Obama Favors Protectionism to Save Manufacturing Jobs that Employ Few while Increasing Costs for Consumers Everywhere

Posted by PITHOCRATES - January 28th, 2012

Week in Review

In full campaign mode, Obama seeks the support of unions in the manufacturing industry (see Why Manufacturing Can’t Solve The Jobs Problem by Roya Wolverson posted 1/27/2012 on Time Business).

Among other things, Obama’s State of the Union speech Tuesday drove home the idea that U.S. industries need more protection. “Over a thousand Americans are working today because we stopped a surge in Chinese tires,” he said in his speech. That’s all fine and good if your goal is to hold on to U.S. manufacturing jobs. But it’s not going to solve the country’s overall unemployment problem. And in the end, it may cost the American consumer more than those jobs are worth.

For one thing, raising trade barriers on imported goods like tires makes tire-buying more expensive for American consumers, which, as Matthew Yglesias points out, only undermines those consumers’ ability to spend elsewhere. It also provokes countries like China to raise trade barriers on U.S. goods, which makes the job of increasing U.S. exports and export-related jobs even harder. Even if protections did save some manufacturing jobs, they wouldn’t be enough to move the needle on unemployment. It’s worth remembering that only 11% of U.S. jobs come from manufacturing, thanks to globalization, which has taken jobs abroad to lower-wage countries, and technological advances that have increased worker productivity. And that percentage has been declining steadily for several decades.

…And since we can’t reverse that process, the biggest gains in the job market can’t come from greater protections, but instead from gains in technology. Standard Chartered’s Gerald Lyons made the point today that, despite the enduring public perception that technology kills jobs, for every one job technology destroys, it creates 2.1 other jobs. Thus, instead of clinging to our past by supporting unproductive industries and erecting trade barriers, the U.S. has to find “the types of jobs that are fit for this country’s future,” argues Diamond.

Once upon a time the whale oil business was booming.  And a lot of people where employed in the whaling industry.  Until John D. Rockefeller came along.  Who created Standard Oil.  Introduced Americans to kerosene.  And put the whale oil business out of business.  Creating far more jobs in the petroleum exploration and refining business than the whale oil business ever did.  Now if President Obama were in office during this time he would have placed a tax on kerosene to protect those whale oil business jobs.  Because although he may talk about the jobs of the future, he wants to protect the jobs of the past.  Especially if they are protected by a strong union.

When only 11% of U.S. jobs are  in manufacturing, this protection of the jobs of the past is also very costly.  Because to save 11% of jobs in the economy he will raise prices on everything in the economy.  Meaning 100% will pay a surtax so the 11% can keep these jobs of the past.  So to sustain a little economic activity he will kill a lot of economic activity.  Which doesn’t make sense.  But it will protect union jobs.  And sustain contributions to Democrat coffers.  Which is the whole point of saving these jobs of the past.

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