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Round about 2:00 on Thursday, August 13, my feet were so light I felt like a cat in snow for the first time, waving my feet around in the air each time they lifted up off an unfamiliar surface. I'd just taken off the heaviest pair of boots I've ever worn, after climbing five flights of stairs in them and then descending one flight at a time. Their heaviness had registered on me slowly, but when I took them off the lightness hit all at once.

During Netroots Nation, the Alliance for American Manufacturingand Campaign for America's Future arranged for a group of bloggers to tour the Edgar Thomson plant -- Andrew Carnegie's first steel mill and still a working, fully modernized plant. It's no exaggeration to say I've rarely felt so awkward, decked out in a bright orange flame retardant jacket and stiff green pants (over my jeans, to add an extra layer of clumsy to the whole thing), with a hard hat that tipped whenever I looked down as I cautiously made my way down another metal grid staircase, safety goggles that just barely fit over my own glasses and slid down my nose at any opportunity, earplugs, gloves, and those boots. But practical difficulties aside, at least everyone else was just as awkward looking.

I was in a group that toured the continuous caster -- another group of bloggers toured the Basic Oxygen Processing shop, or BOP shop. Steel production today is simultaneously as modernized and as old-school industrial as you could possibly imagine. Our tour started in an observation room with a large number of computers and screens for monitoring. But it proceeded on past huge pieces of machinery and giant slabs of glowing, red-hot steel giving off waves of heat such that you felt you might leave the tour with one side of your face sunburned. In the room with the computers, the heavy boots and the helmets and the rest of it felt a little silly and conspicuous. Walking past all that moving, sometimes molten metal, no safety precaution on earth would have felt silly.

It got me thinking about making things. In a restaurant I'm in the presence of chefs making food; at the farmer's market I'm at least engaged in a direct transaction with someone who's been producing food; where else do we regularly encounter stuff being made? I've toured a sock finishing mill in Alabama -- and in the 5 years since, a lot of the sock industry has moved out of the US.

We talk a fair amount about the rise of a service economy and the decline in manufacturing in America. Sometimes the people talking about this even sound like they know what they mean. Sometimes. More often it's a glib brush-off, best translated as "working people should suck it up about the lower wages and none of the rest of us should worry our beautiful minds about where the products we use every day are coming from."

Of course, we should never dismiss service work so glibly. It's neither easy nor unimportant. As the Hotel Workers Rising campaign detailed, repetitive strain injuries are endemic among hotel housekeepers, for instance -- something it's likely few of us thought about as we left our rooms each day to attend sessions at Netroots Nation. But the heat and noise of a steel plant is another thing entirely as far as making you think about the US economy and where it's going and what that means for workers. Those glib dismissers never seem to want to answer basic questions like, are we better off for being in this shiny new service economy? Are people healthier, happier, is inequality less, is the economy better?

Here's where our manufacturing base stands:

Manufacturing isn’t gone from America yet, but it’s at serious risk of leaving.

  • Manufacturing employs 14 million people, generates nearly 12 percent of U.S. gross domestic product and accounts for 60 percent of U.S. exports.
  • Manufacturing is at least the third- largest sector or greater in 40 states.
  • But manufacturing has sharply declined from 27 percent of GDP in 1950 to only 11.5 percent today.
  • And a quarter of the nation’s 282,000 remaining manufacturing companies -- 90,000 in all -- are now deemed severely "at risk."

Steelmaking's complete marriage of new technologies with all the characteristics of supposedly old, outdated manufacturing highlights the poverty of the debate around these issues. As our tour pointed out, yes, steel goes into cars and refrigerators and all sorts of things we consume (and probably should consume less of), but it also goes, in huge quantities, into wind turbines. And it's recycled in massive quantities. It's time to stop thinking of manufacturing as something in the past and to think about how we use it moving forward. False distinctions between manufacturing and forward-looking or green technologies, in other words, are the outdated habit we have to move past, not manufacturing.

The tour I took (along with Tula Connell, emptywheel, Dave Johnson, and others) was no doubt intended to start a blogospheric conversation to go with Campaign for America's Future's Making It In America project. But it's a worthwhile conversation to let ourselves be led into. Where do you encounter people making things? Do you think our country's economy is better for having wandered off from making things? Do you think the world's population is better for more steel being made in places without the safety precautions I experienced in Pittsburgh and less of it being made by union workers who come out of the heat and noise and danger of their jobs with a middle-class income? When we talk green economy and green jobs, are we comfortable with that meaning solar panels from China?

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Sun Aug 23, 2009 at 03:04 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Now I am REALLY sorry I missed this tour ... (17+ / 0-)

    ...way to make the connections, Laura.

    Some people would be better off not reading diaries they comment on, since they already have all the answers.

    by Meteor Blades on Sun Aug 23, 2009 at 03:08:03 PM PDT

    •  super post about MATERIAL and MAKING (8+ / 0-)

      There is so much STUFF in this world, and so much of it without any reason for being -- other than as a temptation to consumer spending. But necessary things, made by people who know how to handle materials, make life so rich.
      There needs to be intelligent material production in this country, in which so much of our culture is based on the manipulation of abstractions (including money as an abstraction).
      As an artist who presently isn't making things (because, as noted, there is too much stuff around already), I have nothing but respect for people who know how to use tools and how to manipulate materials. For people who, over time, have learned how to make things.
      No matter how digitized and caught up in the Cloud we become, being on the ground and touching real things(of real quality, not mindless quantity) that are cared for and not just discarded, is an important source of pleasure.
      I wish that I could have gone on the tour.

      •  5% manufactuing jobs lost this year so far (4+ / 0-)

        From a great discussion on FDL last week:

        FDL Book Salon Welcomes Richard McCormack, Editor of Manufacturing a Better Future for America

        Manufacturing is a subset of goods producing jobs. So we have lost some 30.7% of our manufacturing jobs since January 2001 when Bush came into offie and 23.3% of goods producing ones. The figure for this last is smaller than for manufacturing because there were some job increases in oil, mining, and related support industries. . . .

        Goods producing jobs:
        24.543 million January 2001
        20.127 million January 2009
        18.815 million June 2009

        January 2001-January 2009 loss: 4.416 million 18%

        January 2009-June 2009 loss: 1.312 million 5.3% further from January 2001 base

        Manufacturing jobs:
        17.114 million January 2001
        12.640 million January 2009
        11.854 million June 2009

        January 2001-January 2009 loss: 4.474 million 26.1%

        January 2009-June 2009 loss: .786 million 4.6% further from January 2001 base

        A conservative is a scab for the oligarchy.

        by NBBooks on Sun Aug 23, 2009 at 04:36:34 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Manufacture is more than materials handling (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        There is a difference in attitude between those who primarily work on assembly lines making the same thing day after day, or those who produce generic raw materials like steel, wood, stone, or plastic from which anything can be fashioned and those who make something that requires craftsmanship.

        Many manufacturers forge, stamp, machine or extrude components like an engine block, the treads for spiral stairs, fluted columns or beverage containers out of raw materials, but a few craftsmen still make things that require some hands on skills.

        I'd like to see the people who produce shows like "Ice Road Truckers" pay some attention to the drama and excitement of people who know how to use hand tools to manipulate materials gently and delicately in a way that evokes the artists mindset.

        I recently stopped by "Wood Sounds" in Glen Cove on Rte 1 where Rockland, Rockport and Camden come together, and saw what might best be described as a medeival alchemist transmuting elements into sound.

        I build sailboats and like the idea of building things that have fair lines and are designed to move in ways that excite the senses.

        I know the amount of preparation and setup, patience and presistance that it takes to make the molds and patterns, clamps and jigs and special tools including the organizational mindset that is aware of which temperatures and conditions are best for assembly down to and including the glues, putties, caulks, fasteners and rigging make the workmanship special.

        Walking into the luthiers shop and finding it open and empty for over half an hour despite that he knew he had a customer waiting because he was upstairs tending his glue pot and was in about the same situation as a cook trying to get a perfect merangue sort of summed it up for me.

        Live Free or Die --- Investigate, Incarcerate

        by rktect on Mon Aug 24, 2009 at 03:24:46 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  you can count yourself sorry! (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Meteor Blades, esquimaux, jumpjet

      all steel plants are in truth cathedrals to Pele. (But don´t ever say that loud).

      Ici s´arrète la loi.

      by marsanges on Sun Aug 23, 2009 at 04:38:25 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I think some day U.S. manufacturing will pick up (0+ / 0-)

      I was going to say so in a comment, but my comment grew like a weed and turned into this diary:
      which I am now shamelessly self-promoting.

      We're all pretty strange one way or another; some of us just hide it better. "Normal" is a dryer setting.

      by david78209 on Sun Aug 23, 2009 at 07:03:02 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  When wearing a hardhat (12+ / 0-)

    > ith a hard hat that tipped whenever I looked down
    > as I cautiously made my way down another metal grid
    > staircase, safety goggles that just barely fit over
    > my own glasses and slid down my nose at any
    > opportunity

    When wearing a hardhat and safety goggles, don't hesitate to crank the sizing straps down 3x tighter than you think they should be.  In the case of a hardhat that is generally until you think your skull is being squeezed out of shape ;-)  I thought invention of the sizing wheel for the hardhat strap was a great boon to mankind.


    PS Great post.

  •  The Dilemma (13+ / 0-)

    The war mongers scream we need weapons systems like the F22 to fight enemies like nod nod wink wink china yet they insist we continue to strip our manufacturing base and ship to who else china. If this war they speak of comes we're gonna need to make our own stuff cause all this enemy has to do is sink those super cargo ships bound for long beach and LA.

  •  my Gramma sang this to me when I was little :) (11+ / 0-)

    CNN aka CRANK Network Non-news

    by KnotIookin on Sun Aug 23, 2009 at 03:10:18 PM PDT

    •  I sang Joe Hill nt (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      houyhnhnm, trinityfly, esquimaux

      Rocket science is easy. Keeping house is hard.

      by Im a frayed knot on Sun Aug 23, 2009 at 04:19:05 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  How about "Sixteen Tons" (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Coal and steel went hand in hand.

      Tennessee Ernie Ford, a real artist and a decent man (who lived not far from us near San Gregorio in California and was often seen sitting and talking to local folks in the San Gregorio General Store), used to sing this one:

      "You load sixteen tons, what do you get
      Another day older and deeper in debt
      Saint Peter don't you call me 'cause I can't go
      I owe my soul to the company store

      I was born one mornin' when the sun didn't shine
      I picked up my shovel and I walked to the mine
      I loaded sixteen tons of number nine coal
      And the straw boss said "Well, a-bless my soul"

      You load sixteen tons, what do you get
      Another day older and deeper in debt
      Saint Peter don't you call me 'cause I can't go
      I owe my soul to the company store."

  •  The fiber & Textile mills are all gone. (8+ / 0-)

    Many people in the south, north, & northeast were employed in textile mills. No more. They've dried up most everywhere and the dry goods we get are low end from China, or high-end from Western Europe. Very little manufactured here.

    •  Oddly enough (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      hester, Navy Vet Terp, JeffW, divineorder, jck

      of the four different factories I worked in, the only one which remains in business in the US is the fiber/textile plant, specifically a felt company, although now it styles itself as "non-wovens".  The shoe plant moved to Brazil, the dog biscuit plant I have no idea what happened to, and the sheet metal plant where we made computer cabinets went bust along with its main customers.

      "99% of the battles and skirmishes that we fought in Afghanistan were won by our side." ~ Marshall Akhromeyev

      by ActivistGuy on Sun Aug 23, 2009 at 03:25:23 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Cost of health insurance drives out manufacturing (7+ / 0-)

      Corporate VP's have told me that the primary reason for shuting down their manufacturing in the United States and ordering from overseas, primarily from China, is that their companies could no longer afford health insurance for their employees.

      "We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals, now we know that it is bad economics." Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Jan. 20, 1937

      by Navy Vet Terp on Sun Aug 23, 2009 at 03:50:49 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  The Cost Of Wages Drives Out Manufacturing (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Creosote, pkbarbiedoll, JeffW, marsanges

        Cost of health insurance drives out manufacturing

        As does the cost of environmental law, worker safety law, etc.

        And these things have been working to drive out manufacturing long before the cost of health care was an issue.

        Put all of the free health care in place that you want to, it will not stop the flight of manufacturing out of the U.S.

        If China had to put into an escrow account today the future cost of cleaning up the Yangtze, much less manufacturing would now be in China.

        <div style="font-size:10px;text-align:center;background-color:#ffd;color:#f33">If the terriers and bariffs are torn down, this economy will grow - G. Bush

        by superscalar on Sun Aug 23, 2009 at 03:56:50 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Mebbe so, but some have moved back. (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          houyhnhnm, JeffW, marsanges, jumpjet

          Friend of mine is VP for a steel company in Texas and they moved their plate plant back from Mexico.

          Sometimes these cries you echo are propaganda, sometimes they are reality.

          Lot depends on we consumers.  

        •  This is because we don't protect our (7+ / 0-)

          manufacturing base.

          Of course wage costs are high.  We are competing with nations that don't give two shits about their people, and their standards of living are lower than ours.

          If we apply a tarrif or two, that can be fixed.

          If we make a tax adjustment or two, that can be fixed.

          It's more practical to make things here, if anything for the shipping and longer lead times that slow time to market.

