Chain Reactions

Manufacturing No Longer Sustaining the Middle Class

Let's start with a provocative quote, and then I'll put it into context for you (that's the way these Internet search engine optimization algorithms prefer we bloggers write our material now):

"While the reliance on manufacturing made sense in the 20th century, the sooner we recognize that manufacturing is no longer the key to a prosperous middle class, the better off Michigan will be in the 21st."

Okay, that's according to Lou Glazer, who runs a think tank called Michigan Future, quoted in the Wall Street Journal. Glazer's point, once you get past the audacity of claiming that manufacturing's day in the sun has set (at least, in Detroit), is that all the good jobs these days that will actually contribute to a thriving middle class are in the knowledge industries (finance, insurance, health care, etc.).

I'm not so sure I go along entirely with that premise -- aren't the banks, the insurance companies and the health care providers (along with their co-conspirators in government) the very people who got us in this economic mess in the first place? On the other hand, Glazer does point out that Michigan has slipped from 16th to 33rd in the nation in terms of per capita income in a mere nine years, so something is rotten in the state of the Not-So-Big Three. And if "clean cars" really does represent the future of the U.S. auto industry (the jury will be out deliberating that one for many years to come), the middle class jobs will come on the product development and engineering side, not the traditional assembly side.

The author of the WSJ column, William McGurn, summarizes Michigan's plight thusly: "What the middle class needs more than anything else is an economy where employers have to compete for their labor."

TAGS: Supply Chain
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