Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The "Manufacturing Gap"

I know I've been absent for quite a while, and I'm truly sorry about that. But tonight I stumbled across something that I just had to comment on.

I had been watching a DVR episode of American Idol when, after it ended and I was busy doing dishes, a too-loud, smoothly southern voice began to emanate from my T.V. It was the voice of Erskine Bowles, Former Co-Chairman (D) of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform and the former president of the University of North Carolina. He had a lot to say.

He was talking about the Democrats' proposed budget. He mentioned he thought America shouldn't be spending as much as it is on its military/national defense budget, and that we must spend more on education and research because, after all, we live in an intellectually driven global economy. Of course, I'm paraphrasing, since I had to pull my hands out of soapy water, take a few notes, and run up to my office to write this.

I beg to differ from Mr. Bowles on his take on the global economy. He stated that it's driven by intellect, based on education and research. I believe our global economy is soundly based on one thing: manufacturing.

We have outsourced too many of our manufacturing plants. For that matter, on a personal note, we have outsourced far too much of our I.T. resources as well (e.g. Dell took back it's "help desk" from India after a few years of abysmal reviews from customers who told people not to buy from Dell because of the extremely poor customer support).

Our global economy still runs on "who makes the most stuff." If we outsource "making stuff" to China, Japan, India, etc., and rarely manufacture goods in America, we are sending our economic superiority to other countries and taking an inferior role in the global economy. That's exactly what we have done.

We don't make much of anything anymore. And it is a conundrum. It's much, much cheaper to manufacture goods in other countries because those countries don't have to worry about pesky things like human rights, anti-child labor laws, and Osha regulations. But when nearly everything we buy is made in another country, it takes money out of the pockets of ordinary Americans.

Americans have been spoon fed the idea that we are inferior to other countries because their children spend more time in school than ours, or they study more difficult subjects at earlier ages. Don't get me wrong; I strongly believe in a rigorous academic curriculum for American students. But I believe the bottomless bowl of American educational and intellectual inferiority is fed to us by the teacher's unions and their supporters to garner more of our tax money for their pockets.

The education "gap" that may or may not exist between our country and others (one can argue that our summer vacations and weekends off give American children the time and opportunity for creativity and ingenuity that other countries lack) is not the problem with our economy. It's the "Manufacturing Gap."

How to solve this is the subject of a much longer post and one that wasn't written during the five minutes my husband was waiting for me to finish so we could watch "Dexter." But I had to say something in the face of this seemingly powerful man spouting the rhetoric that education is what drives the world economy.

Just my two cents.