          This is our fault, not China.


          by potatohead on Sun Aug 23, 2009 at 04:24:30 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  All of which argue for forced (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          potatohead, Navy Vet Terp

          internalization of externalized costs via trade agreements that take all of these things that impact people around the world into account.

          You don't have environmental protection and worker safety laws, no problem, let's see, that's a 15% tariff for environmental degradation, another 15% for worker injuries, ....

          Democracy is a contact sport...

          by jsmagid on Sun Aug 23, 2009 at 04:48:59 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  All Of Which Sounds Great (0+ / 0-)

            internalization of externalized costs via trade agreements that take all of these things that impact people around the world into account

            Until you try to enforce it, or even get a U.S. political entity to even begin to talk about enforcing it.

            that's a 15% tariff for environmental degradation, another 15% for worker injuries

            I'm still waiting for the Obama administration to call a spade a spade when it comes to China's currency manipulation.

            None of this will occur while the Council on Foreign Relations types rule the roost, and admit it or not, there are a lot of CFR members attending White House meetings these days.

            <div style="font-size:10px;text-align:center;background-color:#ffd;color:#f33">If the terriers and bariffs are torn down, this economy will grow - G. Bush

            by superscalar on Sun Aug 23, 2009 at 04:55:40 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  No one said it would be easy (0+ / 0-)

              but it is the only way to stop the race to the bottom that is free trade.

              If we can't/don't clearly identify both the problem and possible solutions there is no chance of implementation. If we do, then we at least have an idea of what we are working towards and what we need to be asking of the "better" part of the "more and better Democrats" that has become the political mantra of Daily Kos.

              Democracy is a contact sport...

              by jsmagid on Sun Aug 23, 2009 at 05:08:09 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Do You Remember That Time? (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                "more and better Democrats"

                Not to many years ago here when the mantra wasn't "more and better Democrats", it was simply 'more Democrats'.

                It wasn't until after the 2006 elections that it became "more and better Democrats".

                "More Democrats" didn't work, I don't forsee any time soon that "more and better Democrats" is going to work either -- I don't think that people are going to be able to affect the kind of change they are expecting in a two party political system, especially the two party political system we have now.

                That doesn't mean I don't admire you stick-to-it attitude, I am just a little more cynical in my outlook.

                <div style="font-size:10px;text-align:center;background-color:#ffd;color:#f33">If the terriers and bariffs are torn down, this economy will grow - G. Bush

                by superscalar on Sun Aug 23, 2009 at 05:18:57 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  then you are left with (0+ / 0-)

                  simply "better" representatives (D or 3rd)

                  or, if it does not work because even the best are corruptible and will become corrupted,

                  a better system.

                  The liberals of the mid to late 19th century thought they lived in the best of all possible worlds. And they could point to the just-then-fresh invention of the basics of modern technical advances, from medicine to steelmaking. They were right it had never been as good (for them) on the world.

                  in that time, the foundations of socialism were laid amongst the workers who were new themselves and just had to realize at first who they were and then get around to organize. If you say "a better system" will never ever make the public cut in your country, think of the early industrialization. Who could have imageined social democracy from the lot the first factory workers underwent? But they made it happen. So can you, and will you, if your problems are (ore become) as acute.

                  Ici s´arrète la loi.

                  by marsanges on Sun Aug 23, 2009 at 05:36:48 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  This Will Require That At Some Point (0+ / 0-)

                    then you are left with simply "better" representatives

                    People begin to admit that they have more in common with that 'dirty liberal' or that 'clueless Gooper' than they care to admit.

                    There is an old saying that "the only thing you really own is what you can carry in your two hands at a dead run". It is really only at this point, that point where everything else has been stripped away, that the human species realizes that there really is almost nothing which makes us any different from the guy standing next to us.

                    All the rest is simply created out of whole cloth by Madison Ave., Washington D.C., etc.

                    <div style="font-size:10px;text-align:center;background-color:#ffd;color:#f33">If the terriers and bariffs are torn down, this economy will grow - G. Bush

                    by superscalar on Sun Aug 23, 2009 at 06:12:04 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                •  I think the fact that 60+ (0+ / 0-)

                  House members signed the public option or bust letter and their position has been backed up by $350k in netroots contributions is a good sign. It won't take many more committed progressives in the House to make a substantial difference on lots of legislation.

                  The other good sign is the initial success of clean election laws. Corporations will I'm sure fight them just as much as they are fighting healthcare reform and cap and trade, but given the obvious benefit for legislators I think there is reason for at least a bit of optimism.

                  We most certainly have a very long way to go, but at least there are some positive signs.

                  Democracy is a contact sport...

                  by jsmagid on Sun Aug 23, 2009 at 07:10:12 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

        •  Sorry. That's not true. (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          badger, dkmich, dle2GA, Hoghead99

          My spouse has P/L responsibility for his manufacturing facility. He competes head-to-head with other manufacturers of the same kinds of equipment around the world.

          What kicks his ass and makes his firm non-competitive is HEALTH CARE COSTS.

          Health care amounts to 35% of his firm's total expenses. That's a cost that the other competitors outside of the country don't have; if he could shave even 5% off his expenses, he'd see more work coming into his facility because he'd beat his competition on pricing.

          If China was so cheap, they wouldn't be buying my spouse's company's products -- but even with cheap labor, they don't have the know-how. This intellectual property will take years to acquire, and as we all know, time = money.

          •  Consider The Following Scenario (0+ / 0-)

            This intellectual property will take years to acquire, and as we all know, time = money.

            This intellectual property is aquired at some point in the future. At that same point in time your husband (somehow) is providing free health for all his employees.

            Where will these goods be manufactured then?

            <div style="font-size:10px;text-align:center;background-color:#ffd;color:#f33">If the terriers and bariffs are torn down, this economy will grow - G. Bush

            by superscalar on Sun Aug 23, 2009 at 05:22:13 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  The next level of IP to come (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              Oh, believe me, the next level of IP is already in the pipeline.

              What most Americans don't consider is that China has a massive and restless population which has been restrained politically for years from modernization. They can't be held back politically forever. One of the means by which their restive people will be satisfied is acquiring technology to reach a level of modernity that we realized decades ago.

              In the mean time, the next level of IP is in the shop right now, waiting for all the pieces to come together and be realized here.

              But one of those pieces must be reduction in health care costs; this massive expense, more than either the actual cost of labor or the cost of materials, is suppressing innovation. Without this burden kept under control or reduced, there's less money to spend on new innovation which advances American culture while helping other countries play catch up.

              •  I Agree That Health Care Costs (0+ / 0-)

                Negatively affect the competitiveness of the American worker.

                My point is that, again, provide all the free health care you want, it still does not make up for the wage disparity and the disparity in environmental law, worker safety law, etc., and it is these things which are the primary driver of jobs to the third world, not U.S. employer health care costs.

                <div style="font-size:10px;text-align:center;background-color:#ffd;color:#f33">If the terriers and bariffs are torn down, this economy will grow - G. Bush

                by superscalar on Sun Aug 23, 2009 at 05:37:00 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  If only that were true (0+ / 0-)


                  Read my comment in thread here. My spouse's company competes on a global basis.

                  It's about the health care.

                  •  For Your Spouse's Company This May Be True (0+ / 0-)

                    That doesn't make it true in the general case.

                    <div style="font-size:10px;text-align:center;background-color:#ffd;color:#f33">If the terriers and bariffs are torn down, this economy will grow - G. Bush

                    by superscalar on Sun Aug 23, 2009 at 06:13:42 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  Let Me Take This One Step Further (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:

                      The average daily wage in El Salvador is eight dollars. The average wage in the U.S. is about $120.

                      How does providing free health care in the U.S. change the average daily wage in El Salvador?

                      How does providing free in the U.S. change the average daily wage in the U.S.?

                      <div style="font-size:10px;text-align:center;background-color:#ffd;color:#f33">If the terriers and bariffs are torn down, this economy will grow - G. Bush

                      by superscalar on Sun Aug 23, 2009 at 06:19:22 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  Health care, wages, etc (0+ / 0-)

                        All are fixed if we add a tariff to incoming goods according to conditions in the country of origin.

                        If your workers are exploited and paid too little, add a tariff.

                        If your workers are not provided safe conditions, add a tariff.


                        This is how we financed our country for a long time!  It is how we paid for roads, schools, courts, etc. to build the infrastructure that kept us competitive.  The tariffs lower the tax burden on the rest of us.

                        And if they raise the wages they pay, their workers can buy from us, and we lower the tariffs, providing them with access to our markets!

                        -- Seeing The Forest -- Who is our economy FOR, anyway? Twitter: dcjohnson

                        by davej on Mon Aug 24, 2009 at 09:59:33 AM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

        •  No, the cost of health care and pensions (0+ / 0-)

          makes it hard for US manufacturing to compete.  Add in a bunch of lies from the propaganda MSM that are swallowed hook, line and sinker by the great unwashed, and we have one bad trade deal after another.

          "YES WE CAN" doesn't mean he is going to. ~~Daily Show

          by dkmich on Mon Aug 24, 2009 at 02:28:55 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  It's also worker safety (0+ / 0-)

          At the steel plant they said that labor is not as large part of the cost as people think - which also means health insurance isn't.  They said the price of raw materials is a larger part of the competitiveness problem.  Coal, ore, etc. cost less in China.

          When you hear about 100 workers trapped in an unsafe mine in China you're hearing about why our steel mills are less competitive.

          The question is why do we let this steel into our country?  One would think all the blood that is used in their processes would tarnish the quality if the resulting product.

          -- Seeing The Forest -- Who is our economy FOR, anyway? Twitter: dcjohnson

          by davej on Mon Aug 24, 2009 at 09:54:25 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  So true. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Creosote, esquimaux

        In nations where they have the strong commons to operate in, small business suffers way less risk.

        They thrive and grow and innovate.

        Here, we expose them to so much risk that they are literally owned before they grow, due to the very high start up and burn rates we have here.

        Almost not possible and practical to just start small and grow with the cost of people.


        by potatohead on Sun Aug 23, 2009 at 04:22:46 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Um, Trepstra? (0+ / 0-)

        Compost for a greener piles?

        by Hoghead99 on Sun Aug 23, 2009 at 04:44:11 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  One place you can find beautiful, (0+ / 0-)

      handmade, well produced textiles is at your local Art Center.  Some of the farmer's market booth are also selling quilts in our area.

      I know it's not steel production or factory products, but there are people making things in America and they could use the support of fellow Americans.

      Yes, it costs a little more than an article of clothing from China, but it is made of better (natural) materials and will last you for generations if properly cared for.

      It's kind of like shopping at the small Mom and Pop market.  It will cost you a little more, but you can walk to it and if it closes it will cost you a lot more to drive to the edge of town to the big box stores.

      Insurance is a racket...organized, government sanctioned, crime.

      by trinityfly on Sun Aug 23, 2009 at 05:12:59 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Encountered here in my town (9+ / 0-)

    I live at the northern end of the I-75 industrial corridor; much of the industry here has serviced the automakers for a lifetime.

    And much of that industry has been on the verge of leaving. The city here has shrunk in size by more than half over the last 20 years, having lost not one but two foundries which made engine blocks and other parts, along with smaller plants which made car parts.

    My spouse still works for a manufacturing equipment facility; his firm makes the equipment which moves autos, tractors, motorcycles and more around manufacturing plants as they are made. But increasingly the demand for this equipment is not in the U.S. but overseas.

    For example, in the middle 1990's some of the biggest projects in his business were manufacturing lines at Buick City in Flint MI and a Harley Davidson plant in Wisconsin.

    Next week he makes the fifth trip to China inside the last year -- and we hope he gets the work from them because there's not much else.

  •  When I was young (15+ / 0-)

    a neighbor had molten steel poured on his foot at a local foundry.  That poor guy was in agony for months and never did recover enough to return to a real labor job.  Steel toes weren't used then, and he worked in a less than ideal shop.  He had a young family and I still think about him now and then...

    I've been whining for years about how we don't make things anymore.  It's not just an economic issue.  It's about security, for heaven's sake!

    -7.62, -7.28 "Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly." -Langston Hughes

    by luckylizard on Sun Aug 23, 2009 at 03:15:52 PM PDT

    •  Steel-toed boots no match (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      luckylizard, marsanges

      Generally good for some limited protection against minor crushing and spills, but not against molten metal.

      Depending on the alloy, steel melts at roughly 1300 deg F.

      Leather ignites at 212 deg F; most plastics including those used in shoes ignite between 400 to 600 deg F.

      At best, steel-toed boots will offer momentary protection against molten steel, until the boot itself reaches ignition. I'm not surprised your poor neighbor was injured so badly; the odds weren't in his favor. I hope he's been able to find other work which can accommodate his altered abilities.

      The best protection against injuries in the workplace of all kinds are 1) training, training, training, and 2) common sense. Think of the lives saved by the pilot of the U.S. Airways flight which landed in the Hudson; he was a union pilot with one heckuva lot of training under his belt, and the common sense to know that he wasn't going to make the next airport. He saved himself and a plane-load of people.

      •  did you mean C not F? (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Rayne, luckylizard

        steel melts much higher than 1300F

        PLEASE donate to a global children's PEACE project: Chalk 4 Peace

        by RumsfeldResign on Sun Aug 23, 2009 at 05:50:15 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  This was years and years ago. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        The guy was not an intellectual.  He was the kind of guy that could support a family working in industry.  I see these same young men now working two minimum wage jobs, flinging burgers or emptying trash, with no benefits and no future.  

