As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Bring Back American Manufacturing

Longtime readers may know that I work on a lot of crappy TV shows. One of the less crappy ones that I'm currently doing is John Ratzenberger;s Made In America (order the first season today!), wherein TV's Cliff Clavin guides a tour through various American manufacturing companies, kind of like the old Sesame Street segment where you go to the factory and see how the candy is made. Well it's in its fifth season, and they've kind of run out of companies to profile. I've noticed this year that more and more of the segments are about buildings like the Space Needle and the Old State Capitol in Baton Rouge, Louisiana than products manufactured in this country. If the majority of our productive output is construction, and the housing market falls apart in the way we've seen, then a horrific jobs number rise in unemployment should definitely be expected. This is the culmination of the hollowing out of the manufacturing base, without the continuation of the knowledge economy that rose up in the 1990s. This is why you see the disparity in jobs between the Clinton years and the Bush years.

Sharp downturns in the manufacturing and construction sectors led the decline, the biggest in five years. The Labor Department also said employers cut far more jobs in January and February than originally estimated.

I'm guessing this is why the housing bill being debated in the Senate includes all these tax breaks for new construction. It's the only manufacturing, of a fashion, that we have left.

While I agree that unemployment benefits ought to be extended, since it's a proven way to stimulate the economy immediately, calling it a second stimulus package is IMO the wrong thing to do. I don't mind being interventionist for people other than investment banks, and clearly the Bush laissez-faire policy spells disaster. But the first stimulus got mashed down into a paltry and ridiculous government handout that's probably going to be used to pay down debt as much as anything else - why didn't they give it directly to the credit card companies and eliminate the middle man? Any new "stimulus" that went into the sausage maker's hands would probably come out the same way. So I'd rather keep it as an unemployment benefits extension and leave it at that. In addition, we need to incentivize domestic job creation and punish outsourcing. Especially at this point, with the dollar plunging low enough that the additional expense is not as great, jobs need to stay right here. Finally, we need to open up another manufacturing sector, and that's clearly the green economy. One of the subjects of Made In America this year is a wind farm. We could put what's left of American economic might into tackling the energy vulnerability issue and building massive wind, solar, hydroelectric and biomass projects.

There, that's my economic manifesto.

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