From Robert Whitcomb's "Digital Diary'' column in GoLocal24.com
The future of American manufacturing may lie far more in such high-wage, high-tax, high-tech places as Massachusetts and Silicon Valley than in Rust Belt heavy industry, whose current and former employees President Trump appealed to so successfully in his unlikely ‘black swan’’ presidential campaign. Mr. Trump told his fans that foreign competition has been a disaster to jobs in such old-line sectors as steel. But in fact about 85 percent of the manufacturing jobs lost in the past few decades was due to automation and (related) computerization, not to globalization/imports.
That will not change, whatever the president’s protectionist promises. Companies will continue to seek to maximize profits for shareholders, which of course generally include senior corporate managements. Mr. Trump, who has shown himself fabulously greedy, must understand, whatever his rhetoric. The fewer people you have to pay to make the same products, the more money for shareholders. With artificial intelligence now coming on strong, the evisceration of the traditional workforce can only intensify.
In any event, governments that invest in good K-12 and college education and have other good public services will grab most of the new manufacturing jobs because those positions will require far more knowledge of science and technology than did working in, say, old-fashioned steel, auto and glass plants. There won’t be all that many of these new jobs, but those who have them will be very well paid.
Thus New England, where much of American manufacturing began, may become in the next few decades a manufacturing center that eclipses the 20th Century industrial powerhouses in the Upper Midwest. (I have followed this for many years, as a business editor and as someone part of whose family was in such Midwestern industries as steel.)