        The company that my neighbor worked for did not have a good reputation at the time.  Of course, there were many manufacturers here then: Case, Caterpillar, Deere, Alcoa - all good union shops.  Sivyer Steel was not a union shop, or maybe it was a weak union.  The word was that they cut corners.  I'm sure that was true of their training as well.  The result was a young man who was disabled forever.  I suppose he's in his late 60s now, if he's still alive.

        -7.62, -7.28 "Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly." -Langston Hughes

        by luckylizard on Sun Aug 23, 2009 at 06:32:45 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Yeah, I remember those days (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          Worked at a GM subsidiary nearly three decades ago as a student.

          I remember the day a guy wearing metatarsals (steel-toed boots with extra protection for the upper instep) stepped behind a forklift and got his foot crushed. He'd be in his 60's today, too.

          Didn't see it, heard all about it, remember the shock and dismay of all his union brethren because it was bad. Read between the lines and realized the guy must not have used common sense (like never, EVER step into the path of a forklift backing up) even though all the old guys wouldn't say it out loud in front of me. Bad stuff can still happen even in good union shops, but it's more often for a lack of common sense.

          I hate to think what happened in shops without better safety processes.

    •  My grandfather (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      My grandfather got a job in the steel industry in Pittsburgh during the Depression when he "exaggerated" his experience to get in and the older men took pity on him and trained him so he could feed his family.

      He worked the crane pouring molten steel in a Bethlehem Steel rolling mill. He worked day shifts and swing shifts and late shifts and whatever shifts he was given. He took a metal lunch box and ate his "dinner" the minute he got to the mill because otherwise his food basically melted into a puddle from the heat.

      He saw men cut in two and men entombed in a rain of molten steel. He saw hands and legs cut off and men decapitated when the vessel cracked and exploded.

      He came home every time so covered in filth he looked like a burned log, and he took a shower in the makeshift shower in his basement and changed his clothes before he ever came upstairs, even though my grandmother could still smell the mill in his every pore.

      He died of lung cancer.

      I once read an incredible article in The New Yorker magazine that described life working inside a steel mill. Even though it was my grandfather's life all the time I was growing up, it was only after reading that article that I realized how much he hid from us.

      By the way, the steel industry in the US didn't die, it was killed, and not by the unionby any means. The companies and their interlocking boards (though those were illegal, huh?) depreciated and devalued the steel mill equipment and then shipped it overseas where they set up new mills under foreign ownership.  

      Several ministers in the 70s in the western PA area got considerable press coverage at the time by spilling blood on the alters and church steps where the steel industry executives and board members attended services.

  •  I have spent 30 years watching the death (11+ / 0-)

    of the wood products industry in this country, from a "worm's eye view." The vast majority of our furniture is now made in China, Vietnam or Indonesia. Wood components from stair treads to windows are being farmed out overseas, primarily to China.

    I got into the wood industry primarily in an effort to avoid having to go into textiles here in SC. Of course, that is all now in China and other Asian areas.

    The lack of a value-added manufacturing base in this country is something we will miss for decades to come. We are just too oblivious to realize it.

    •  Anything made of wood at Ikea or Target (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      or similar stores is made in China, often from lumber produced from illegally logged timber. Illegal logging is devastating forests in places like Burma and Siberia and China itself.

      We just had a pre-fab shed delivered (it's going to be my wife's studio). All of the lumber and the OSB ("chip board") and siding came from Canada - and we live in the middle of over a million acres of forest, virtually none of which is logged.


      Je suis Marxiste, tendance Groucho

      by badger on Sun Aug 23, 2009 at 05:33:06 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  We Ship Out Raw Lumber (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      dkmich, pkbarbiedoll

      And re-import finished products from the same country we export the raw lumber to.

      Which is the third world country?

      <div style="font-size:10px;text-align:center;background-color:#ffd;color:#f33">If the terriers and bariffs are torn down, this economy will grow - G. Bush

      by superscalar on Sun Aug 23, 2009 at 05:40:47 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Laura (11+ / 0-)

    What you experienced was the exodus of middle class jobs to whatever third world country that will outbid each other for, that the GOP is responsible for. The GOP wants to eliminate the middle class in this country & the best way to do it is to make it jobless. We are living it right now.

    This has been going on ever since FDR's new deal but really gained traction under Reagan.

    Don't get me wrong there have been as many Democrats involved in this exodus as republicans (NAFTA Clinton comes to mind) but the GOP has it as a party platform.

    The goal of the corporations is to level the playing field & the GOP is their enabler.

    " In our every deliberation,we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations" From the great law of the Iroquois confederacy.

    by flatford39 on Sun Aug 23, 2009 at 03:16:31 PM PDT

    •  Our nation will not....................... (10+ / 0-)

      ..............welcome back a robust middleclass until we manufacture things that we buy. No amount of wealthy people pushing money around the table to increase their profits will tinkle down to anyone else. Let them eat cake, and let us working folks back into the game.

      Our nation had a Revolutionary war to get the East India Company off their backs. We would do well to realize that present day Globalism is the same damn thing.

      So when you hear that Globalism is a necessity in today's times. Get a gripe, the world was no bigger back in the 1700's. A bit slower to react, but the same thing that robbed Americans of their livelyhoods then is doing it to us again.

      The only thing that can bring our middleclass back is tarriffs and robust making of things we buy. Without it we will become like middleage European surfs in the feudal dark ages.

      Governments lie....... quote by Izzy Stone and Amy Goodman

      by socks on Sun Aug 23, 2009 at 03:32:47 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  So Does The Democratic Party (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      flatford39, RustyCannon, jck

      Don't get me wrong there have been as many Democrats involved in this exodus as republicans (NAFTA Clinton comes to mind) but the GOP has it as a party platform.

      They just can't come out and admit it 'cause it collides with the "we support the blue collar worker and a thriving middle class' rhetoric.

      I give you the Peru 'free trade' agreement, which our president wholly supported, and when push comes to shove President Obama will support the Panama 'free trade' agreement and the Colombian 'free trade' agreement as well.

      <div style="font-size:10px;text-align:center;background-color:#ffd;color:#f33">If the terriers and bariffs are torn down, this economy will grow - G. Bush

      by superscalar on Sun Aug 23, 2009 at 04:01:20 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  NAFTA Clinton comes to mind allright! (7+ / 0-)

      Thanks for mentioning Clinton and NAFTA here; Mister Bill almost put my family and me and many of our colleagues out on the street in the late 90s because he took the entertainment industry off the table in NAFTA negotiations, taking all the animation scriptwriting (and many more entertainment jobs) up to Canada in the name of tax breaks for the corporations. This is what he did for his "Hollywood Friends." The only way American animation writers could get American jobs was to pay the Canadian government thousands of U.S. bucks to become "landed immigrants" who could then nab the executives those tax-credit points. My husband and I didn't have the cash for that particular shakedown, so times were dire for quite a while. Now, we write almost exclusively overseas while living here. Cartoons aren't exactly wood products (when they're written properly), but what was done to us by Clinton was horrible.

      •  The NAFTA Vote (0+ / 0-)

        To be clear, From Wikipedia, "Prior to sending it to the House of Representatives, Clinton introduced clauses intended to protect American workers and allay the concerns of many House members. It also required U.S. partners to adhere to environmental practices and regulations similar to its own."

        NAFTA passed the House with 132 Republicans and 102 Democrats.

        -- Seeing The Forest -- Who is our economy FOR, anyway? Twitter: dcjohnson

        by davej on Mon Aug 24, 2009 at 10:30:42 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  GOP and CLINTON....NAFTA (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      was Ronald Reagan's wet dream, and Clinton did it.  
      He destroyed the American automotive industry.  Each auto job eliminated includes eight others.

      "YES WE CAN" doesn't mean he is going to. ~~Daily Show

      by dkmich on Mon Aug 24, 2009 at 02:33:34 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I never understood how (17+ / 0-)

    supposed "America First" people are comfortable with getting all our stuff from other countries - and not only that - but creating conditions that make it less possible to have jobs here, to have proper regulations in jobs we DO have here so American workers aren't killed, and preventing unions or any other form of increased compensation and other American workers' rights.

    It's weird how America-Firsters are intent on helping China and Mexico and others, but they hate American workers.

    "ENOUGH!" - President Barack Hussein Obama

    by indiemcemopants on Sun Aug 23, 2009 at 03:17:10 PM PDT

    •  As Mad Magazine put it (12+ / 0-)

      "Now you know what a Super-Patriot is.  He is someone who loves his country. While hating 93% of the people who live in it."

      Procrastination: Hard work often pays off after time, but laziness always pays off now.

      by Linnaeus on Sun Aug 23, 2009 at 03:21:18 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Not just workers. *Union* workers, particularly. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      esquimaux, RustyCannon, annieli

      This is one of the reasons I have not begrudged the money invested in the auto industry that some people have termed "bail-out". Look at who owns a good % of those companies now: the unions. Here is an unprecedented opportunity for a public/private/union partnership to begin building things again right here at home, and with an incentive to do it right this time. This could be a model for fostering alternative technology not only in the auto industry, but in other basic manufacturing, because this is the only way we'll be able to compete with China, India, and everyone else on this planet. plus, there are so many skilled people who, over the years, have left manufacturing and retrained themselves in lower paying work just to keep working. This is criminal. And it doesn't need to be this way.

      Great diary.

      "Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it. Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life; love illuminates it." ML King

      by TheWesternSun on Sun Aug 23, 2009 at 04:32:17 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  How do you buy anything made in the USA (0+ / 0-)

      when nothing is?   If I need it, I need it.  

      "YES WE CAN" doesn't mean he is going to. ~~Daily Show

      by dkmich on Mon Aug 24, 2009 at 02:34:42 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Wow. Just one more reason to pass (15+ / 0-)

    health care reform.  With Medicare for All, manufacturers would have a huge burden lifted and we could see a surge in jobs.

    Not to mention the number of small businesses that could launch without the burden of health care costs.

    Great story. Thanks!

    We need two lists: those we will work to elect and those we will defeat. If you're not progressive, you're not a Democrat.

    by moosely2006 on Sun Aug 23, 2009 at 03:17:17 PM PDT

  •  well, the people who are making stuff and things (6+ / 0-)

    in places without the technology and safety systems and worker's precautions and benfits of health and vacation also need to be invited into the dialogue, otgherwise what you mean basically is 'are Americans better off' not whether people are better off.

    Those people who are manufatcuring in places like China, Russia, Indonesia, Vietnam, the Phillippines. India and all over the world might feel they are better off?

    Plus the debate needs to add in the cost of making things and stuff in America with all the ancillary precautions and safety measures and whether if it is worth it why Americans seem to prefer paying less for their stuff, including cars and other stuff made from steel.

    It is a worthy debate but needs to be expanded as far as i am concerned.  But then I tend to think in global terms and try to see all sides of the conundrum.  That definitely does not make me right and others wrong or vice a versa.

    •  Absolutely true (5+ / 0-)

      In an era where capital is totally globalized, the only protections workers anywhere have are the protections workers everywhere have.  It's no longer just an option or a slogan, today "workers of the world unite" is a necessity for social survival.

      "99% of the battles and skirmishes that we fought in Afghanistan were won by our side." ~ Marshall Akhromeyev

      by ActivistGuy on Sun Aug 23, 2009 at 03:31:07 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  this is very relevant (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ActivistGuy, soccergrandmom

        Nations are now talking about regulating international financial rules.

        just as important would it be to create a worldwide standard social rule book for the labor side. The ILO (in the UN system) would be the place to do this as the WTO is for real-trading rules.

        That noone even thinks about such a labor equivalent shows how overly dominant the capital side has become, world-wide. This will change only if, and when, people in countries that matter, elect or otherwise create governments that require such labor rules in dealing with them under credible threat of otherwise excluding foreign capital as well.

        Ici s´arrète la loi.

        by marsanges on Sun Aug 23, 2009 at 04:44:24 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I think there needs to be something included that (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          limits or controls the repatriation of profits on investment in manufacturing that is moved off-shore. Owners of capital are able to maximize their profits at the expense of workers on both ends of the deal without any equivalent cost to them.

          I don't know if there should be a surtax/additional tariff on good made overseas in factories owned by US Companies/citizens, or a higher tax rate on capital gains earned overseas or what. I just have a gut feeling that it's way too easy for capital to be moved off-shore and the resulting cheap goods to be shipped back here with the folks who moved the manufacturing off-shore reaping all of the benefit.

          Democracy is a contact sport...

          by jsmagid on Sun Aug 23, 2009 at 05:00:48 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  That's a debate that's strong (7+ / 0-)

      in the handcrafts community, particularly crochet; when you see a knitted garment it's almost impossible to tell whether it's handknitted or machine knitted (folks who knit can usually tell), but if you see a crocheted garment it's exclusively handmade, since no one has been able to come up with a machine to duplicate the varied stitches that make up crochet. (It's one reason why I'm a crocheter rather than a knitter, other than an inability to master the pointy sticks; I find crochet to be far more versatile with much more variation.) As a friend of mine put it, "When you see that $10 crocheted poncho in Target, think about the person who might have only received 10 cents an hour to make it."

