Both Donald Trump and Sen. Bernie Sanders have made this issue a principal reason why they should be president: Misguided trade policies have devastated the manufacturing capability of the United States, and millions of jobs have been lost.
The facts as reported by the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank, strongly suggest otherwise. According to an Oct. 1 article, in 1980, real U.S. manufacturing output in 2014 dollars was approximately $1 trillion and required the employment of roughly 19.5 million Americans.
By 2014, U.S. manufacturing output had risen to $2.1 trillion, and the number of Americans employed in manufacturing was reduced by almost half, to a little more than 12 million.
Notwithstanding these two candidates’ similar protestations to the contrary, it is clear that the real culprits in manufacturing job loss are robotics, automation and computerization. The jobs, for better or worse, have disappeared at the altar of productivity.
Short of throwing the robots into the sea, the promises of Trump and Sanders amount to nothing more than a diversion from the real solutions, which are neither cheap nor easy. What is required is investment in people, research, education and infrastructure.
By the way, in 2013, once again according the AEI, the U.S. manufacturing output nearly equaled the combined manufacturing output of Germany, South Korea, France, Russia, Brazil and the United Kingdom. By that measure alone, and for many others, the United States is still a pretty great country.
Theodore Richman, Jericho