Making things (up)

March 18, 2008

There’s a lot in this clip that I think is either stupid or political pandering (or both): 

Vodpod videos no longer available.

This takes it:

Steve Croft: Does this country need manufacturing?

HRC: Yes. You know, that’s one of my, you know, that’s one of my biggest arguments with some of the people on Wall Street and elsewhere who have given up on manufacturing. I think the Bush Administration couldn’t care less. I think that’s a grave mistake. We’ve got to keep making things.

That’s a sentiment you hear a lot.  America doesn’t make anything anymore.  Our manufacturing base is being outsourced to Mexico and China.  What are we to do? 

Well, it turns out that America is doing fine in the making stuff department:

manufacturing-output.gif

The chart in its original format can be found here (pdf).

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17 Responses to “Making things (up)”

  1. superdave524 Says:

    I can’t seem to access the clip, but, since you cite Steve Kroft, I’m gonna assume it’s from 60 minutes. Now, John, you sort of trend conservative on financial stuff, so what are you doing listening to 60 minutes, which trends not so conservative? It’s only going to make your blood pressure go up.

  2. John in IL Says:

    Do you know how long it took me to get that video posted. I’m crushed that you can’t see it.

    Any thoughts on my point?

  3. John in IL Says:

    And I never got a vote from you on my last post…

  4. col Says:

    oh no, you’re making me look at actual issues? you are absolutely right that they are pandering to the lou dobbs “exporting america” contingent for core democratic votes.

  5. John in IL Says:

    I’m all about the serious issues. So where do you stand on the hottest HGTV hottie?

  6. superdave524 Says:

    I’m not really sure how I feel about the whole “smoke stack” industries thing. I’m incredulous that the manufacturing sector in America is not shrinking. I’m hopeful that your sources are correct and that our manufacturing base is growing, and not shrinking. The annecdotal stuff I see in the Lowcountry is mixed. Jasper County in the past few years has maybe gained a couple more blue collar type companies than it’s lost, Colleton County is losing a big plant which will create a net loss of good paying blue collar jobs, Hampton and Allendale Counties have taken a pretty big hit over the past few years.

    Of course, I get the argument that economists (including my guru, Alan Greenspan) make that if the Chinese can make it cheaper, we should let the Chinese make it (whatever it is), and that supply and demand will insure that we pay the correct price. On the labor end, supply and demand will take care of that, too, with the most efficient sources of labor getting the contracts.

    I agree with Adam Smith and the economists (good name for a New Wave (which’d be old wave by now) group, eh?) that the market must be the basis for any economy (and it will be, whether we like it or not), but at least three things push the misery index up and create theorists like Karl Marx: 1. The more we pare labor costs, the fewer consumers we have that can afford to buy even the cheapest goods; 2. Countries like China don’t play by the same rules we do because they are free to pollute and violate the kinds of labor safety laws that we have, so their labor costs are artificially low; 3. Smokestack jobs are typically the best paying jobs that less-educated folks can get, and to eliminate those jobs and replace them with “McJobs” paying minimum wage increases the gap between the richest and the poorest to a point that the poorest don’t feel invested in the system, stop trying, and end up giving me more business at the Public Defender’s office.

    It’s really a tough issue, and it’s tough to sort through all the data. As Mark Twain said, “There are three kinds of lies: Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics”.

    …and yet, I continue to shop at Walmart because they have lots of stuff and good prices. So, what do I think? By my actions, I guess I don’t really care that

  7. superdave524 Says:

    Okay, saw the clip. Well, you know I’m a Democrat, right? Looked okay to me. The chart is promising, but might only show that Americans work efficiently. That chart could be accurate, but we could still have large numbers of unemployed workers. Also, it doesn’t compare manufacturing output of other countries or our share of manufacturing in the world, which I would bet has shrunk a great deal since 1958. I’ve seen studies that indicate that Americans are always in the top two or three countries in the world in efficiency (output per worker) and behind only Japan in least number of vacation days in the industrialized world. We work hard. We work smart. So why are workers only earning 1/500th of what the CEOs make? In 1980, the figure was, like 1/40th. Not all the Republican’s fault. A lot of that imbalance began on Bill Clinton’s watch.

  8. John in IL Says:

    I’m incredulous that the manufacturing sector in America is not shrinking.