      Civility is the way of telling someone to go fuck themselves in such a way that the someone agrees it probably is a good idea.

      by Cali Scribe on Sun Aug 23, 2009 at 03:32:35 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  as one who lives in an art oriented community (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        RustyCannon, TheWesternSun

        I totally empathise with those sentiments and would rather spend a couple of hundred dollars on a handmade wrap or poncho or whatever than a $10:00 one at Target, altho i must confess to being eternally tempted at TJ Maxx by both the quality and the prices.

        Eternal dilemma.  Less is more.  

        •  Having just spent close to $50 (0+ / 0-)

          on yarn for a shawl for myself, I can understand the dilemma -- I could have gone to a discount store and bought 3 or 4 shawls for that amount. But how long would those things last? Would they stay in proper shape and color for the next several years...or would they fade and fall apart after one year, forcing me to buy them again and again (and no guarantee I'd find them next year)?  When I make the shawl, I'll know that I'm using quality materials, and will do a good job to the best of my ability. (Currently working on a sweater for my spouse; hopefully it'll still fit by the time I'm done.)

          Civility is the way of telling someone to go fuck themselves in such a way that the someone agrees it probably is a good idea.

          by Cali Scribe on Sun Aug 23, 2009 at 05:23:26 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  I am a citizen of the US (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      before I am a citizen of the globe.   And after watching regionalism at work on this site, I am a citizen of Michigan before I am a citizen of the US.   Many bloggers in this place have made it perfectly clear that they subscribe to GOP policies such as:  "hooray for me and the hell with you".

      "YES WE CAN" doesn't mean he is going to. ~~Daily Show

      by dkmich on Mon Aug 24, 2009 at 02:41:36 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  What if: (11+ / 0-)

    --we had an economy that made a lot of useful stuff?

    --the workers making that stuff were paid a living wage?

    --everyone had national health care, so you could make decisions about where to work without having to consider the kind of health care that various employers could or would offer?

    What would this take?  One thing it would take is less income disparity.  A more progressive income tax structure.  A government that really was working to "promote the general welfare".

    Where could I find such a country?  Am I going to have to move to Europe?

    The best is the enemy of the good. --Voltaire

    by pateTX on Sun Aug 23, 2009 at 03:19:58 PM PDT

    •  Europe a good place to start (8+ / 0-)

      You've described Finland, Sweden, and Germany quite well.

      "99% of the battles and skirmishes that we fought in Afghanistan were won by our side." ~ Marshall Akhromeyev

      by ActivistGuy on Sun Aug 23, 2009 at 03:32:34 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  It's worth noting they have strong social safety (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        RustyCannon, ItsSimpleSimon

        net programs.

        These make entering into small business a fairly low risk proposition.

        Here's it's like jumping off a cliff by comparison.


        by potatohead on Sun Aug 23, 2009 at 04:26:46 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I will tell you (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          potatohead, redstatelefty

          how we covered the crisis (shock section) here. With simultaneous collapse of steel demand and steel prices, we had a reduction of actual revenue of up to 70% (depending on company) from before september to after. In a hypothetical free market, steel companies would have been forced into mass layoffs within severla months maximum because the money flows involved are so huge. This would have cost them a massive immaterial goods, the skilled work force, and made any recovery to even pre crisis output a very coslty and slow process. So, governments in most Euro countries decided to take thousands of people per plant on "half joblessness", the governments payd a part of the salary, while the people stayed employed and at their workplaces. This was net capital inflow to the companies and it allowed them to get through the dire months, circa a half year. Demand is sufficiently up again and companies are off the public books. Regard this as the steel industry equivalent of the Bank Bailouts, and it cost the societies MUCH less money. And it avoided what otherwise would have happened, severe, very hard to repair damage to an entire industry.

          Anyone who says the governments should have no role in the economy simply doesnt know what they speak of.

          Ici s´arrète la loi.

          by marsanges on Sun Aug 23, 2009 at 05:12:31 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  It's time for a return to trade barriers. (6+ / 0-)

    America has the capacity to provide for itself in its need for industrial production.  We have the materials, we have the manpower, we have the technology.  What we lack is a trade policy designed to protect American self-sufficiency first and foremost.  That must change, and we must press the government to change it.

    The 'global economy' never did the lower classes any damn bit of good.  It's time to break with the trend of globalized and put America first.

    Nothing is true; everything is permitted.

    by jumpjet on Sun Aug 23, 2009 at 03:21:11 PM PDT

    •  Thank you (5+ / 0-)

      Thank You, Thank You. I am always being the first one to call for tariffs and I am greatly relieved that someone else did it first. Thank you.

      "If I pay a man enough money to buy my car, he'll buy my car." Henry Ford

      by johnmorris on Sun Aug 23, 2009 at 03:56:09 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Economic Nationalism? (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      potatohead, divineorder, jumpjet

      I'm going to tell Markos on you.

      <div style="font-size:10px;text-align:center;background-color:#ffd;color:#f33">If the terriers and bariffs are torn down, this economy will grow - G. Bush

      by superscalar on Sun Aug 23, 2009 at 04:05:39 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Economic Nationalism is something EVERYONE can (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        potatohead, RustyCannon

        get behind.  It's popular across the political spectrum- the conservatives I know are in support of tariffs, even.

        Meanwhile, the often-uniform support of 'free trade' among both sides of the political debate demonstrates the corporatism that unites many in both political parties.

        Nothing is true; everything is permitted.

        by jumpjet on Sun Aug 23, 2009 at 04:19:33 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I'm there too. Been there for a while now. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          RustyCannon, jumpjet

          Right now, what we have is foolish.

          We are literally selling our means of production, or moving it offshore to replace it with what?

          Don't forget taxes as a means to regulate this as well.


          by potatohead on Sun Aug 23, 2009 at 04:28:15 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  More needed (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      houyhnhnm, divineorder
      1. Global labor standards agreement on occupational safety, minimum wage, child labor, benefits, and working hours
      1. Global environmental standards agreement
      1. Global accounting standards agreement
      1. Global common commercial code agreement

      Those would put us on an equal footing more substantially than tariffs would.

      Because they would create markets for American exports, without impoverishing other peoples.

      The "global economy" has been a fairy tale; it was not an economy, it was a series of arbitrage arrangements to profit from different prices for labor, different labor laws, different environmental regulations, and fewer restraints on corruption.  What we need is a global economy.  That means a common political and regulatory framework for economic activity.  Which means inter-governmental agreements among nations.

      •  Not gonna happen. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        esquimaux, divineorder

        We need to do it here, use tariffs and taxes to protect those doing it here, export things and basically eat our own dog food.

        Just about all the modern nations have these things in place.  Most of Europe does, and they've got strong social safety net programs and a healthy middle class because of them.

        Trying to fix China so that we can avoid coming to Jesus on how badly we screwed the pooch here is crazy.

        Much better to invest in small business protect it and let it grow in to our new economies to replace the ones we moved or sold.


        by potatohead on Sun Aug 23, 2009 at 04:30:27 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I'm all for parity (0+ / 0-)

          Of reciprocating the restraints on trade already in place in Europe or Japan.  And reconstructing the social safety net to act in a countercyclical manner to the business cycle.

          Nonetheless, what I said still needs to be done, and if "it's not gonna happen" the main obstacle is the US government itself and its phony baloney view of sovereignty.

          Yes, it is much better to invest in small business than try to protect declining businesses, but there has to be a more efficient way of reallocating labor and capital than the bubble-and-burst Schumpeterian capital destruction cycle.  And helping do import substitution of certain items would be a good goal--autos, appliances, textiles, are all open to innovation.  Closing the recycling chain and mining existing wastes are other opportunities.

          China is in the process of fixing itself; when it gets to labor protections it is going to be interesting to watch--the ultimate irony of Mao's Revolution.  But they already have realized that sucking up the world's cash to drive their manufacturing growth is not sustainable and have been reorienting toward serving their domestic economy.  And they are going gangbusters to develop new and green energy.  If things go unchanged in the US, China will be eating our lunch in green technology as well.

          •  Being the business minded Progressive I am (0+ / 0-)

            I think the very best thing to do is make the small to mid sized business investments and have them hold to the standards.

            Give them some thing for that.  Tax credit, market preference, something.  Don't care.

            Let innovation occur, then go and sell off the results to other nations wanting to head down this road.

            Done early, we can export it much like we did our other tech, but this time export the product of it, not IT.

            If much of the world goes down this road, China will eventually be forced to.


            by potatohead on Sun Aug 23, 2009 at 06:17:39 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  I think in a post petroleum world (5+ / 0-)

    we will be making more things. Solar panels won't come from China, and hopefully our clothes won't either. Some countries will still specialize in certain things, so maybe China will still specialize in sneakers. But I think every country will make more of its own things, international shipping and trade will decrease, and that will be a good thing.

    I was just noticing today that I have a cloth grocery bag, intended to be better for the environment than using paper or plastic bags - and it has a "made in China" label inside it. Was the use of the fuel to get it here all the way from China better or worse than the use of the trees or plastic to make grocery bags would be? I sure don't know.

    Since I'm a homeopath, and you've asked what is made here: We have good pharmacies in the US making homeopathic remedies.

    I will make a bargain with the Republicans. If they will stop telling lies about Democrats, we will stop telling the truth about them. Adlai Stevenson

    by USHomeopath on Sun Aug 23, 2009 at 03:21:12 PM PDT

    •  We had a short era where overseas shipping (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      made real economic sense.  Low cost of shipping and a huge differential in wages caused it.  We can expect a future where things made are both more local and more expensive.

      "I'm specificallly allowed to call people names and I don't have to use profanity to do so because I have a vocabulary unlike some of the morans on this site."

      by Inland on Sun Aug 23, 2009 at 05:45:03 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  THANKS (9+ / 0-)

    WOW I would have died to see that mill!
    I'm an unemployed welder who loves to build stuff!

    here's an example

    Tailpipe Bench

    I can't figure out how to find a job. When Steve the owner of Pro_Fab wanted that bench built,he want shelves. I said then what you'd want would be in the back all the time. He said drawers then. I said I've never built drawers. He said learn LOL

    that bench was for building the tail pipes for nascar.

  •  The single largest product produced in (6+ / 0-)

    America is interest. America long ago quit making money from goods and services. Today, corporate America makes money from money. That's why the financial market meltdown was a meltdown, and why it took us to the brink of disaster.

    "I still say a church steeple with a lightning rod on top shows a lack of confidence."

    by logsol on Sun Aug 23, 2009 at 03:22:12 PM PDT

    •  Diversify!! (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      divineorder, marsanges

      Seriously, interest isn't gonna cut it.

      When it all comes down to the brass tacks, simple innovation applied to labor over time builds wealth.

      That means we need to be producing things, or we are simply not pulling our weight as a nation.

      Being "the bank" and "the idea people", eventually will fail because we will cease to be relevant, and when that happens, it's over for all of us.

      Catching up after that is a horrible problem to have.


      by potatohead on Sun Aug 23, 2009 at 04:32:47 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I haven't given (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    houyhnhnm, esquimaux

    up thinking I can find a job in my field.
    But It's a choir to keep from getting down in the dumps daily

  •  Solar Cells & Pollution (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    socks, JeffW, divineorder, jck

    Silicon fab plants use nasty chemicals, and can pollute groundwater.

    That's where some solar planels come from.

    Some come from thin film. How bad is the CIGS ink? And the mylar film?

    Are there any studies comparing the relative environmental effects from cradle to grave of the technologies. And no, I don't believe the clean coal or nuclear studies.

    •  So can other plants... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      houyhnhnm, divineorder steel plants, and pharmaceutical plants, too. Even a drafting & engineering supply company: Keuffel & Esser's Hoboken site was a Superfund site. Any time you get lazy in quality and poluution control, you have big problems.

      Float like a manhole cover, sting like a sash weight! Clean Coal Is A Clinker!

      by JeffW on Sun Aug 23, 2009 at 04:15:18 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I am in high tech manufacturing and thinking that (5+ / 0-)

    my associate's in Technical Electronics and Computer Science is going to have to become a bachelor's of something else that'll get me out of manufacturing.

    Mechanical engineering has always been interesting to me.  Maybe renewable energy if we're going to get serious about it sometime.

    Speaking of engineering.  Here is the greatest free online game ever.

    Picture a bright blue ball just spinnin' spinnin' free. It's dizzy with possibility.

    by lockewasright on Sun Aug 23, 2009 at 03:25:20 PM PDT

    •  Start pitching small business and Progressives (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      as good partners.

      If we start to nurture those kinds of businesses, your degree will be in demand.

      Of all of Washington, Progressives are best aligned to help America build out a new economy.


      by potatohead on Sun Aug 23, 2009 at 04:34:10 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  My brother has switched from Dell to Solar (0+ / 0-)

      He was laid off last year and is loving the new business. I think his enthusiam, as evidenced by this intro on his website is typical of those of us who want to see Obama's leadership in green energy come to fruition:

      Vast Blue Sky Solar is a Texas company serving Austin and the central Texas area.   If you are interested in joining the green energy movement, you’ve come to the right place. Have a look around and contact us to schedule a free site assessment of your home or facility today. We can help you determine which renewable solutions are right for your home or business.  If you are new to solar, small wind generation or rainwater harvesting, visit our FAQ page and learn more.

      More power to you as you make decisions about your future!

  •  This is why. Greedy owners kill small town. (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    esquimaux, JeffW, divineorder, RustyCannon, jck

    Mercury Marine threatens union with moving jobs to Oklahoma (then probably Mexico). Union is supposed to give up more even though they gave up a lot last year.

    Fond du Lac cries out "please give in to greedy owners, it is your fault, greedy unions".

