it is too late to quickly solve the problem.
“It’s getting worse,” he added.
“We need a manufacturing plan that looks at, not just the currently depressed areas, but the historically depressed areas,” Fletcher explained. “Until we have a situation where we have political leaders that have the courage to say we need a plan, we need to rebuild our Camdens, our Detroits, our East St. Louises. Until we have politicians that are saying we’re going to do that, despite the opposition from Wall Street, we’re going to see a continual slide.”
Labor journalist Mike Elk argued that US politicians have not been truly trying to bring manufacturing back to America. Instead the US continues to reach to international markets.
Other nations have policies in place to keep jobs in the market, America does not. America boasts policies which ship jobs overseas and push Americans to buy cheaper products manufactured abroad.
“A lot of the politicians are in bed with the multinational corporations,” Elk said. “We trade things away constantly and we get nothing in return for it.”
He argued US politicians are not serving consumer or middle class interests; instead they are working to better the pocket books of corporations who seek to find cheaper labor abroad.
“Germany is able to have such a health manufacturing base,” he noted. “It has the incentives to keep jobs in that country.”
US politicians need to create proper incentives and an industrial policy to make companies want to keep jobs in America, he argued. This type of approach currently does not exist. In fact current policies do the opposite.
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