    The chart is for manufacturing output, ie the amount of stuff we make, not the number of people employed making that same stuff. Similar to agricultural output. We grow more now than ever before and with less people (Lou Dobbs isn’t so upset about that)

    Smokestack jobs are typically the best paying jobs that less-educated folks can get

    I’m all for better public education.

    it doesn’t compare manufacturing output of other countries or our share of manufacturing in the world, which I would bet has shrunk a great deal since 1958

    The pie has gotten bigger. We are not slicing smaller pieces of the same pie.

    Well, you know I’m a Democrat, right?

    Since we’re outing ourselves, here’s my dirty little secret.

  9. Quakerjono Says:

    We grow more now than ever before and with less people (Lou Dobbs isn’t so upset about that)

    But that is sort of a problem like SD said, isn’t it? Isn’t increased efficiency biting us in the ass? While we may make more product and do it with less people, we don’t have less of a workforce (at least, not yet), so as we make more and more product with less and less people, there are fewer and fewer people actually able to buy what we make or even what we import from foreign countries.

    I say increase research and development budgets for matter printers!

  10. superdave524 Says:

    Sounds good to me. Er, what’s a matter printer?

  11. superdave524 Says:

    And John, much as anyone can, you make the socks and flops work. As much as anyone can. Which, sadly, nobody can much.

  12. Quakerjono Says:

    I couldn’t remember the exact term for them, so I made that one up, but a matter printer would be a form of rapid prototyping sort of like a replicator on Star Trek. You feed in raw materials and it rearranges them on the atomic level to produce whatever final product is desired. 3D printing is a step in this direction and pretty damn cool, really.

    Should these devices ever be built and widely available, they would obviously completely obliterate our current economic structure.

    Still, I think I have a better shot of seeing the construction of a space elevator in my lifetime than I do of seeing a replicator. Although, we sort of have tricorders now, so who knows?

  13. John in IL Says:

    Isn’t increased efficiency biting us in the ass?

    No, it’s not. Greater efficiency frees people to do more constructive things.

    While some may lose their jobs due to technology and greater efficiency, it is a net gain for society. Would we be better off if we had protected the jobs of those employed making buggy whips and vacuum tubes? Think of the jobs lost by secretaries in typing pools and elevator operators.

    there are fewer and fewer people actually able to buy what we make

    Really? To state that as a fact is pretty bold. What do you base it on?.

  14. Quakerjono Says:

    While some may lose their jobs due to technology and greater efficiency, it is a net gain for society. Would we be better off if we had protected the jobs of those employed making buggy whips and vacuum tubes?

    Depends on who you’re asking. Ask the guy who makes circuitry or cars, and they’re going to say no. Ask the guy who used to make buggy whips or vacuum tubes…

    I guess my point of confusion would be the use of the value “some”. Not every individual who’s put out of work by a more efficient system is equally creative nor do they necessarily have the economic space in which to develop any creativity they might have. Certainly, this is somewhat alleviated by those individuals who do come up with new product lines that need assemblers and through retraining. But is there a tipping point; a threshold of abandoned workers that an economy simply can’t support and remain viable? When is “some” too many? And how does one go about making that retraining itself as efficient as possible so that displaced workers can be put into another position and contribute to the overall economy?

    I’m not suggesting that greater efficiency is a wholly bad thing. In fact, I’m all for ultimate efficiency in my support for rapid prototyping. It would be great if all people could do whatever they wanted whenever they wanted as basic needs as well as creature comforts were available at the drop of a hat. It’s getting there that’s the problem and I’m not sure that having a cavalier attitude towards “some” people losing their livelihoods because it makes a pretty bar graph is exactly the best way to go.

    Really? To state that as a fact is pretty bold. What do you base it on?

    I didn’t state it as a fact. I asked a question based on a logical chain in hopes of having a different viewpoint explained to me.

  15. John in IL Says:

    I’m not sure that having a cavalier attitude towards “some” people losing their livelihoods because it makes a pretty bar graph is exactly the best way to go.

    Fine. Since you seem to care more about “some” people, let’s pretend you get to decide which jobs are worth keeping. You pick the winners and losers. How do you go about making those decisions?

  16. Quakerjono Says:

    Actually, because someone seems to have shit in your cornflakes and given you a pissy attitude, I’m done.

  17. John in IL Says:

    Your snotty comment deserved some sort of response.


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