On Wednesday I was driving around and I had on the radio the Rush Limbaugh Show. I don’t listen too often because, well, Rush usually doesn’t tell me anything I don’t already know; his opinions that I agree with are already internalized and those I don’t agree with never shake me from my views. But, there he was, happily talking away. And then he said it – he asserted that it is absurd to think that we can get Apple to return I-phone manufacturing to the United States…I can’t remember the exact words, but it was something along the lines of there are 500,000 people working for Apple in China with a built infrastructure for the entire manufacturing process and we just can’t duplicate that in the United States. It infuriated me to hear anyone say that the United States can’t do a thing – and then later that day I happened to run across several other people making the same assertion. And said assertion is nonsense.
I know – labor costs. I realize that China pays it’s workers nearly nothing. I also realize – though our Capitalist Captains of Industry never like to mention it – that to do business in China requires massive bribery…but with that bribery you can pretty much do as you like. No need to trouble yourself too much over environmental regulations, safety measures or other trivia like that. But even with that, I just don’t buy the notion that you can’t make something better and cheaper in the United States.
Go to a hardware store and look for a hammer – I’ll bet dollars to donuts that almost all you find are made in China. What is a hammer? Just a piece of steel fashioned in a certain shape. It isn’t rocket science. It isn’t a complex device. I defy anyone to tell me that we can’t replace that Chinese factory using 500 workers to make hammers with a factory in the United States employing 50 workers in a highly automated manufacturing system…and by using our ability to automate along with our superior infrastructure to make that hammer cheaper than the Chinese can, especially as they then have to ship it thousands of miles before it even arrives in the American market. Oh, I realize that right now – at the moment – we can’t because our tax and regulatory system makes it exceptionally difficult to build and open a factory. But don’t tell me it can’t be done. It darn well can be – as soon as we want to do it. It just takes the political will to say “screw you” to people raking in profits off of sweated Chinese labor.
And thinking all that over, it occurred to me – there is the appeal of Trump in a nutshell. Lay aside for a moment the nauseating racists and anti-Semites who have latched on to him, solely on the strength of his early immigration comments. Such people are numerous, but not all that much – remember, we live in a nation of 317 million people, if even 1% of them hold to a particular view it can seem like a lot – especially with Social Media to magnify their voices (Twitter seems gigantic, until you realize that every day 83.31% of Americans don’t use Twitter, at all). A guy getting Trump’s vote totals – and goosing up GOP turnout numbers to some-times record levels – isn’t getting that because a few people like his Great Wall of Trump idea. He’s getting that level of support because a lot of regular folks are moving his way. And my view is that they are turning out for him because he says we can be great.
Keep in mind when someone says, “those jobs aren’t coming back”, it is invariably someone with a well-paid gig that isn’t affected by jobs moving to China. Lawyers, bureaucrats, corporate executives, consultants, MSMers, professional politicians…it is that sort of person who tells the blue collar slob that his blue collar job is gone for good…and even if he takes a job at Disney at 60% of his previous factory wage, he’ll have to train a foreign replacement, brought in quite legally via the H-1B visa program. Meanwhile, China doesn’t seem to want us to outsource our army of consultants and lawyers probably because the Chinese are smart enough not to want such people in large numbers lawyering and consulting an economy into ruin. An army of experts will rise to ridicule the idea that we can make things in the United States better and cheaper than foreigners can – and I’ll bet not one in a thousand of the people telling us such things have ever made one thing in their whole lives. And the people who do make things are rather angry that they are reserved for the “short end of the stick” portion of American life.
This is the United States of America! We’re the people who in just over a century rose from a colonial backwater to the most powerful nation in human history. We went to the Moon! And someone is going to tell me that this nation that did all that can’t make a hammer? Can’t even make a belt or a pair of shoes? Nonsense! It is our economic policies which have priced American manufacturing out of world markets, not some fundamental inability of Americans to compete. And let me tell you, if you really hold the view that we can’t out build and out compete every nation on Earth, then we might as well close up shop as a nation – allow ourselves to be annexed by some other nation with a bit more grit and determination. Grab a clue – a nation which can’t make things eventually can’t buy things, either. American consulting isn’t going to be enough on the global market to satisfy our demand for consumer goods, folks – in order to continue to get, we’re going to have to give. For 50 years we’ve just been giving money – magically printed up for the occasion by the Federal Reserve…but eventually you can’t print enough money to convince people to provide your needs and desires. Eventually they will want something and your degree in business management won’t be it.
