The photo above is the empty Nypro manufacturing facility, a company that provided services to HP. Nypro shifted the remainder of it’s manufacturing overseas laying off all it’s workers and closed the plant. The empty Nypro building is located along an increasingly desolate row of empty buildings on “Technology Loop” not far from my home where I ride my bike.
The HP campus on the other side of the city is turning into a ghost town as well; many of the buildings are empty and shuttered, a few are leased by other companies as warehouse space.
I heard on the news recently that even companies considered particularly American, such as Cisco, IBM and Sun essentially have little to no domestic manufacturing facilities. Though the “design” may be done here, the manufacture of the actual products is contracted out to companies outside our borders.
Leo Hindery, a former CEO who heads the US Economy/Smart Globalization Initiative at the New America Foundation, is one of the foremost advocates of a U.S. industrial policy.The country is scratching its collective head puzzling over our “jobless economy”. We have an expectation that things will turn around and be the way they once were; that unemployment will somehow return to 1980’s level. And we demand quick fixes - the Republican machine rode a populist wave into the House of Representatives on the implied promise that Jobs would mystically arise from thin air merely by putting the Conservatives back into power.
"I think you have to start with the premise that a country as big as ours -- the largest of the developed economies -- can't survive with less than 8 percent of its men and women making something,"
According to the latest figures, about 7.6 percent of the workforce is currently engaged in manufacturing.
"It needs to be 20 to 25 percent," Hindery said, "and it needs to be 20 to 25 percent of GDP, otherwise the gap that you have to fill is achieved only through consumer credit." 1
But I don’t think the Republicans give a damn whether or now the Great Unwashed have jobs. They care only to be in control of the factors which will direct corporate profits; and profits are no longer dependent on the domestic market any more, their sights are overseas. Indeed, the top few percent whose wealth is based on equities have seen unprecedented growth recently. But where are the jobs for the middle class? The answer is that the wealthy no longer need us as either employees or consumers.
I believe we are waiting for a recovery that is never going to come. Some of the vacant buildings on Technology Loop have now been rented by local governments needing office space. But now Americans graduating from university have almost a better chance of finding jobs outside the country than here at home. “Shanghai and Beijing are becoming new lands of opportunity for recent American college graduates who face unemployment nearing double digits at home.” 2
I have been accused of being depressed about the future of our country; that I lack the optimism that many others do. But optimism must to be based on something more tangible than faith and hope; and in romantic notions that our past reputation as a world leader in innovation will carry us into the future. That was then, this is Now.
Suggested further reading:
"The Real Economic Lesson China Could Teach Us", Robert Reich, January 19, 2011.
1. “Hu's Visit Is Reminder Of One Way China Leaves The U.S. In The Dust”, Dan Froomkin, Huffington Post, January 20, 2011
2. "American Graduates Finding Jobs in China", NY Times, August 10, 2009