Part 1: It’s 2012. Do You Know Where Your Job Is?

If you’re out of work, and you usually worked in a company tied to the manufacturing industry or related to customer service and call centers, chances are good your job was permanently exported abroad – to Asia to be specific. A variety of factors – some the result of bad U.S. policy and some that are utterly beyond our control- have combined to make it extremely difficult or impossible for low-or-no-skill U.S. workers to compete.

That doesn’t just hurt people manning the looms in South Carolina textile mills and operating stamps in car factories in Detroit. When a factory closes, it lays off a lot more than the blue collar rank and file. The job losses cover the entire socio-economic spectrum. The factory lays off its line assembly workers, its janitors and maintenance workers, its clerical and payroll workers, its engineers and information technology workers, its accounting staff and managers.

It also cuts off the support of the guy who ran the lunch counter across the street, the coffee shop at the end of the block, and the guy who mows the lawn out front and takes care of the grounds.

All those functions are now being done abroad, for a fraction of the price. And even the Chinese are struggling: Emerging manufacturing industries in Viet Nam, Thailand, Malaysia, Pakistan and India are giving even the low-wage Chinese a real run for their money. Why? Their wages are even lower. Chinese policymakers are themselves caught in a squeeze, putting a damper on their economic growth, as Chinese workers are increasingly displaced by lower-wage competitors.

That said, the Obama Administration seems to be doing its level best to make things even worse. Case in point, Obama recently gave a speech at a Boeing plant in Everett, Washington, lauding the benefits of his administration’s economic policy and the gains Boeing made in creating manufacturing jobs from Washington to South Carolina. The irony, of course, is that not too long ago, his unionist Labor Protection Board was trying to strangle the new South Carolina plant in the crib. Meanwhile, his own so-called “jobs czar,” General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt, recently shifted GE’s X-ray imaging equipment’s operations to China.

Ford, meanwhile, is in the process of opening three plants in China – and it makes sense, now that China’s rapidly expanding middle class and affluent populations now represent at once the largest and fastest-growing car markets in the world. Henry Ford wanted his own workers to be able to afford Ford cars. Why shouldn’t China experience the same thing?

Those jobs aren’t coming back,” warned the late Apple CEO, Steve Jobs, at a recent jobs summit, with President Obama in attendance.

The decline in American manufacturing is bigger than Obama – and Obama’s policies are not at the root of the problem. In fact, America has been hemorrhaging manufacturing jobs for a generation. Indeed, the number of manufacturing jobs in the United States – actual, raw numbers – has fallen by some 40 percent since 1979.

Consider this: The largest company in the world, as measured by market capitalization, is now Apple. And Apple, for all its creative energy, is a manufacturer. As of 2011, its global work force was only about 63,000 people: 43,000 in in the United States and 20,000 abroad. In contrast, General Electric, at its peak, employed 400,000 workers: Nearly half a million people – a number larger than the United States Army maintains on active duty.

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3 Responses to Part 1: It’s 2012. Do You Know Where Your Job Is?

  1. Lawrence Light says:

    So what’s the point? If the company that manufactured buggy whips went away, and you had worked for them, the smart thing (if you’re a leather worker) is to find a newer company, like Coach or Dooney & Burke, which makes quality leather handbags. Otherwise, you can wring your hands and be without employment and a paycheck. I know, as a job coach, that it’s important to think outside the box, trite as that sounds, when it comes to looking for jobs. I do that, and teach people to do that. Sure, a lot of jobs have gone away, but there are still jobs here and people are individuals not statistics. In the nooks and crannies are jobs, and finding them is a skill that can be learned. But to hear statistic after statistic is not very good for peoples’ morale, no matter how true they may be. Hopefully Part II will be more positive…

    • admin says:

      Thank you Mr. Light, you are certainly right, doing nothing is never the answer.

      Part II will be more positive, and practical, and it’s coming soon. We had to start with statistics, and not to lower morale, but increase awareness.

      Thanks again for your comment.

  2. Jason Van Steenwyk says:

    Hello, Mr. Light! Thanks for commenting!

    Originally, this piece was submitted as one long one. The editors at the Vitaver blog asked if we could divide it into two pieces, and so part 2 is published above, though under a different title… “America’s Unique Value Proposition: Freedom”

    So, yes, taken as a whole, the piece does end positively.

    More generally, though, I’ve never found that hedging the truth was ever good for people’s morale, in the long run. My loyalty is to truth, not feelings. As a military officer, I always tried hard to level with the troops – even when the news was bad. In fact, it’s even more important to do so if the news is bad. The good news, though, is that we are still Americans, here, and this is still truly the greatest nation the world has ever seen, for our many blessings of natural resources, economic, political and religious freedom, rule of law and opportunity. THAT is our great strength, and none but ourselves can take that away.



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