Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Manufacturing Myth

Both Democratic canidates for President have talked on the campaign trail about the decline of manufacturing in the US. They imply that the US doesn't manufacture anything anymore and blame the loss of manufacturing jobs on free trade with low wage countries such as China. The problem with that argument is that it simply isn't true. The US was shedding manufacturing jobs long before NAFTA or any other trade deal signed in the last 30 years. Daniel Griswold at Cato explains to Hillary that the US manufactures lots of things - we just do it with fewer workers:

One huge problem with her statement is that manufacturing output in the United States has continued to EXPAND in recent decades. According to the Federal Reserve Board, America’s factories produced 30 percent more in real output in 2007 than a decade earlier and three times more than in the 1960s.

And just what sort of things do Americans make? According to the U.S. Commerce Department, in 2006 U.S. factories produced:

• 4,522 complete civil aircraft and 12,299 complete civil aircraft engines.
• 87 million metric tons of raw steel and 113 million tons of shipped steel products.
• 11,260,300 cars and light trucks.
• 26,925,715 million computers (digital, analog, hybrid, and other).
• 11,966,177 household refrigerators and refrigerator-freezers.
• 9,993,990 washing machines.
• 7,654,882 water heaters (electric and non-electric).
• 7,402,333 dishwashing machines.
• 6,004,765 household gas and electric ranges.
• 1,399,938 clothes dryers.
• 1.93 billion square yards of carpet and rugs.
• 11.4 million short tons of chlorine gas, 8.9 million tons of sodium hydroxide, 4.7 million tons of hydrochloric acid, and another 2.6 million tons of commercial aluminum sulfate, sodium sulfate, finished sodium bicarbonate, and sodium chlorate.
• 1,537.7 million gallons of paints and allied products at $13.60 a gallon.
• $127 billion worth of pharmaceutical preparations (except biologicals).

The real beef of the Democratic candidates and their union allies is that all that stuff was made with fewer unionized workers than in years passed. We can make more and better things with fewer workers because of soaring productivity.

Please remind me what’s so bad about that.

If this were 1900, Hillary and Obama would be moaning about the loss of farming jobs.

No comments: