Stephen Moore's opinion column We've Become a Nation of Takers, Not Makers raises a number of critical questions about our nation's shrinking manufacturing sector. In short, we don't have enough people making things any longer. We have too many people counting things (accountants and tax specialists) and too many people moving money around after they take their 33% off the top (attorneys) and we decidedly have too many people micro-managing everything else going on in our lives and in our economy (government workers).
I remember being at a reception hosted by our financial analyst several years ago featuring an investment analyst from an investment firm based in a Western metro area. I touched on this very subject by asking him this question. "How is our economy going to regain its strength if we keep losing our manufacturing base? I know we can't make it if we are all working at Wal-Mart selling stuff to each other." He laughed and said he had never heard anyone put it that way before, but he agreed that is a critical problem that our nation needs to address and he had no answer for it. But he was concerned about it because manufacturing jobs pay better than service jobs and our economy and even our national defense depends in many ways on our manufacturing prowess.
It is understandable that much of the manufacturing base we have lost will never come back because the cost structure in the US is so much higher than many other countries. But there are many high-tech manufacturing jobs that we have lost and will continue to lose because of barriers put in place by excessive government regulations, overly stringent environmental laws (or even the threat of them as in cap-and-trade), and unproductive and costly practices forced upon employers by unions. Another hurdle faced by high-tech employers is finding enough qualified and highly-educated employees to staff their operations due to the failure of our educational institutions.
There are many factors that have caused manufacturing jobs to disappear. Many have been relocated to other countries. There are many reasons that some of those jobs could return to the US, but it will take an increased awareness of the problems manufacturing firms face and a commitment to help rather than to hinder the effort of manufacturers to locate, grow, and thrive in the US.