    The union leader asked the community where they were a few years ago when there were several thousand of workers. Now that there are 800 jobs left, the community starts caring.

    "If you can't afford a boat, and are standing tiptoe in the water, the rising tide goes up your nose." -- Barney Frank

    by JanF on Sun Aug 23, 2009 at 03:28:34 PM PDT

    •  Here is quote I was looking for: (5+ / 0-)

      Mark Zillges, president of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, Local 1947, said Friday no one on the bargaining committee will vote for the package.

      "Their management clause alone would make this into a part-time Walmart," Zillges said.

      Even if the union approves the deal, Zillges predicts the company will move the jobs to wherever the work can be done cheaper.

      As for pressure from the community of about 37,000 people to approve the deal, Zillges said he didn't feel it.

      "This community didn't come to our aid when they shipped out hundreds of our jobs to China," he said. "They didn't come to our aid when they shipped out hundreds more to Mexico. And they continue to ship out stuff and now that we are down to 800 people, it's a big worry to them."

      Correction: Fond du Lac is not that small of a town. 40,000 or so.

      "If you can't afford a boat, and are standing tiptoe in the water, the rising tide goes up your nose." -- Barney Frank

      by JanF on Sun Aug 23, 2009 at 03:42:41 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Most places (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JanF, JeffW, divineorder, RustyCannon

      ...if an individual did it, it would be called extortion.

  •  Personally... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    divineorder, RustyCannon, jck

    ...I'd like to see photovoltaic panels and advanced lithium-ion batteries made here in the US. I'd think that a ceratin savings of time and energy for the manufacturer would be an argument for building a plant here, rather than making them overseas.

    Float like a manhole cover, sting like a sash weight! Clean Coal Is A Clinker!

    by JeffW on Sun Aug 23, 2009 at 03:30:25 PM PDT

  •  I saw the darndest thing last month (8+ / 0-)

    on the St Lawrence Seaway: an Atlantic-bound ship downbound (that's toward Montreal from the Great Lakes). The ship was stacked with the pylon pieces that become bases for wind turbines, and I had only seen them before coming upbound (probably from Germany). So someone is making them in N America. The island that I inhabit now has a wind farm, courtesy of Siemens. I see ships laden with scrap steel going downbound, and have mourned the loss of the steel plants here, and then we just sell it away, only to buy it back later? I don't have figures on how much scrap vs reprocessed steel sells for, but surely transportation costs have to be taken into account. Anyway, perhaps there is hope that the steel industry can revive itself with some new energy initiatives.

    We can't all be in the service industry, some of that has been moved to other countries already. I can think of nothing that I made, except for some scientific publications and the engineered DNA to do that. For a lifetime I pipetted microliters of stuff from tube to tube.

    I don't want our N American ships hauled across the Atlantic to be broken up on beaches in Bangladesh, I don't want our endless supply of discarded electronic items shipped to China to be disassembled in small houses, both of those with absolutely no environmental oversights of the waste and health and safety oversights of the people doing it, I just don't know how to calculate the costs to do that all here.  

    Americans, while occasionally willing to be serfs, have always been obstinate about being peasantry. F. Scott Fitzgerald, the Great Gatsby

    by riverlover on Sun Aug 23, 2009 at 03:34:45 PM PDT

    •  wind turbine manufacturers in U.S. FYI (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      houyhnhnm, JeffW, skohayes, divineorder, jck


      1. Vestas (Denmark) 4,500 MW

        2. GE Energy (United States) 3,300 MW
        3. Gamesa (Spain) 3,050 MW
        4. Enercon (Germany) 2,700 MW
        5. Suzlon (India) 2,000 MW
        6. Siemens (Denmark / Germany) 1,400 MW
        7. Acciona (Spain) 870 MW
        8. Goldwind (China - PRC) 830 MW
        9. Nordex (Germany) 670 MW
       10. Sinovel (China - PRC) 670 MW

      Leading Manufacturers in the U.S. Market

      As of the end of 2008, the United States had 25.1 GW (25,100 MW) of wind energy capacity, surpassing Germany to become the world's leading wind energy market. Installed capacity increased by 50% in the U.S. in 2008, compared to a 28.8% world average growth rate.[1]

      Key Players in the U.S. Wind Industry

        1. GE Energy
        2. Vestas
        3. Siemens
        4. Gamesa
        5. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries
        6. Suzlon
        7. Clipper Windpower
        8. Nordex

      I believe Vestas (foreign company) now is manufacturing here, maybe in PA?

      This is not what I thought I'd be when I grew up.

      by itzik shpitzik on Sun Aug 23, 2009 at 03:44:55 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  The St Lawrence is really ironic (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      riverlover, divineorder

      it was created as a means for better exporting industrial produce to overseas markets, so that a plant lakeside Chicago could export to say Brazil as if it were on the seacost. And it was a massive public investment to help business along this way.

      As matters stand now, the seaway does just the opposite - it allows prodcing plants overseas to export to Chicago by direct shipping as if it were on the ocean coast. (We do it). So this way that public investment now helps industries outside the US.

      I´m not complaining! this is how it always goes. It´s just a mild irony.

      Ici s´arrète la loi.

      by marsanges on Sun Aug 23, 2009 at 04:49:29 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  There's another thing we lose (5+ / 0-)

    when manufacturing goes away that's more subtle and indefinable than the economic and job consequences, but maybe in the long run equally important: the experience of making things. Even of being aware that there is an intricate process that ends up making the thing we buy.

    When I was a kid it was still possible to get a summer job at a nearby factory. There was a connection to material reality, to ingenuity, to an almost balletic intricacy that seems to only be available to those who have worked in factories or on farms. Both workplaces can be miserable and exploitative, but can also connect us to the world and to our fellow employees in a way that (in my experience) working in an office or a store does not. I couldn't say just what lessons I came away with, but I know the time in the factories taught a certain way of seeing and feeling stuff. And of connecting with people I would not have much chance to know today.

    I'm sure the jobs I did then no longer exist in this country now, and the entry barrier is much higher for anyone trying to work at making stuff. If American capitalists really did the job they so loudly claim they do, factory work would still decline as robots and computers did more of the repetitive stuff, but we would still have the local factory providing a chance to make a living by making things, instead of watching those jobs shipped off to countries with more readily victimized "labor resources". I wonder how long a country's spirit can survive when all it has left to do is shuffle papers, market crap, and swindle consumers and investors.

    Everybody talkin' 'bout Heaven ain't goin' there -- Mahalia Jackson

    by DaveW on Sun Aug 23, 2009 at 03:41:53 PM PDT

  •  At some point (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JeffW, divineorder

    the conversation will have to move to the subject of sustainability in all areas.

    A major contributor to the problems we face today is the population explosion in the US/World over the past century.

    I know this is an emotional subject, but at some point we must take it seriously and collectively accept that there is a number the earth can reasonably contain.

    For me 325 million people in US is already too high. And 1 Billion in China and India is just upsurd. Something has to be done and once we come to terms with that, then many of the other issues will take care of themselves.    

    •  And if we don't make things here, that (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      is a very, very ugly conversation.

      Seems to me, producing sustainable goods and services here, with a community focus would be a good start down that road.


      by potatohead on Sun Aug 23, 2009 at 04:37:22 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  congrats on MAKING me laugh. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sphealey, JeffW

    I'm not sure I've ever read such pretentiousness on an alleged political blog.

    I recently read James Fallow's "Postcard's From Tomorrow's Square: Reports from China"--though I think he, de riguer, skirted the human rights issues, he did spell out some scenarios fairly clearly. China, with a shitload of US dollars, holds us hostage, while holding a massive amount of its massive population in abject poverty.

    Sheeeeit--workers in China riot, or even destroy companies that have poisoned their children:

    That we make that possible is so old news.

    While we offer our citizens crap tables.

  •  worker ownership (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JeffW, divineorder

    Thanks for a really interesting post and a very good question. I don't think we can have a functioning economy unless we do make things, and we need to figure out ways to address the decline in that sector. I recently followed my own trip to Pittsburgh (for a worker co-op conference) with a post that mulled over some of the same issues.

    In particular, I'm intrigued by the Maumee Stamping plant, which is reopening under worker-ownership after being cut loose by Ford. Ultimately, the only people who can be trusted never to ship jobs overseas are the workers themselves.

  •  Great work! Weapons/Arms industry is how (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JeffW, RustyCannon
    much of that making things economy, I wonder? Support focusing on beating the swords into plowshares, fighter jets into green energy and transportation!
    •  Well, Boeing... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      divineorder, RustyCannon

      ...made light-rail and rapid transit cars, and United Technologies made high-speed trains. I suppose they could do it again (Buckminster Fuller's "livingry" instead of weaponry).

      Float like a manhole cover, sting like a sash weight! Clean Coal Is A Clinker!

      by JeffW on Sun Aug 23, 2009 at 04:08:48 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •   Shifting from Defense to Green Jobs is Easy (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Have you seen this article?

        Shifting from Defense to Green Jobs is Easy |

        As progressives call for cuts to defense spending, a big challenge in doing so is addressing job losses that come with eliminating weapons programs. The number of jobs at stake can often be a powerful argument for defense supporters that cannot be ignored. The recent fight over the F-22 and its production in over 40 states is a clear example. But there is a remedy. By shifting defense jobs to the green energy sector, we can both save jobs and address climate change –and it is easier than we think.

        To be sure, a sizeable number of jobs are at stake with a cut to defense programs. Case in point is the F-22. Although the numbers may be disputed, the jet’s production involves anywhere between 35,000 and 90,000 total jobs.

        However, the majority of jobs in defense production are not actually defense specific. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, "Of all aerospace workers, 40 percent are employed in production; installation, maintenance, and repair; and transportation and material-moving occupations. Many of these jobs are not specific to aerospace and can be found in other manufacturing industries." Also, other related production occupations include: rigging, systems assemblers, machinists, tool and die makers, inspectors, and sorters.

        Compare defense manufacturing jobs to employment at a typical wind turbine company – they match up closely:

        Not manufacturing example, but in Austin we converted our Air Force Base to a great new airport soon after the Cold War was over.  It took concerted efforts by private citizens groups to bring the change, but to great result!

        •  It was easy... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          ...but Boeing stopped making railcars. How do you keep them down on the tracks when they've bombed Iraq? Boeing could have bought and reopened the E.G. Budd plant and developed their railcar division, but didn't.

          Float like a manhole cover, sting like a sash weight! Clean Coal Is A Clinker!

          by JeffW on Sun Aug 23, 2009 at 04:25:52 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Iraq? Don't read much about that anymore now (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            that its over. Not.  

            For me, prosecuting Bush Admin crimes are important in part because of the huge decisions like those of Boeing you mention, which set us back years in dealing with climate change and converting to greener economy.

  •  Whoa (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    divineorder, RustyCannon

    Shiny new service economy?

    I always heard that having manufacturing diminish in our country was really bad.

    And in my experience, service workers generally get treated like shit.

    I mean, of course factory workers also get treated like shit, often, but there's at least the idea that if you make something you're doing respectable work, whereas often the folks who do service work are viewed as little more than servants. (think about it:  cleaning staffs for hotels, lawn care folks, janitors, waiters/waitresses--a lot of these people are viewed--unfairly--as being kind of subordinate to everybody else).

    I guess I'm really behind the times if people are touting the service economy as the new shiny thing that's so much better than the dingy old manufacturing economy.  But I've gotta say, as someone who grew up in a tourist economy (FL) that service jobs tend not to provide very good wages or benefits (if any benefits).  Not from what I've seen.

    "This is our time. We must be relentless. Even if (or when) Obama seems like he doesn't have our back...we know what we believe in." philipmerrill

    by SouthernLiberalinMD on Sun Aug 23, 2009 at 04:00:40 PM PDT

  •  This is a real issue... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Dollars and Sense, a wonderful collective of economists ( recently had an article about how the United States is losing its industrial capacity and that this is not a good thing.  They point out that even profitable factories are being shut down, and the work is outsourced to where the profits will be even higher.  This often involves the destruction of valuable and hard to replace machinery.  At the same time, financial services which do not produce anything, are becoming a bigger and bigger part of our GDP, and using the skills of more of our talented people.  Our reduced ability to make things does not bode well for the long term health of our economy.

    •  We need a weaker dollar. (0+ / 0-)

      The dollar is artificially appreciated especially against the Chinese ruan.

      If the dollar is weaker,  then it will be cheaper to manufacture goods here in the US rather than outsource it.

      Dont let the LIARS win. Stand up for TRUTH! Stand up for Health Care Reform!

      by timber on Sun Aug 23, 2009 at 08:03:16 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Proud of Pittsburgh (5+ / 0-)

    Thank you for that post Laura! I currently live in Pittsburgh and was born and raised here. My grandfather and and father spent 38 and 35 repectively of their lives in this mill. Actually my mother and father met at Edgar Thompson 55 years ago there, my mother was a secretery in the metallurgy department.

    It has been difficult to watch Pittsburgh's mills close one after another in the eighties. I'll never forget Black Friday in 1984 when my dad was forced into early retirement. It was a scary time for him for I was his fifth child that he was sending off to college that year and the future for our family  looked bleak.

    Our family survived and so did Pittsburgh. I have mixed emotions about Pittsburgh's transformation from the dominant industrial town that it was to a leading service oriented town. Pittsburgh has become known for its fine hospitals and healthcare and it was these hospitals that help lead us out of the industrial depression.

