About a week ago, I had the pleasure to meet Katherine Leslie, the 22-year-old daughter of an
President Obama’s latest plan for long-term job creation involves a refocusing on manufacturing, addressing the advice of producers who have urged the country to return to an economy that makes goods. The announced $5 billion tax credit, however, has been aimed at green manufacturers, hoping to accomplish both environmental and economic goals. As a recent college graduate, I can’t deny the importance of researching and developing clean technologies. In fact, for my senior policy thesis, I focused on climate change and recommended federal investment in the future of a “green economy.” However, framing green manufacturing as a means to address long term job growth goals seems misguided.
What happened to automobile producers in the past 30 years has spread to other industries, with low skilled jobs relocating abroad.
Retraining and education is a necessary accompaniment to investment, but the manufacturing industry, whether it is high tech or not, will likely never look like it did in the 1940s and 50s. Additionally, preventing outsourcing, Immelt’s true goal that the president has wisely ignored, is unrealistic at this moment, with international communications literally at our fingertips.
Instead of emphasizing manufacturing as an investment in long-term job growth, Obama should continue to focus on small business.
The idea that returning to a goods-producing nation will solve unemployment woes does not hold true to me, as someone who was raised entirely in this global age.
My generation grew up enmeshed in the Internet and aware of the declining value of the manufacturing industries. Despite having gone to a politically liberal
My generation spends more time on the Internet, whether via computer, phone, or video game console, than baby boomers could imagine. It has spurred significant amounts of creativity and innovation, which (due to my generation’s inherent adaptability to the technologies we were raised on) can be created without specialized degrees and large amounts of capital.
As this generation ages, ideas sparked from long hours spent online may very well be what spur successful small businesses, which also will depend more heavily on the use of this type of communication, rather than an attachment to industrialist ideas. The Internet has made the world smaller, but its availability may very well fuel the future economy, helping to develop and grow small businesses.
The cultural impact of the Internet and instability of the economy have reformed career goals for young people. Few dream to graduate and work for a corporation anymore (most people I know hope to work for themselves). The ease of expressing opinions, lack of boundaries, and fast-paced nature of the Internet promotes an independence less suited for corporate structure.
The future of economic division may instead be between the high capital costs of the new tech industries and the low capital costs of self employment and small business. What may be most important now is the nurturing of this entrepreneurship. Thus, the president should focus on institutionally reinforcing small businesses by lowering taxes and limiting barriers to entry.
Simply encouraging banks to give loans is not enough. Unemployment rates in the present and future would be better addressed by focusing on this area, rather than incorrectly crediting new manufacturing industries. This recent manufacturing rhetoric simply acts a diversion.