About the author: Kevin Felts graduated high school in 1986. After high school, Kevin went to work in a welding shop that built ASME certified pressure vessels. In 1987 Kevin went to work for a company that built AMSE certified heat exchangers. After working 4 years building heat exchangers, Kevin moved from shop to shop, until he went to community college and went into computers. In all, Kevin has around 14 – 15 years experience in the welding field.
Think working in a factory is only for stupid people that can not make it in college? Think free trade is good? Think cheap products from china (or anywhere else) is a good thing?
Besides economic stability, a strong manufacturing base can be retooled during times of war.
One of the problems with the USA, Canada,,, and the rest of the world, we have forgotten what its like to be in a “real” war. This war in Iraq is not a war where our cities are being bombed. We do not even have to buy war bonds like people did during WW2.
If the US went to war with someone like Russia or china, we have no steel mills, we have only a couple of ship yards spread out through the country to build ships with, most of our steel is made overseas, most of our welding tools are made overseas. The shipyards from the 1940s and 1950s have been demolished. All that remains in some locations is an open field. There “might” be left-overs from the old ships yards, but they are far and few in between.
Closing of the shipyards in the 1980s
When I went to work in 1986, I was working with people who had worked in a shipyard most of their lives. Those men with families to feed, went from making around 13, 14, 16 dollars and hour, to 6, 7 and 8 dollars and hour. Not only was the cut in pay demoralizing to the men, but the reduced income of the families had a negative impact on the local economy.
In Southeast Texas in the early 1980s, close to 10,000 people who worked in various shipyards lost their jobs. As the US started importing more oil from OPEC, we needed less offshore drilling rigs, so the shipyards were close and the people laid off. Not only did the people working in the shipyards lose their jobs, but the companies that kept the workers supplied took a downturn.
By the time the 1990s rolled around the companies realized that there was going to be a labor shortage in the coming decades.
Instead of paying a decent wage and attracting workers that had some sense to them, wages were cut back, and the people that had the smarts started going to college. Why should someone work in a welding shop and make $20,00 a year, when they could go to college and make $40,000 or $50,000 or more a year.
Exporting our jobs overseas
Lose of jobs – over the past 15 – 20 years, maybe even longer exporting our jobs has had widespread effects, as well as long term effects.
As the unemployment rate rose, wages dropped. As wages dropped, people that were smart enough to go to college were smart enough to stay away from the manufacturing field.
Our steel mills have closed. No longer can we produce enough steel to build factories, much less make weapons of war.
For now technology is being developed in the USA, but that will not last forever. Sooner or later some company with a vision of the future will start developing their own products. When those new companies step forward, companies based in the US will be cast to the side.
There will come a point in time when we neither develop or manufacture technology. When that time comes, the US will no longer be a world leader.
By exporting our jobs overseas, we have taken the first step to being a third world country. Third world countries neither develop nor manufacture anything.
Even with the US being in a recession for the past 3 years, our politicians will not even talk about ending free trade. Ask yourself, why don’t the politicians require companies to build factories in the US? And why is that?
Long term effects of free trade
Lose of factories that could have been retooled in times of war.
Continued lose of skilled labor.
Lets say we went to war with a superpower like china, where are most of our welding machines built? Where is most of our steel made, where are our circuit boards built?
To defeat the USA, all a country has to do is cut off our trade routes. After the x-box supplies run out at walmart, people will be begging the US government to surrender. If the majority of people will not even vote, then they do not care about what forum of government makes the laws. As long as people can go to work, go home, eat dinner, and watch some reality TV show, who cares if the government is a republic, socialist, communist,,,. If people cared, they would vote.
If the US were ever cast into a real war, the public would not know how to react. We have no factories that can be retooled, our youth has been told manual labor is for the stupid, we do not have the skilled working class that can build the weapons to defend the US.
The lost generation
Current generations have been told – if you do not go to college you are throwing your life away, which is far from the truth.
Starting with the downfall of the shipbuilding industry in the 1980s, fewer and fewer people went into the welding and metal fabrication line of work. Back in the 1060s, 1970s and early 1980s, high school graduates talked about going to work in the shops and shipyards with their dads.
Fast forward to the 1990s and 2000s, kids talk about going to college, building up massive debt through student loans, and working a part of their life to pay back the banks for their education.
At least with going into a craft or trade, kids could stay debt free. Instead of being in debt to a bank for a college education, kids went into debt for a home and started building wealth from an early age.
From what I am seeing in the news, kids these days are worse off then kids from the 1960s, 1970 and even the early 1990s.
25+ years ago – by learning a trade, a young adult could be making good money within 3 or 4 years and buy a home by the time they are in their early 20s.
Today – kids leave college with massive college debt, live in a spare room in their parents house (or in the basement) for a couple of years, and maybe by the time the person reaches their 30s they “might” be able to buy a home.
In the previous decades we had skilled craftsmen that could work metal, weld, use a cutting torch, assemble an engine and knew the difference between a socket and a ratchet.
These days, we have people that know more about playing videos games then doing physical labor.
The USA has grown fat and lazy. No longer do we value hard work. Instead of respecting people that do physical labor, we look down upon those that make a living by the sweat of their brow.
Wars do not have to be fought on the battle field, some wars are economic, and through trade. Once a nation is dependent on imports, that nation is at the mercy of the people doing the manufacturing.
The USA is at the mercy of the countries that make our clothes, make our shoes, make our computers, make the engines for our cars.
Unlike in world War II where the USA had factories that could be retooled to build weapons of war, we do not even have steel mills to build the factories, much less retool.
Not only have we given away our economic future, we have given away our childrens, and our childrens children security.
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