The auto industry bailout and its repercussions are topics of hot debate. It now appears that federal money will come with some long apron strings that will force Detroit to become smarter, leaner and more forward-thinking. That’s never a bad thing for any business and could enable a mighty phoenix to arise from today’s ashes.
Detroit’s problems put a glaring spotlight on America’s loss of the massive industrial base that made us a world superpower. Many of the major industries and manufacturing enterprises that once dominated the American economy have been shipped overseas. To stay competitive with the flood of cheap foreign products that have inundated our markets, American businesses have been moving manufacturing plants overseas where labor and often transportation and natural resources are cheaper. Since 2001, millions of U.S. manufacturing jobs have been lost, contributing to the more than 10 million Americans now unemployed. Politicians are just beginning to understand the high economic price exacted by outsourcing our manufacturing base.
In a recent column posted on the Alliance for American Manufacturing’s blog ManufactureThis, the economic benefits of manufacturing jobs were explained by Peter Navarro, a CNBC contributor and professor at the Paul Merage School of Business at the University of California-Irvine. “Without a robust manufacturing base, the U.S. economy will lack the core strength to sustain any robust longer-term economic growth,” Navarro says. With nearly 3 million American workers relying on the auto industry and its supply chain for their income, America can’t afford to lose an industry that constitutes one-fifth of the 15 million manufacturing jobs left in America.
It’s the “multiplier effect,” the ability to create jobs downstream, that makes manufacturing jobs so valuable to economic stability and growth. Service jobs, which account for the bulk of U.S. jobs today, have a multiplier effect that is less than half that of manufacturing jobs. As Navarro explains, “This means that for every one job created — or saved! — in manufacturing, an additional four to five jobs are created downstream — from cops, firefighters, and teachers to dry cleaners, insurance agents, plumbers, and real estate brokers.”
But the economic effect of manufacturing jobs is even greater because they generally pay more than service sector jobs. This means more money going back into the economy, Navarro points out. Bailing out the auto industry, one of America’s last major manufacturers, is essential to our economic recovery. As Navarro says, “the U.S. economy will still never return to its former levels of long-term growth, glory and prosperity without a full restoration of its manufacturing base.”