Our laptops are assembled in China, our shirts are woven in Sri Lanka, and our toys are made in Thailand. We love these products, and we love ‘em cheap, but poll results released this week confirm that as much as we like a deal, Americans acknowledge the impact our choices are having on our economy and job market.
The majority of U.S. voters believe that manufacturing is the industry most important to the overall strength of our economy, according to a poll commissioned by the Alliance for American Manufacturing. Though the Great Recession technically ended in June of 2009, the restoration of jobs in the manufacturing, construction, and production industries has been anemic and demoralizing.
It’s critical to take the poll results with a grain of salt, given its commissioners. But according to Josh Freedman, a program associate in New America’s Economic Growth Program, the poll’s main takeaway is accurate: Maintaining a balanced economy requires the foundation of a thriving manufacturing industry. Freedman, along with Economic Growth Program Director Michael Lind, published a policy paper earlier this year outlining recommendations for restoring America’s manufacturing base, including indirectly boosting the industry through energy and infrastructure strategies, and incentivizing research and development in the private sector. Freedman says that recent proposals from the White House are on the right track, but will likely face “insurmountable hurdles;” funding for infrastructure projects comes from state and local governments, who are facing budgetary problems of their own.
Meanwhile, the debate over which candidate has a cleaner job-creation record is heating up on the campaign trail: The Obama campaign ran ads and launched a website accusing Romney of promoting the outsourcing of U.S. jobs while at Bain Capital; the GOP created a site accusing Obama of providing stimulus dollars to corporations that sent work overseas. Scott Paul, executive director of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, says it’s “no surprise” that conversations about outsourcing and the job market are so hotly contested this campaign season. “This election will turn on who voters believe will go to bat for them to create and vigorously defend manufacturing jobs,” he said.
It’s going to take more than choosing a side to restore the manufacturing industry, as this has proven to be an issue that transcends partisanship. “Despite the debate over manufacturing falling outside of typical party lines - there are strong manufacturing proponents, as well as opponents, from both parties - creating policy around the manufacturing sector is still difficult,” said Freedman.
Shoe factory photo via Shutterstock.