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Gone for Good
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First, US manufacturing did not decline because of cheap imports from low-wage countries. Rich, high-wage countries like Germany and Japan have managed to maintain a large and internationally successful manufacturing sector. Manufacturing in the US *mainly* declined, because of a short-sighted focus on short-term shareholder value. In the end, US manufacturers like GM did not invest nearly enough in basic research, new products, their plants and their labor force to remain internationally competitive. (Companies like Intel, which didn't follow this trend are still doing fine). Second, we are not entering an age of Asimovian Robotic society. Yes, robots have replaced a lot of low-skill labor, but there is still a lot of high skill labor in robotic production. Manufacturing robots have to be installed, operated, and maintained by humans. As a matter of fact, maintenance of manufacturing robots is a huge service industry, which the US no longer plays a role in. Most maintenance technicians are flown in from Europe and Asia where these machines are made, just like high-end construction workers (!!!) are hired to do skilled labor in the US that very few Americans can do. Part of the malaise you describe is that there is no decent vocational and technical training in the US, which is why foreign companies operating in the US are sometimes forced to set up technical colleges to train staff they can't find on the American labor market. Sadly, the focus on liberal arts education in the US (which is in many cases only as good as what high school education used to be not so long ago) has completely eroded non-college job training. That said, most jobs in the US can't be outsourced and the ugly truth is that Americans in general are very badly paid, which, given the lack of a decent security net, leads to the conditions you describe. In a nutshell, half of the US population has not fallen victim to the forces of technological change and global capitalism, but to very bad policy and regulatory decisions here in the US. This could be fixable, but the current disinterest in technocratic and problem-oriented government makes fixes very unlikely.
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Aug 15, 2013