[Below is a response to a Michael Hicks Ph.D. column in the March 13th issue of the Kokomo Tribune. Hicks is the director of the Center for Business and Economic Research at Ball State University. I am thinking he needs to do a bit more research.]
The Michael Hicks column in the March 13th Kokomo Tribune misses the point completely. He states, “American manufacturing firms are making more goods altogether than at any other time is history”. That may be very true but by itself that fact is rather meaningless unless related to population and jobs. It may be great for the corporations’ bottom profit line, but of no value to those out of work.
Hicks goes on to say, “Indiana has been losing manufacturing employment for a half century and the nation as a whole has for over 40 years”. Now we are getting somewhere. At the same time, Indiana population has been growing as has the population of the nation. The result is clearly more people with relatively fewer available jobs. That is pretty easy to understand. Now it is estimated there are over 90 million people in the U.S. either with no job or seriously under employed.
Then Hicks tells us globalization and international trade are not significant factors, really. He says believing this appeals to ignorance and cowardice. He says our eyes deceive us when we see stores “full of Chinese made goods and shuttered factories across the Midwest”. What? Here I am thinking that those now shuttered factories once manufactured goods and that many of those goods are now being manufactured in China and other countries; and that the jobs that were filled by Americans are now filled by people in China. What am I missing? Maybe it is Hicks who cannot see.
Talk about confused: he says our public debate ought to be about what steps we can take to help workers who have lost their jobs. With that I would agree. There is no doubt that an increase in manufacturing efficiency in the United States has been one key factor in the downward pressure on available jobs, but there is no doubt that outsourcing to foreign workers is another and maybe the most important factor. We want efficiency, but we want jobs for people in the United States first; not in other countries. It is time to take back the jobs. It is time we see stores full of United States of America made goods and fully operating factories across the Midwest.
Personally, I found the Hicks column to be insulting to the intelligence of Americans whom he calls ill-informed and myopic. There is no “illusion” of damage from bad trade agreements. It is very real. It began with NAFTA and is about to be expanded by TPP. Hicks needs to do some serious re-thinking.