Thursday, January 27, 2011

To Manufacture or Not To Manufacture, Is That The Question?

The Huffington Post writer Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins posted an article titled, "The Economic Choice: Should America Hold onto the Past or Prepare for the Future?" I disagree with what seems to be the main premise: that the US should pursue the manufacture and installation of renewable energy sources to the exclusion of other manufacturing ventures. Here's my comment:

Couldn't we do both? An aggressive transition to renewable energy could create a net gain (after subtractin­g dirty energy jobs lost) of 4.3 million jobs. And add $4.7 to the US economy. But 4.3 million jobs are not enough. I appreciate the sentiment of your story, that companies like Koch Industries want to dismantle the EPA because clean air costs the Koch brothers precious money, but it is quite possible for "old" manufactur­ing to coexist with robust environmen­tal standards. We need to hang on to all of those machinists­, tool and die makers, steam fitters, electricia­ns, and factory riggers -- all the folks who enable an industrial­ized society -- we need to hang on to them and the skills they possess, or we will end up too ignorant to walk back the mistake of giving away our manufactur­ing base. The US should preserve the know-how to manufactur­e all of the things our society requires. OK, let's have competitio­n from abroad, but they have to play by the same safety, wage, pension, health care, and environmen­tal standards US manufactur­ers do. Or, we slap tariffs on importers that violate those standards. No one has the courage to stop savvy MBA's who cry "free trade" every time they shutter another American plant and sell off its assets for pennies on the dollar -- and pocket a princely commission­. If we do not change our trade rules, or at least enforce existing rules, the US will continue it's sad slide into impoverish­ed obscurity.

Read the Article at HuffingtonPost


  1. I completely agree with you on allowing competition but on a level playing field globally speaking. But haven't we already pretty much lost our manufacturing base? Now we seem to be mostly service industry - which is low pay. We no longer export to a great extent - not like we once did. We import most of our goods (of course there are exceptions) from countries like China. Cheap labor in exchange for cheap plastic crap. Like your thinking.

  2. I mean, I like the way you think. I wasn't comparing your thinking to cheap plastic crap.

  3. Thanks for the feedback! I understood your point about the cheap plastic crap!;)

    Yeah, we've lost a lot of our manufacturing capacity -- sold it off for a quick buck, actually. I live just outside Detroit, and I can literally drive a few blocks from my house and pass miles of shuttered machine, tool and die, and other manufacturing support shops.

    But we still manufacture some stuff -- heavy heating and cooling equipment, some vehicles, airplanes. We still have the know-how. But if we wait much longer, that know-how will be lost and we'll have to beg the Chinese to show us how to do it. Could get sticky if there's a war going on. Things would be a lot better if we enforce real trade rules now.

  4. Oh, yeah, I forgot to mention: the US still manufactures some renewable energy equipment (wind turbines, photovoltaics, conversion electronics, and some other stuff). But that's fading fast. The Chinese now build these things much cheaper, and we've been moving manufacturing over there. Evergreen Solar just shuttered a photovoltaics plant in Massachusetts and fired 800 people.

  5. Thank you for posting on my new blog. All comments are much appreciated. This reminds me of the restriction on rare earth elements from China, and how the United States has helped a large domestic mine to start mining- mining for the stuff that keeps our planet green. I just wrote a post about it.


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