Monday, September 19, 2011

Then and Now -- Manufacturing

One thing that has definitely changed in the past 50 years is where our manufactured goods are made.  It used to be that everything from steel to textiles to shoes to cars was made right here at home, but that has all changed.
Fifty years ago, anything not made here was relegated to the category of flimsy toys made in Japan or overpriced European goods.  We were basically self-sufficient.
But over the years as the cost of labor skyrocketed, manufacturers found cheaper labor next door in Mexico and then in India and finally in the various countries of Asia, where most every piece of clothing we wear today is made.  We simply can’t compete with women who are willing to sew for a few dollars a day.
The same thing has happened with the auto industry, even with American brands like Ford.  In fact, it is hard to find a car today made exclusively either in this country or outside its borders.  Ford has assembly plants in Mexico and Honda assembles some of its cars here in the US.  The bottom line is how to make things for the least cost and sell them for the biggest profit.
The labor unions today that were once founded to protect the American worker have had to sit by and watch more and more of the work taken elsewhere. They are like cumbersome giants bound for the old folks’ home.
It’s not necessarily the American economy that is suffering the most from this move to manufacturing overseas, but rather the blue collar worker whose job has now been outsourced to someone who works for much less money.  It’s that worker who is now unemployed or must be retrained to do another job here at home or must be willing to take a huge salary cut, something probably not acceptable to the particular union.
It’s a dilemma that only gets worse as developing countries take on more and more of the work previously done here.  As the gap in labor cost widens, the dilemma only gets worse.


Blogger Steve Reed said...

I'm just catching up on your entries about our changing world. The change at the heart of all this is globalization -- the fact that information is so widely and easily available (which is good but affects the operation of our government), that labor and services can be outsourced to other nations with different economies, that we're all more mixed up and hence paranoid of other cultures, that our educational system is struggling with diversity-related issues. Tom Friedman writes about these matters all the time. It's definitely a different world we live in!

I also think we of older generations often look back at childhood with rose-colored lenses. I mean, I was a kid in the '70s at the height of Watergate and just after Vietnam, but I remember it being a relatively peaceful time -- which it wasn't!!

1:10 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Steve -- You are right that we often remember things differently than perhaps our parents experienced them. But undeniably life was simpler when we were children, even in the 70's. I do agree that many of the changes are related to globalization, which has probably worked to my advantage allowing me access to cheaper clothing, electronics, etc. But not everyone has fared so well. As far as government goes, my husband's theory is that people in general in this country are becoming more stupid; ergo, our politicians reflect the general populace.

2:45 PM  
Blogger e said...

We are not as well educated as other cultures and we think we are superior to others. This, combined with a growing right-wing mentality makes us look very stupid to Europeans, and others...Unfortunately, your husband is probably right.

7:41 PM  
Blogger Steve Reed said...

Hmmm...I like your husband's theory! I may have to think about this a while. Maybe it will be a blog post for me. :)

7:10 AM  

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