I have been saying for a while now that the way to beat Trump is to out-Trump him – not in the vulgarity, but in the gut…where people live and feel. People who back Trump rather absurdly believe that Trump is on their side even though there is zero evidence that he is actually on their side…but he’s saying he is, and it is working with large numbers of people. So, beat him at it – say you’re on their side, as well…assert that the United States will be the manufacturing leader of the world; the export leader of the world; the agricultural leader of the world; the mining leader of the world; the energy production leader of the world…that we’ll clear out of the way every last tax and regulation which makes it hard for Americans to build and grow. Leave it to the Democrats to tell their voters that they’ll manage the decline and provide a bit of welfare and job training for non-existent jobs…we take the path that says, “we’ll reform things so that there will be X Million new manufacturing jobs by 2020”.
Of course, results will matter – once you promise, you’d better deliver. But if all you’re promising is low-rent stuff like “improving opportunity” then you’re not saying anything at all. What is “improving opportunity”? It is a meaningless phrase which makes it sound like you’re going to do something, maybe. Tell people you’ll bring the jobs back from China and it sounds much more vigorous…and as you’re not Trump, you can actually come up with some plans which will do just that. Part of our problem, of course, is that Rubio and Cruz are both lawyers…lawyers have a hard time understanding regular folks (so, too, do real estate tycoons like Trump…but somewhere along the line he found out that people at least want to hear that something concrete is going to get done for regular folks which doesn’t amount to a government poverty hand-out). Come on, Ted and Marco – think about it! And then go out and say it. Sure, those invested in the current system will rise in fury and scorn over any promise to bring jobs back…but you can see how much such words work regarding votes. And you guys needs some votes – the only way to really stop Trump is to get more delegates than he does, and time’s a wasting.
Anyways, that is how I see it right now – Trump is at least speaking to desires; Rubio and Cruz are speaking to theories and playing around with “vote for me because Trump sucks”. That won’t do the trick…might deny Trump a first-ballot nominating majority, but it won’t actually stop him, nor get either Cruz or Rubio in to the White House.
I know a lot of people who use tools, and when the subject of tools made in China comes up we/they are all in agreement—we will pay more for a quality tool made in the United States. But we can’t find many.
We have become so dependent on China and goods made there, I don’t think any of the Trumpbots have stopped for even one second to wonder just what will happen to their budgets when the price of nearly everything in WalMart goes up 45%. That Magical Thinking that all we have to do is make it too expensive to import stuff so we will have to start making it here kind of depends on the belief that this changeover to American industry can happen overnight.
Given the state of banking, with its outrageous regulations, it would be very very difficult for any new company to get the money necessary to start up, and then it would take years to get established enough to meet market demands. A hammer looks pretty basic and easy to make, but a hammer factory would have to be designed, financed, and built. Hammer making equipment would have to be purchased—from China? Or designed and built. People would have to be trained.
Don’t get me wrong—I WANT manufacturing to return to the United States. I just understand that slapping high tariffs on imported goods is not the way to go. We tried that at the beginning of the Depression, another of those quick fixes that sound so good, and the result was that the nations hit with high tariffs on what they sell us retaliated with high or higher tariffs on what we sold them, seriously damaging our ability to export goods. This quick fix, and its attendant Unintended Consequences, contributed to the deepening and lengthening of the Depression.
We didn’t get where we are now overnight, or in a year or two. We need to start at the bottom of the problem, which is making it possible for industry to be financed so it can develop and grow. We need to have a way to train workers, not only in how to operate machinery or acquire skills but to develop a work ethic that understands the economics of getting paid more for producing more. We need a taxation system that does not penalize success while rewarding failure and indolence.
Indeed – tariffs are no magic bullet and far more often than not they are purely political, even when not downright anti-economic. I do believe in the selective use of tariffs, of course – they are a tool in the diplomatic chest to make certain that everyone plays by the rules, or else. But overall, if you make the best products, people will buy them. Period.
That is why in my view it is vastly more crucial to reform our own system than to raise tariffs.