If you’ve been keeping up with the presidential primaries, you’ve probably heard plenty of talk about manufacturing. Whether politician A is sharing his experience of single-handedly running a steel mill as a boy, or politician B telling about how his father was born in an auto plant, politicians have been singing the tune of manufacturing in debates, speeches, and interviews. So what’s the deal with manufacturing in politics?
There are a few main reasons why politicians might choose to focus on manufacturing and manufacturing jobs in the U.S.
- Manufacturing is important to the economy.
- Manufacturing has cultural significance.
- Manufacturing has historical significance.
Manufacturing is a huge and important industry in the United States that has historically provided a large number of jobs for Americans and has helped us become a world power. The manufacturing industry contributes trillions of dollars to the U.S. economy, and provides the highest multiplier of any economic sector (for every dollar invested in manufacturing, $1.40 is added to the economy).
There’s also the fact that manufacturing is closely associated with the American identity and patriotism. The Industrial Revolution was an incredibly significant chapter in America’s history. It’s hard not to think about manufacturing without also thinking about the indomitable spirit and resolve of the American worker.
It makes sense that politicians are frequently mentioning manufacturing jobs. Manufacturing, and manufacturing workers, have bolstered our economy since the Industrial Revolution.
However, automation is changing the face of manufacturing. Manufacturing is still an extremely important industry that allows nations to be major players, but the blue collar jobs that manufacturing once provided are becoming far less common.
Industrial automation has reduced the number of human workers that are needed for the manufacturing process. This doesn’t mean that jobs are disappearing, however. They are being moved around, but the fact remains that there are fewer bodies needed on factory floors than there were two-hundred years ago.
Automation is also becoming increasingly important in terms of the economy. Industrial automation allows manufacturers to create more goods, more affordably, and more quickly, all of which makes the industry more profitable. There are also new jobs and types of work that are being created through the spread of automation.
However, talking about the importance of automation doesn’t quite have the same effect as expressing a desire to be back in the coal mines of West Virginia.