Dear Abby: He charmed the pants off me. He had a big jet with his name on it. But he’d abused other girls, stiffed 4,000 contractors, filed for bankruptcy five times and swindled investors out of billions. He promised he’d change. He said he’d drain the swamp, fix the house and get me a factory job. But he’s ruined everything and will only get me a job down a coal mine. My lawyer says I cannot divorce him for four years. What’s a girl to do? Confused, Michigan.
Dear Confused: The modern girl must be on the lookout for these shameless liars. But con artists are often insecure. You could join demonstrations, get under his skin and hope that he goes away. If not, dump him in four years’ time.
As for that job, I have bad news. Factory jobs are increasingly done by automatic machines, not by confused girls in Michigan. I was reading in The Economist magazine that America’s manufacturing output has been constant at 18 percent of global output for 40 years. Manufacturing employment, however, fell by 6 million jobs from 1999 to 2011. That was over a third of that sector’s workers. And while American manufacturing output has increased more than 20 percent since 2009, manufacturing employment has grown by only 5 percent.
Some manufacturing companies have returned to America recently, but they have not brought many jobs. Of the millions of manufacturing jobs lost over the past decade, 80 percent have been replaced by automation, not low-paid foreigners.
America’s industrial policy is to rig the rules in favor of the top 1 percent, then let the “free market” do its work. This makes the top 1 percent vastly richer but throws factory girls under the bus. Germany’s policy is to promote high-value manufacturing, training workers with apprenticeships. Hence, 24 percent of its workforce is in manufacturing, as opposed to 12 percent here. It is obviously very successful but the top 1 percent will not allow it in America.
America would need to create a giant economic expansion to help unemployed workers. This will not happen. It would require a 50 percent surge of manufacturing output. This would be the equivalent of 200 new Tesla factories. This might happen if wages were higher so that people could afford those great Teslas. But wages have been stagnant for 40 years. The top 1 percent killed the goose that laid the golden egg. As Henry Ford realized, people cannot buy stuff if they do not have decent wages.
President Obama pulled the economy out of its nosedive in 2009 with his stimulus package, then produced the greatest-ever peacetime expansion of jobs. But this generated only 805,000 new manufacturing jobs (due to stagnant wages, stagnant purchasing power and cheap imports). This was even after an $80 billion car industry bailout that saved 1 million jobs. This stimulus will not be repeated because Republicans hate working girls. They think they should be home raising babies.
“Trade deals” have not helped. America’s billionaires realized that they had more in common with China’s billionaires than with America’s working classes. The Economist said that letting China into the World Trade Organization in 2001 cost 2.4 million jobs. The Economic Policy Institute said in 2003 that the North American Free Trade deal (NAFTA) cost 879,280 jobs. Some export jobs were created, but not enough.
With globalization, American multinational corporations cut 2.9 million jobs. Of those, 2.4 million jobs were sent abroad (U.S. Dept. of Commerce). In addition, American companies bought materials for those factories abroad that were made in those counties. Those orders for factory materials were once placed in America, creating more jobs here.
So as a result mostly of automation but also of those trade deals, manufacturing has taken a hit. Finally, there is the ghastly tax code. It rewards the outsourcing of jobs abroad.
Smartphones cannot be made here any longer as the industrial base no longer exists. “Two decades of unconstrained outsourcing to Asia have hollowed out much of America’s base of suppliers, factory managers and skilled technicians” (Business Week). This has made billionaires even richer but has sold factory girls down the river. Many manufacturing jobs that have disappeared can simply never come back. Even manufacturing in China is increasingly done by robots. And here is the real killer: Most of the robots used in America are made in China.
The days when Americans could reach the middle class by working in the same local factory for 30 years have gone. General Motors was America’s largest employer in 1975, paying $25/hour. Today it is Walmart, paying $9/hour. Your husband knew this when he made those promises but took advantage of your good nature. Better luck next time. Go for a quiet one with big hands.