Sunday, May 22, 2011

American artists and artisans never stopped "making things"

If a job can be sent to China or the Dominican Republic or Malaysia, it will be.

Manufacturing jobs were sent overseas by the millions during the past two decades. But that era may be over, according to Paul Krugman. Read his NYT column at
While we still have a deeply troubled economy, one piece of good news is that Americans are, once again, starting to actually make things. And we’re doing that thanks, in large part, to the fact that the Fed and the Obama administration ignored very bad advice from right-wingers — ideologues who still, in the face of all the evidence, claim to know something about creating prosperity.
Widgets can be made anywhere. So can certain gadgets.

I would like to know what parts of manufacturing are increasing. U.S. automakers are on a roll. Wind turbines are being made all over the U.S., including down the road in Colorado.

The Columbus Post-Dispatch wrote about hiring at the EdenPure plant which used to be the Hoover plant in North Canton, Ohio:
But the new hiring also reflects another emerging reality of U.S. manufacturing: Many of the jobs don't pay anything close to what they used to. Assembly-line workers who will be making the EdenPure products under the auspices of Suarez Corp. Industries will start at $7.50 an hour. That's a far cry from the $20 an hour that most workers made with Hoover, which shifted its century-old production lines to Mexico and El Paso, Texas, in 2007 after concluding that it was too expensive to make its products in the industrial Midwest. "The communities and workers in Ohio have been devastated over the past decade and are grateful for the opportunity to earn a living," said Robert Baugh, executive director of the AFL-CIO's Industrial Union Council. "But this is tempered by reality. One is that the jobs at Suarez, with wages and benefits well below the middle-class ones that were there before, are not a replacement for the ones that left."
Ohio workers will need three of these new manufacturing jobs to recoup what they lost with $20/hour union jobs. So let's hope a couple more plants like EdenPure come in to make other gadgets that can be made in China or Mexico again when the dollar strengthens. 

America is making things again. But at what cost? One of the Republican strategies is to kill the unions and bring everyone's wages down to the minimum wage level. That way people will be grateful for any job they can get at any salary (forget health care benefits). 

But "original work" can't be outsourced. An artisan in Wyoming who makes handmade bridles and saddles can't be replaced with a factory plopped down in China's Shaanxi Province. Not to say that Chinese can't make perfectly good saddles. They can be mass-produced and they will be made cheaply and will be cheap. The saddle has lost its originality and quality.

Mike, you may ask, aren't only rich people going to buy that expensive Made in the USA custom tooled-leather saddle? Possibly. The rich buy art. So do dudes and dudettes. We have some of those in Wyoming.

But regular folks buy saddles too. And make them. They make horsehair bridles. They make pots and compose music and write books. They are distinctive works of art that can't be mass-produced. You cannot outsource creativity.

So it's good to know that manufacturing jobs are returning to America -- and new ones are being created.

We artists and artisans were here all along. Buy local today!

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