    Edgar Thompson has been a model mill in that US Steel has invested in the most modern technology so that it could compete on the world stage all the while foriegn countries continue to dump cheap steel into our ports.

    Allthough we have many problems just like any other modern city, I am so proud of Pittsburgh. We still suffer an identity crisis of the smokey town, but we have overcome so much for so many years. There are still many many unsolved problems that need to be resolved that Laura so elequently framed in this post. Pittsburgh is heavily involved with both the Industrial living wage issues as well as the current health care debate.

    In September, Pittsburgh will be hosting world leaders for the G-20 summit. It is my hope that the world will see Pittburgh as I see it, a beautiful town with a tremendous work ethic and a wonderful soul.

  •  Things are just uniform services spread out (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JeffW, divineorder

    over time and, quite often, employing an additional source of energy.  In a sense, the distinction between goods and services is an artificial one, probably derived like so much else, from the double-entry book-keeping devised to promote accuracy.  That goods have been valued more highly is probably related to the fact that until very recently, services went large unpaid, performed by people who had social obligations to work--women, children, indentured servants, recent immigrants who had debts to pay off.

    Quality was always in independent variable that the manufacturing sector frequently sacrificed when the profit margin was threatened.  They often blamed it on foreign competition.  But, IMHO, a rather slap-dash managerial class was at fault.  Free enterprise is consistently touted, even as our industries are aiming for subsidies, "protections" and monopolies.  Microsoft is no different than Dupont and ArmandHammer.

    How do you tell a predator from a protector? The predator will eat you sooner rather than later.

    by hannah on Sun Aug 23, 2009 at 04:06:13 PM PDT

  •  My personal opinion: I've often thought that (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JeffW, RustyCannon

    ...between now and the time I shuffle off this mortal coil, I want to visit and tour as many places where "stuff" is made as possible.  What could be more interesting and useful than seeing how the things around us are made?

    "Certainly the game is rigged. Don't let that stop you; if you don't bet, you can't win." Lazarus Long

    by rfall on Sun Aug 23, 2009 at 04:06:43 PM PDT

  •  It is a matter of national security (4+ / 0-)

    In WWII we were able to transition quickly to a wartime economy because we had more steel factories than anybody in the world.  Now China makes five times as much steel as we do and we can not guarantee they would be on our side.  We made more cars than anybody and that was quickly transitioned to military vehicles.  We made more airplanes than anybody else on earth.  We dominated in almost every other manufactured good, including everything from clothing to aluminum.  We do not lead in any of those now.  We had excellent infrastructure, as in roads and railways, to get troops and supplies quickly transported across country for deployment.  

    You cannot suddenly start manufacturing without plants already up and running.  Without those factories in action, it would take months to years to begin to get product running off assembly lines.  Making something not only makes GDP numbers more reliable, it is the only way to protect ourselves economically and militarily.

    Rocket science is easy. Keeping house is hard.

    by Im a frayed knot on Sun Aug 23, 2009 at 04:17:22 PM PDT

  •  Many Of The Trades (5+ / 0-)

    Of manufacturing are gone or going soon and few younger folks, who would have rather learned those trades in stead of being sold into the idea that a higher education means a piece of paper saying so, have been taught those trades!!

    The loss of these skills means we have to depend on outsiders to do what we need, thus the loss of Security if it ever came to that, National Security, nobody would know what to do or how to do it!!

    These are and were skills of the hands and the mind, multi tasking before that became a catch phrase of non work multi tasking, and other Education from that came out of the interests of those performing the skills and enhancing to expand their minds, but no piece of paper!!

    It's a Nations Loss, that would take decades to return, from a once known as hard working innovative work force envied around the world!!!!!!

    "The wise man points to the stars and the fool sees only the finger - and discusses it 24/7 on cable and am radio."

    by jimstaro on Sun Aug 23, 2009 at 04:19:33 PM PDT

  •  Thank you for posting this. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    divineorder, RustyCannon, Hoghead99

    I think we are worse off.

    Taken in very simple terms, our nation needs to produce stuff to balance the trade for other stuff.

    Many nations, who have some in-house technical skill, protect it.  They do this so that their local and regional economies are not at risk.

    In the 80's I entered into manufacturing.  Here in Oregon, it was vibrant!  Lots of shops making lots of things.  Technical, mechanical, computer, electrical all melded into lots of highly differentiated products.  

    As we moved into the 90's, that stuff began to be moved out of the region.  We've replaced some of it, but it's not the same.

    Finding family wage jobs continues to be a challenge.  I had to leave the field, enter another one, leave that one, and enter another one due to outsourcing.  This is not good, particularly when the prospect of finding new work grows less each time.  

    So that's one element.  Simple job availability.

    Another one is all about self-sufficiency.  I'm personally very big on this.  Having the skill to fix things, build things, manipulate things simply means that you don't require as many new things.

    Right now, this skill is gold as people like me can avoid a lot of hassles.  

    So that's another element.  Service economies don't encourage the self-sufficiency that is important to people standing on their own and not spending when they can't afford to.

    The bigger picture though is kind of depressing.

    Wealth is built by innovation applied to labor over time.  You saw this in the steel plant, where they have continued to marry some of the very latest tech, with very old school basic tech to improve the value they add to the steel.

    We get more and better steel today because of that.

    The subtle thing that a lot of people miss is that a state of innovation is required to just tread water against other nations innovating.  It's not enough to just get good at something and do it, there must be an ongoing effort to add value and cut cost that keeps up with the advancing state of tech present at all times.

    Losing ground to other nations is really bad because not only do we have a simple skill gap, but we have to double down and work extra hard to cross the innovation gap.  Sometimes this cannot be done, and that opportunity to leverage those skills and provide for ourselves is just lost.

    We have fallen way behind in many industries, and this means we have acquired a lot of dependencies.  Both are not good for a free nation, because they limit our options and force us to deal when we would not otherwise have to.

    There is a reason why so few nations push China on human rights all the time.  They need that stuff!

    Where you need something from somebody or some state, you are accountable to that state.  The current state of things here in the US is approaching some very gloomy territory, with some obvious implications none of us want to talk about.

    So that's an element.  Inability to innovate and keep ourselves relevant.

    That brings me to small to mid sized business.  

    Unlike big business, small to mid sized businesses operate locally.  This is not completely true, but true enough for the point I want to make.

    Here in Oregon during that 70's and 80's time, lots of tech startups created lots of interesting products and engaged in a lot of innovation.  The people here were fairly wealthy because of that.  Job availability was good, education was good, and there was even training people could take to invest in themselves.

    I did some of this early vocational traning, and I was in there with all sorts of people wanting to help make stuff.

    This bubbling pot spawned some great tech that took off and some of it ended up big business.

    That's the last element of this that I believe Progressives should show a keen interest in.

    Most all of the manufacturing jobs lost are gonna stay lost without some really brutal policy.

    But, all is not lost!!

    If we empower small to mid-sized business, they can innovate us brand new economies!  Some of them will grow into those large profit centers that our nation depends on.  

    They can replace the ones that were lost, moved, or are now owned by other nations!

    We need to do this.  If we regularly invest in manufacturing and product development here, and we do it through small to mid-sized business, we will end up with that Green economy that everybody says will take us out of this funk.

    It absolutely will happen, but only if we do the things that those businesses need, not those things that very large mega-business needs.  To them, small to mid-sized competitors are unwelcome, or something to be owned when they get big enough.

    What we need is a new set of Americans building new and interesting things so that we built out a capable economy and again compete as a nation.

    The loss of manufacturing has many longer term implications that took a while to really sink in and feel as pain.

    Now that we are here, it's time to go back a bit, reconsider our trade policy, reconsider how we do stimulus, and empower those businesses to start, build, grow and contribute to this huge debt we've got.


    by potatohead on Sun Aug 23, 2009 at 04:19:53 PM PDT

  •  I got to tour a foundry last summer (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    We got to watch them pour a locomotive undercarriage.  It was off the chain (the experience, that is, not the ladle). We got hardhats and earplugs but no pants or jackets. They just told us to get ready to run like hell.

    Light is seen through a small hole.

    by houyhnhnm on Sun Aug 23, 2009 at 04:21:21 PM PDT

  •  About a mile away from the works (0+ / 0-)

    is Kennywood Park.  Should have checked it out.

  •  The Bumpy Transition into the Digital Age (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I have thought about this often, and I've always wondered why we don't hear many discussions about how convergence and miniaturization are taking a significant chunk out of not only the manufacturing industry, but also distribution and retail, and I'll use the iPhone as a case study.

    Flash back ten years ago, and in all likelihood, you may have owned a number of the following items:

    day planner - camera - global positioning system - music player - phone - clock/watch - portable video game - restaurant guide - reference book - newspaper/magazine

    Nowadays, you can have all of those items in one handy little pocked-sized device, also known as the iPhone.  This is certainly good for people like myself who enjoy having instant, portable access, but is it necessarily good for the overall economy?

    Apple is doing great, and so is AT&T, their wireless provider.  The application industry for the iPhone is slated to do upwards of one billion dollars in business this year.

    But whither the music industry?  Individual artists can still be very successful, but look what's happening elsewhere:  Labels are dying on the vine because less and less physical media is being purchased.  Less demand for CD's means less need to be manufactured.  Less manufactured means less that need to be shipped.  Additionally, the drop in demand for music media has absolutely devastated the retail market for music.  Just ask anyone who used to work for Tower Records.

    As television/movies are now making a rapid transition towards full digitization, think guys at Blockbuster are a getting pretty nervous?

    The problem is that now all of those other items that used to be manufactured, shipped, and sold separately are now going away.  Convergence means that the average customer is in need of less "stuff", because they are getting more out of the fewer items that they need to own to be comfortable...and those fewer and fewer things continue to do more and more.

    In the end, this is great for the consumer (my iPhone is one of the greatest things I've ever purchased), but it's going to be pretty rough on an economy that has to come to rely heavily on consumer spending.

  •  To manufacture, you need the tools (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sphealey, jck, marsanges, dle2GA, vzfk3s

    Hidden in a lot of the discussion about primary manufacturing (steel, cars, appliances, etc.) is a problem that, to me, is even more worrisome.

    Most of America's machine tool manufacturing has gone poof. These are the tools that make the parts that make the cars.

    Iconic brands like Cincinnati-Milacron have sold off their machining tool product lines. This article summarizes our plight with the following chilling statement:

    Since the crisis of the 1980s, the U.S. machine tool industry has descended to new lows, now ranked seventh in the world with an output last year of $3.8 billion.

    Seventh! Seventh! Let me say that again ... Seventh!

    How do you build back manufacturing if you have to import all of your machinery and tooling? It's not like importing it from Japan, Germany, and China. China now produces around $15B per year in machine tools. Guess who wins.

    Oh, you want to build wind turbines? Goody. Just go to Japan or Germany or Spain and get the precision machining tools to make the motor bedplates. Oh, they are on backorder because the Japanese and Germans are making turbines for their own markets (and exporting them to ours)?

    Too bad.

    -2.38 -4.87: Damn, I love the smell of competence in the morning!

    by grapes on Sun Aug 23, 2009 at 04:25:56 PM PDT

  •  From the very beginning of this debate, (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    wpchas, esquimaux, divineorder, jck, Hoghead99

    the unions have been the scape goats. St Ronnie opened season on them. The unions, with their demands of living wages and life-saving safety precautions were the expense that we just could no longer afford, or so the anti-labor forces argued and convinced so many. And they were so successful at it that they even convinced union workers that other union workers that made more money than they did were the problem. And many of those union workers went to the ballot box and voted against their own economic interests.

    From the beginning of this war, those of us who understood the consequences of globalization have argued that our trade policies needed to push other countries to adopt our wage scales and standards for working conditions. We have been losing that fight for decades but the war is ongoing.

    One of the biggest expenses our businesses have that their foreign competition doesn't is health care. If we can fix health care in this country and start working on sensible trade policies and protecting/rebuilding our manufacturing base, we'll at least be moving in the right direction. If we continue to fail, we will continue down the road to 3rd world status.  

    Medicare for all. It's shovel-ready.

    by RustyCannon on Sun Aug 23, 2009 at 04:33:41 PM PDT

  •  I was looking forward to this post! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    davej, divineorder

    because I know such a place like you describe like my heart! I work for such a plant. I love it I may say, it is a source of pride working for such a huge complex which actually makes something useful. Sure I know steel and heavy boots and all that! I enter the plant far too seldom and it is the one place among all the heavy industry here which makes me really feel at home.

    And I am unionized - of course! I mean who isnt! this is what we are, steelworkers are unionized since unions were invented and we arent going to stop this just for the fancy of a generation.

    And yes! If my plant turns a profit, and that is counting only the operational result of our specific integrated works, before any misaccounting in the framework of the larger group we are part of, then we all (every single worker) get a certain percentage of the profit, this was like 2 month salarys at the top of the cycle, but even now we still get a bit. This is because we make our plant run as efficient and as smooth as we can imagine how and we are reckoned amongst the most efficient steel plants in at least Europe, if not wider. Our blast furnaces set world records in productivity per volume (even though the latest operator crew has difficulties keeping that up).

