Manufacturing, the panacea for the unskilled masses?

I just read a great blog post called Manufacturing Fallacy Debunked. It echoes many of the things I have said in the past... that the creation of that $58 Blue-Ray DVD player is a minor part of the value accumulated by the time you plunk down your hard earned cash swipe your credit card with your unemployment earnings. The process involves licensing on the parts and intellectual property (assuming that the Chinese actually pay for IP), shipping, off-loading, customs, trucking to warehouse, warehousing, re-trucking to retail store, stocking the shelf, cashiering and then clearing the money for the transaction. All of these things are profit centers that fuel HUGE amounts of additional money and jobs. PLUS, don't forget the actual profit that goes to Wal-Mart's or Target's stockholders and the state/local sales tax.

I still laugh at the term "good manufacturing jobs". No one wanted to work in these jobs. Parents forced two generations of children to get a better education so that they didn't have to work at the plant like Dad did. Now Dad's job is done by a worker living in a camp in Xiunxhing making $0.83 per hour and it is likely that the product is actually of higher quality than what Dad produced.

Dad actually hated his job, but he did it because he had to to support his family. Unions were formed to force manufacturers into providing higher wages and better working conditions. The OSHA was formed to make workplaces safer. The EPA was formed to make plants cleaner. All of these efforts caused costs to go up and up. When it finally got to be too much and foreign sources were successfully competing with on-shore companies, there were only two choices: go out of business or go off-shore.

Many manufacturers had mechanized as much as possible to increase productivity (productivity is the amount of product that can be created per worker), but at some point, cheap labor PLUS productivity would cause the demise of local manufacturing.

We are already at a point that we have to import workers (in many cases, illegal workers) to do low end work like butchering chickens, cleaning hotels, gardening, laboring in construction, etc. These are truly the jobs that the unskilled Americans could be doing instead of accepting welfare, but they won't. No one wants these jobs when there is any other option. Do you think that second generation "Dream Act Babies" will work at the Tyson's Chicken plant bagging fryers? Really?

Is it too much to expect, and to base national policy on the fact, that every single American will get a good post-secondary education and find a job? Once someone has a college degree and all of the commensurate debt (or perhaps the government funded that education) do you expect that they will go to work at the local metal stamping plant making brackets for the tailpipe of a Ford pickup?

What is my point? With all of the "Twinkie Time" that unemployed workers will be having after being laid off from "good manufacturing jobs", I don't hold out much hope in the short run for our job numbers. I also don't think that full employment will be a reality until the next big thing hits (like the Internet Bubble), and unless the policy from the government loosens up to allow entrepreneurial creativity and the concomitant obscene profits these companies stand to make, the Next Big Thing will be a long time coming.

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