Rufus, your assertion that the US is still number one in manufacturing completely misses the point. Our current position is based on where we started from and on the tremendous inreases we have seen in productivity. Even so it's now estimated that in the next ten years China will pass us to take the number one spot in manufacturing..
The gross manufacturing numbers are mere factoids thrown out by clowns like Tom Friedman and the financial elites on the east and west coasts who would be content for the US to turn into the next Dubai, a financial services paradise. However, what's important is the percentage of GPD that manufacturing represents. It has gone from over 25% 50 years ago to around 10% today. Employment in manufacturing has dropped from about 50% of total employment to less than 10%. We have lost about 3 million manufacturing jobs in the last decade.
This effects everything from middle class jobs to GDP to national security. It's been estimated that every $1 of manufactured sales price supports about $1.40 in other economic activity. This compares to about $.50 for the wholesale and finance industries. That's almost a 3:1 multiplier advantage for manufacturing jobs.
Likewise the middle class in this country was built on manufacturing jobs. Early on they shared in the benefit of the productivity increases. Now real median income has been flat for the past 30 years. Without an industrial base and a vibrant middle class the US will decline. And all these clowns in Washington and New York will stop laughing when their financial services jobs are shipped overseas because it can be done cheaper.
Most important though is that we need a strong industrial base for national security reasons. Critical industries such as tool making are being exported in the name of globalization. You'll remember that as soon as we entered WWII, the auto factories shut down and the next day started building vehicles, motors, planes, etc. to support the war effort. Can't happen again if the manufacturing base is located in China.
It was interesting to note that after 9/11 GM and Ford donated $millions towards the relief effort in NY. Toyota sent a sympathy card