    We do not fear (but respect) worldwide competition. I am working in the R&D side of processes and I tend to hear of it when the Japanese and the Koreans make a specific type of steel better than we do it, but this is reason for competition. We do not have this idea that we have to hold firm to one specific way of doing processes just because we did it always like that. We want to be at least as good as the next comer in our art and if we do not manage to be then we seriously try. I am working at this plant now for more than six years and I am impressed what a value resides in the crop of people working there. The processes are technically state of the art and the machinery is good but the same can be said about a lot of other plants. I would not have believed it before but it is really the spirit of the people working there (dutch term is vakmanschap, it translates bad) which makes it as good as it is. We routinely work at 150% design output and had targeted 200% before the crisis made that obsolete and this is only possible with a select and extremely well motivated work force. So therefore, one of the largest problems that we have is that this workforce is much too much a homogeneous age cohort - the art is dying out herearounds, in twenty years the generation that carries the plant now is out of business and we get by far not enough qualified and motivated new young people. In our segment R&D this already seriously affects our ability to deliver. Whereas in China and Korea, they have just and still are training the workforces that we seem to not eductae anymore. This, more than anything else may doom us in the medium term - more than any wage costs - steel is a cpaital intensive product, if you can turn a profit on it it simply doesnt matter what you pay your people.

    Ici s´arrète la loi.

    by marsanges on Sun Aug 23, 2009 at 04:33:52 PM PDT

  •  If the countries where our stuff is made decide (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Mike Peterson

    to stop selling to us, what do we do then?

  •  I have always questioned whether any economy can (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    esquimaux, divineorder, Hoghead99

    survive solely as a 'service economy'.  It is the act of adding value to the intrinsic value of raw materials which creates demand.  The only value that can be added to a service is additional service at no additional cost.  While that may increase demand for the service somewhat, it is unlikely to create demand for it in the first place.

  •  MORE Green = ChemicalMechanical...ENGINEERS, not (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    more people with poli sci degrees.

    we need people with finance skills so that we can produce AND FUND at a scale for 6 billion people --

    instead of rewarding casino debt pyramids.

    all of us brewing our own biodegradable organic tofu roof shingles in and car batteries in our garage is inefficient AND FUCKING STUPID,


    like alchohol, herion, money and guns,

    technology is a f'king tool - the evil comes from the fuck abusing it.


    Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look; He thinks too much: such men are dangerous

    by seabos84 on Sun Aug 23, 2009 at 04:40:38 PM PDT

    •  Huh? (0+ / 0-)

      I mean, that is, some technology actually consumes and pollutes just to exist.

      That is, without it, we'd be better off. Less pollution, certainly.

      Might just be in the eye of the beholder.

      (Bye, bye, little American pie....)

      This health care system is a moral atrocity. Dr. Ralphdog

      by AllisonInSeattle on Mon Aug 24, 2009 at 10:24:18 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  As the last Skilled Trades Blacksmith (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Gooserock, divineorder, marsanges

    for General Motors, I have to say that Trade Skills

    •  Once You Guys Go, There's No "Re" Building (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:


      It's starting from scratch, with a billion people having the jump on us.

      We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

      by Gooserock on Sun Aug 23, 2009 at 04:55:20 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Yes, absolutely right. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    potatohead, Palafox, Hoghead99, vzfk3s

    In the bad old days of being colonies, the New World sold raw materials to England (and Europe) and imported expensive manufactured goods that were not made here.

    We are headed in the same direction now, except that (for the moment) the manufactured imports are mostly cheap.

    Ultimately, that is a recipe for third world status. Trade is best done among partners, each with valuables to trade.

    Free speech? Yeah, I've heard of that. Have you?

    by dinotrac on Sun Aug 23, 2009 at 04:47:53 PM PDT

    •  This Is Like Saying Gasoline Is Cheap (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      divineorder, Hoghead99

      the manufactured imports are mostly cheap

      If it is 1.50 a gallon. That 'cheap' doesn't even begin to consider the cost of the U.S. military budget required to keep it at $1.50 a gallon.

      If one considers the real cost of imported goods, they are not cheap.

      The Story Of Stuff

      <div style="font-size:10px;text-align:center;background-color:#ffd;color:#f33">If the terriers and bariffs are torn down, this economy will grow - G. Bush

      by superscalar on Sun Aug 23, 2009 at 04:59:34 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Precisely. We are doing one another's laundry. (0+ / 0-)

      "Life is short, but long enough to get what's coming to you." --John Alton

      by Palafox on Sun Aug 23, 2009 at 05:03:08 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  We Do It For a Living (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    divineorder, Hoghead99

    --For now. We have an execution edge on the 3rd world temporarily.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Sun Aug 23, 2009 at 04:54:15 PM PDT

  •  I have always felt that making "stuff" is the (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    lenski, Hoghead99

    true source of real wealth. Be it manufacturing, producing food, mining, etc..

    The "service" economy is necessary, but it is almost entirely supported by extracting "wealth" generated by production of goods.

    When a stock price doubles, people make money, but nothing has changed. No additional "real" wealth exists.

    This philosophy fits in nicely with the labor theory of value, something we have seemed to abandon in recent years, allowing the wage gap in our country to grow ever larger.

  •  so sad (0+ / 0-)

    I have worked on construction sites, steel mills both con casters and strip mills, non ferrous casting including black sand, oil refineries, and non hydrocarbon chemical plant, coal mines and coaking plant, automotive plant, pulp and paper mills, food palnt, and a wide range of light manufacturing facilities.

    Understand that I do not say this as an insult but if this is the first time you have seen hot metal and had to put on life saving safety gear then you dont know labor or manufacturing.  You certainly dont know th elot of those who work there places 40 by 50 (40 hours a week 50 weeks a year)

    there is only one reality, republicans just forget at times

    by Bloke on Sun Aug 23, 2009 at 05:02:22 PM PDT

  •  Two parts to discussion of Making Things... (0+ / 0-)

    Indeed, one should be whether we do it here or have the stuff imported from China or other parts of the Third World.  (One part of things made elsewhere is the enormous additional carbon footprint of having it transported here above and beyond the carbon footprint of having it made.)  That is the easy part.

    The other part of that discussion is the fact that the US has less than 5% of the world's population and well over 20% of resource consumption.  That is not sustainable in terms of passing on resources to the next generation.  

    My conclusion is that, yes, we should take back "making things" from the rest of the world.  But also, the economy needs to be redesigned so that people have incomes without needing to buy and use so much to create the jobs that pay the incomes.  I do not know enough about earth-sustainable economics to say how to do that in detail.  All I know is that if we do not do it, industrial civilization will collapse from overutilization of the world's resources sometime in the 21st Century.

  •  Steel has a HUGE problem (3+ / 0-)

    and that is CO2.

    as everyone knows the largest part of the CO2 problem is caused by the fossil fuel use of fossil coal and hydrocarbons. But right next, there are two "making stuff" industries that also produce such enormous quantities of CO2 that they as single branches of industry are significant contributors to the CO2/climate problem. That is cement and steel industries, each in the 4-7 % range of the world human output IIRC. Both are very basic goods industries without which we don´t seem to be able to make. So there, if we put a real carbon tax on CO2 emission (something like increasing the carbon cost tenfold or the like, I mean a real tax not cosmetics) what will happen to the steel industry?

    we are actually getting desperate in the industry, because we see this train coming at us and we fear a wreck if we are complacent. There are basically two responses, one is to do our utmost in "shaping the landscape" to avoid getting any serious carbon punishment for as long as possible. The other is try and find a way of making steel in significant quantities without (or with significantly less) carbon use. We need a reductant. So, research is well underway but whatever may come of it, the steel price will have to be much higher to support a noncarbon manufacturing process, and that is meaning in relation to other goods. This could then just as well price our product out of the market. It´s not good basically.  

    this can eventually lead to demise of segments of the industry whereupon whole cities will lose their livelihood, of which people the minority will understadn how that came about.

    Ici s´arrète la loi.

    by marsanges on Sun Aug 23, 2009 at 05:03:09 PM PDT

    •  good point (0+ / 0-)

      nuthin' like burning a few tons of coke to get some CO2 into the air

      I was surprised to learn how much CO2 aluminum smelting generates too

      PLEASE donate to a global children's PEACE project: Chalk 4 Peace

      by RumsfeldResign on Sun Aug 23, 2009 at 05:46:46 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Smelting/Recycling Solar Steel & Other Materials (0+ / 0-)

      Smelting Solar Steel for Mass Production and Recycling describes a simple, public-domain invention for using cheaply derived solar energy to heat up the airflow for steel recycling and blast furnaces.

      Solar Recycling and Industrial Kilns discusses how to use the same basic process to power other recycling, cement production and wood kilns.

      Admittedly, high-temperature production (such as recycling steel) would require a large-scale, well-designed version of the system, a pretty favorable environment (strong, reliable sunlight, found in deserts, some mountains, etc), and most of these would have to take place during the day. This innovation also might not meet the full demands of the most energy-intensive processes, especially under inclement conditions.

      On the other hand, a really cheap, reliable method to greatly reduce the energy costs of steel, cement and other forms of recycling and materials manufacturing could be extremely valuable to an enterprise. If you can meet all the critical energy needs of your business, better still.

  •  Do you clowns ever hear a dissenting view? (1+ / 3-)
    Recommended by:
    Hidden by:
    Ahianne, Inland, JanF

    all my comments get deleted.  This site is a cacophony of nut jobs.

    "The control of the production of wealth is the control of human life itself."

    by HateGOP on Sun Aug 23, 2009 at 05:05:58 PM PDT

  •  Hate. (0+ / 0-)

    Not sure what You Hate. People here want to make stuff here?

  •  Penn-Dixie/Continental Steel > Kokomo, Indiana (0+ / 0-)

    Been there done that. Though it closed in the 80's (Japanese Steel Dump) plus (of course) horrible mis-management and the union was god-awful. Can you believe that in 1979 as a young (college 2-B) kid in the summers I was making at times $25/hour OMG.

    Kokomo once Industrial powerhouse is no more. Delco (now D-something else General Motors) is near ghost of itself and Diamler (Mercedes) just DUMPED Chrysler (anybody want a Chysler Transmission? (what a joke)(for all the right reason) KOKOMO is a total wiped out mess.

    But hey > - "Love it or leave it". A common Hoosier x-pression. Finally at 38 I took my Undergrad and Masters and got the hell out of Indy and the state.

    This Lefty - Left it.

    ObamaNation 2009! We Did It! ---- Elected > Rebecca Kaplan - Oakland City Council-At Large Seat -----2010 Oakland Mayor & CA-Governor - Undecided

    by AustinSF on Sun Aug 23, 2009 at 05:17:06 PM PDT

  •  14 million people manufacture things (0+ / 0-)

    in the USA.

    50 million people are without access to health insurance.

    I'm not sure what my point is. I'm just surprised that our manufacturing base is three times smaller than the group of people deemed insignificant by everyone fighting us on healthcare.

    If you've lamented the slipping morality of America while snorting cocaine off a male hooker's back during the filming "Jesus Camp", you might be a Republican.

    by The Gryffin on Sun Aug 23, 2009 at 05:34:21 PM PDT

  •  It could be more too.... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    ...if we'd just protect our manufacturing base, like Presidential Candidate Paul Tsongas advised us so long ago.

    Last time we broke a president we got Reagan.

    by Bush Bites on Sun Aug 23, 2009 at 05:39:18 PM PDT

  •  Loved the video (0+ / 0-)

    very cool

    I want a steel mill

    PLEASE donate to a global children's PEACE project: Chalk 4 Peace

    by RumsfeldResign on Sun Aug 23, 2009 at 05:43:34 PM PDT

  •  Export (0+ / 0-)

    What always blows my mind when discussing exports, imports, manufacturing, 'high cost of labor,' how we can't compete, etc, etc,.....

    Is the fact that the #1 exporting nation in the world is GERMANY.

    So, what is it that they do that we can't/won't?  It's probably all that socialized medicine.......

  •  Hey, Bond Traders are Service Workers (0+ / 0-)

    They just won't admit it.

    This aggression will not stand, man.

    by kaleidescope on Sun Aug 23, 2009 at 05:58:48 PM PDT

  •  If we made the right stuff, we could (0+ / 0-)

    put people back to work and save the planet at the same time.

    Passive, PV and CSP based solar arrays, wind generators, geothermal pumps, stills and bioreactors to make ethanol and biodiesel out of waste materials and weeds and waste plants like kudzu and cattails.

    The demand for these items could be turned on like a light switch if the government offered loans, not handouts to implement these technologies across a wide scale.

    Loans which would be set up to offset the costs of the monthly payments to equal roughly the same amount for the cost of the energy it displaces. Painless way to introduce alternative energy for everyone and make it affordable, the government gets the money back over time, and employment surges.

    Oh ya, we get to cut back on importing oil, burning coal and help save the planet, too.

  •  We need to make real products in this country (0+ / 0-)

    Moving dollars around in computerized accounts is not making products.

    Kent Conrad is chasing a white rabbit named Harvey (don't let him co-opt real reform).

    by noofsh on Sun Aug 23, 2009 at 06:09:31 PM PDT

  •  machining and welding (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    are hobbies of mine and I hang out at some fora dedicated to those subjects that have a lot of people posting who are "in the business."

    I've seen them tell people who inquire about getting into the machining trade/machine shop ownership that they'd do better by getting a pickup, a small trailer, and a couple of nice lawn mowers and doing yard care.

    For $10K you can be in business doing lawn care and have little to no overhead.  If you want a modern machine shop you can easily pay from $20-250K for one machine, feed it a steady stream of $15-20 dollar cutting tools, buy and pay to keep in calibration measuring tools that go finer than .0001" and then either struggle to get paid $12-15 after you've reached journeyman level or engage in a race to the bottom to cut prices with the shop across town.

    Many of them love the trade but wouldn't recommend to their kids to go into these days.

    I think the recent numbers for the GDP have profits from the finance sector at about 30-40%.  Based on recent history a lot of that looks to me like it is mostly smoke and mirrors, a house of cards waiting to collapse.

    There's something about having a tangible good in hand that you can sell instead of piece of paper that says you're the 39th person down the line with a tenuous claim to some bogus financial instrument.

    My personal experience is that a LOT of people have no concept of what it takes to actually design and make something.  I find it is personally rewarding to do that but often times it is not at all easy, and scrapping a part costs money too.


  •  Cats in the snow... (0+ / 0-)

    I live in southern California, so I've never actually seen what a cat does in snow.  When I read your reference to that, I became curious and went searching for vids on Youtube.  

    Here was my favorite.

  •  What is a "thing"? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    That's one of the problems with the debate about "making things" -- a "thing" is not easy to define.

    For instance, does a programmer working for Microsoft "make [a] thing" when he adds a feature to Windows?  What about a programmer working for Google?  Does an SWE at GOOG "make something" when he improves a facet of the search infrastructure?  What about a rocket scientist, working at an investment bank?  Does he or she make something when she or he creates a new financial instrument?

    It may be trendy to sneer at Windows, and it's certainly appropriate to cough at the financial rocket scientist, but both of those people make things, real things, which can have real value as tools other people use.  The case of the Google SWE is more complicated -- all she or he does is produce a better platform for people to advertise on.

    Conversely, does the CEO of US Steel make anything except decisions?  Why is his work, or that of any manager at the firm, any more about making things than an ad planner at any of the big five Manhattan agencies, yet this post would somehow elevate the work of one over that of the other.

    •  make anything except decisions? (0+ / 0-)

      Yes, most companies here in the USA have been making bad decisions since the '70s.
      It's what we do now, short-sighted-bad-business decisions.
      But hey, it all looks great from on high when your golden parachute carries you to safety.

    •  Adding value (0+ / 0-)

      Take some wood.  That has value.

      Decide to cut it to desirable size.  

      Actually cut the wood to those sizes.

      Drill holes, and cut into blocks.  

      Decide whether to paint them red or blue.

      Paint the wood blocks.

      Put the blocks into boxes.

      Decide to sell the boxes for $1 or for $5.

      Decide to make the gifts in China next year. :(

      All decisions have scope of impact.

      This is a marker comment, because I just saw that I have to run...  I'll come back to this.


      by potatohead on Mon Aug 24, 2009 at 05:26:47 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Yes. They make things --just virtual things. (0+ / 0-)

      The value of them is ideally realized by savings in productivity.  It's the same thing as thinking about a project before you do it.

      Those thoughts ideally realize a thing --a plan that when executed saves you time, materials, labor, something.

      Making "things" as in real things comes down to taking raw materials, applying labor over time to get something that has more value than the materials did.

      That value comes down to saving time, or adding capability, or something basic like that.

      The basic idea of value comes down to either time or rarity.  Poor people spend all their time just surviving.  Wealthy people don't.  

      This is the incentive we have for manufacturing!  This is where real wealth comes from.

      If we apply innovation to labor on materials over time, we get wealth.  This is very basic, but is key to understand "making things".

      Those that have a thing, have capability that others lacking that thing don't have.  Again, that boils down to time.  Time is very expensive and we all only have so much of it.  Any gain is usually significant.

      So that's the lay of the land where "things" are concerned, and where value and wealth come from.

      Money is a value storage instrument.  It has no value of it's own, unless we are talking gold or something.

      Those people that trade in value don't actually generate wealth --because they do not labor.  Arguably, the CEO empowers the generating of wealth, and their thoughts optimise the wealth, so they contribute in that way, much like the software guy at Microsoft does.

      The important thing to note is that wealth comes from simple labor.  Always does, always will.

      On a national level then, if we are consuming lots of things, and dealing in value, we are a net drain on the globe.  That's where the decline in manufacturing comes into play.

      Where we don't make stuff, we have to make up the difference in value somehow.  It could be we do services, and that's your service economy right there.  It could be that we give up materials and other basic things too.

      What happened with us was we sold our future for profits in the now.  We sold lands, companies, intellectual expertise, even freedom to trade for those simple things everybody needs, if they don't want to be simple survivalist hunter gatherers.

      IMHO, the CEO is overvalued for their ability to deal in dollars at the exclusion of all else.  I think they are psychopaths, but that's just me.

      The person working steel is as important as the person making ADs in modern society.  The AD can be used to save time contacting people who would buy the product, that's a savings that is as real as a product that saves people the time spent living.

      There is a sense of labor discrimination that has come about over the last 30 years.  Simple labor in the skilled trades has been downgraded as "cheap" work, not because it is less valuable, but because we outsourced it and devalued it!  

      In the greater scheme of things, that work is needed because products "things" wear out, or are replaced by better things.  Somebody, somewhere has to make them.

      This, I believe is a mistake --this devaluing.  It is an artifact of Reaganomics where we have third world countries make the stuff, and we use it as some elite people, who don't actually get our hands dirty.

      IMHO, this deficit of ours will require that we either:

      accept a lower standard of living in line with our actual production

      go off and fight over it to capture value we are not building ourselves

      begin production of things here in the form of a new economy that replaces what we let go overseas

      sell ourselves in much the same way somebody puts a second mortgage on their home to make up for low wages

      overexploit our people and natural resources.

      Something will give, if we don't get back to carrying our weight in the making of things.  It's just a very simple value balance that's always been true for us as people.

      BTW:  The AD guy could be the one who gets the product from China sold well.  All good, but!  The ones that actually make the product own the means of wealth generation.  They can choose to sell their own stuff... where the AD guy has a much harder time deciding to make stuff.

      The reason for that is enabling technologies.  Where the "thing" is information, there are few enabling technologies required.  These things are very portable.

      Where the "thing" is physical, other things are needed, and often in a specific sequence, to produce the target thing.  This is not so easy to move, and it has implications for us!

      If the world were to end, and we wanted to make a car, we would have to make a steel mill, forming machines, milling machines, fuel distallation machines, etc...

      Lots of proto-things are required to make things.  Think of carving wood and the knife you carve with!  That knife is a LOT of work to create, and this is why it has value, where the wood doesn't have as much.  The target carving takes time too.  That's got value in it.

      If we fall too far behind, where enabling technologies are concerned, not only do we have to ramp up production, but we've got to do the enabling technology build out, and both of those take tons of time and dollars.  If we go too long, we risk not being able to jump the gap and get back into the game with any near term expectation of profit back to us --and that re-balancing of the trade deficit.

      Probably more of a comment than you wanted, but hey!  This is part of what I do for a living.


      by potatohead on Mon Aug 24, 2009 at 07:37:59 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Excellent post ... (0+ / 0-)

    ... and generally very good discussion. I have been involved with industrial retention for several years. My industry is printing. There are several issues that need to be addressed here: Land. Technology. Jobs

    Too often what happens when manufacture leaves an area the land is sold cheap to developers for either housing or retail. And then the land is lost. Manufacturing needs inexpensive land. Those old sites need protection or we will never be able to re-tool.

    Next we need to develop new manufacturing that is clean and local. Technology can meet these needs. We need investment. New manufacturing is not simply high-tech manufacturing labs. We need to make things not simply processes.

    And lastly, jobs. I am afraid that with re-tooling, we will find ways to produce more with less workers. This is already to case. If we think that new manufacturing is our answer to "full employment" - I think we may be wrong.

    Several people have written about how to deal with this issue. Look up Basic Income. It may be one answer. But first we need to take back our manufacturing base to build a sustainable society. That must be our priority.

  •  What do you make? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    So, what do you make?
    I always ask the CEO's I meet this question; I usually get a funny look. Then I say no, I mean what is it that you "create", you know "make".
    Then they talk about all the useless paper they have pushed around that week and call it work.
    They just don't get it anymore; we used to make some of the best products on the planet. From ballpoint pens to lunar rovers. Everyone from the top down was involved, excited about being the best. Now best means your bottom-line not the durability and craftsmanship of your product.
    Remember when we used to laugh about the lack Japanese and Chinese quality? Well that's us now, what do we excel in? What are we number one at?
    Where is the pride in our craft?
    So, what do you make?
    Ask about it.

  •  They should weaken the dollar or import tax (0+ / 0-)

    What America needs is to build up its manufacturing base.  I dont understand why we are outsourcing cars, why we cant  make appliances, computers here in the US.  

    It is because US dollar is so expensive especially against the Chinese

    We need to depreciate the dollar especially against the Chinese to prevent further bleeding of manufacturing jobs and outsourcing.

    Dont let the LIARS win. Stand up for TRUTH! Stand up for Health Care Reform!

    by timber on Sun Aug 23, 2009 at 07:59:16 PM PDT

  •  Buy American if possible (0+ / 0-)

    We live in Western Michigan where the tools to make manufactured goods were built. Over the years much of the tool making has been outsourced, yet we still have some large tool shops turning out the dies and presses and building the computer driven robots to build things. The companies that buy these tools and robots are the American car and appliance manufacturers and lately the companies who design and create windmills and solar panels. We cannot afford to loose the skilled tradesmen who build the tools. The foreign car makers don't us our tool makers, they import their major components and just assemble here. When you look for a new car, new stove, new washer, etc. be sure you buy one that has its parts made in North America (NAFTA region) because the US, Canada, and Mexico are one economic region. Don't buy things that are either made from parts built outside of the area covered by NAFTA and just assembled here. Assembling is the easy part, making the parts is the key to keeping our manufacturing base. We are buying a new car, a Ford Fusion Hybrid that was designed in Michigan, built of parts that are made on tools designed and made in North America (mainly in Michigan) then manufactured in North America (mainly in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Ontario) then assembled in Mexico. If or when we need to replace a part it will be made here at a reasonable price. We also have machine shops that make superior replacement parts for machines made overseas that are actually better that the OEM parts for less than they can be purchased from the OEM and certainly much quicker than waiting for it to be shipped over here. KEEP OUR FELLOW CITIZENS WORKING - BUY AMERICAN IF YOU CAN, EVEN IF IT COSTS A LITTLE MORE!

    Ken near Gun Lake, A voice crying in the wilderness of Rethug Allegan County.

    by Ken the Troll on Sun Aug 23, 2009 at 08:10:45 PM PDT

  •  Sounds like a very interesting day! (0+ / 0-)

    I think that American steel mills could get the jump on China if they focus on documented recycled content in their steel.  Most of the construction steel used today comes from China, and it is impossible to find out how much recycled content it contains, if any.

    American aluminum producers have caught on - but everyone could do a lot better!

    "Mediocrity cannot know excellence." -- Sherlock Holmes

    by La Gitane on Mon Aug 24, 2009 at 11:04:36 AM PDT

  •  Try Solar for Cheaper Steel and Other Materials (0+ / 0-)

    There are ways renewables could make manufacturing far more affordable in this country, and around the world. A big mistake people make about renewable energy is the assumption that power has to be changed into a form we're used to dealing with -- the electricity on our grid or the potential energy in liquid fuel. But renewable systems are always more efficient if you can remove as many unnecessary steps as possible. They can also be cheaper if you build the simplest workable design you can to meet your primary goal... in this case, heating up a blast furnace or some scrap steel. And finally, you don't have to meet all of your energy needs with a single source. If one method can greatly reduce your energy costs, for a very low capital cost, then that's an option worth exploring.

    Smelting Solar Steel for Mass Production and Recycling describes a simple, public-domain invention for using cheaply derived solar energy to heat up the airflow for steel recycling and blast furnaces.

    Solar Recycling and Industrial Kilns discusses how to use the same basic process to power other recycling, cement production and wood kilns.

    Admittedly, high-temperature production (such as recycling steel) would require a large-scale, well-constructed version of the system, a pretty favorable environment (strong, reliable sunlight, found in deserts, some mountains, etc), and most of these would have to take place during the day. This innovation also might not meet the full demands of the most energy-intensive processes, especially under inclement conditions or in iffy environments.

    On the other hand, a really cheap, reliable method to greatly reduce the energy costs of steel, cement and other forms of recycling and materials manufacturing could be extremely valuable to an enterprise. If you can meet all the critical energy needs of your business, better still.

  •  I usta work in the trades. While in trade school, (0+ / 0-)

    we toured a number of businesses in the field we were training in. I'll never forget listening to a talk from the owner/manager of one (manufacturing plant). We'd already toured the business.

    He said he'd just been on vacation in NYC. He said he looked at all the people walking in the streets, and all the windows in the tall buildings.

    And he asked himself, "Who here makes something, anything, who really makes something?"

    He said the answer was "none of them." None of them made anything, grew anything, they just moved papers from one place to another.

    The realization kinda hit him in a flash, that the rest of us who actually do make things, have to work extra hard to support those guys.

    No kidding.

    I wonder if he's still around, and has been watching Wall Street's greed exposed.

    I know I've watched it all unfold with insider knowledge -- the information he gave us all that day.

    This health care system is a moral atrocity. Dr. Ralphdog

    by AllisonInSeattle on Mon Aug 24, 2009 at 10:22:59 PM PDT

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