During the past election campaign I was on the road in the Midwest. Everywhere I went people were talking about the campaign. One lady told me, “Everyone around here is going to vote for Trump. He has promised to bring the jobs back and we have lots of unemployment in this region.” Her prediction came true. Her section of Missouri and the entire state voted for Trump. Actually, they voted for jobs. That was also true in the states of Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota, the “blue wall” that virtually always votes for the Democrat candidate. Not so this year. They voted for Trump. They voted for jobs.
The national unemployment statistics tell us that fewer than 5 percent of our workforce is out of work. The issue in the states listed above is manufacturing jobs that produce products like cars and trucks. The fact that unemployment is down from more than 9 percent seven years ago does not dent the factory worker’s psyche, it is the kind of jobs that is of concern to them. Where are those jobs? Unfortunately, many have disappeared into other countries.
More than half of the automobiles sold in the U.S. today are made in other countries. Toyota of Japan has been the number one auto seller in the world the past several years and currently ranks third in the U.S. General Motors and Ford rank first and second in the U.S. but import car and truck sales totaled more than 9.5 million to less than 8 million for American owned companies in 2015. In short, we rank second in our own country.
Today, international products flood the U.S. marketplace. How could this happen to us? How, indeed. A shopping trip to a clothing store yielded tags from Peru, Indonesia, China, Korea and several more. Shop your favorite stores from Walmart to Belk, from Lowe’s to Home Depot and see what you can find that says “Made in America.” I don’t think you will have any better luck than I did finding homegrown products.
The southeast sector of the country suffered major job losses between the 1960s and the 1990s. The textile manufacturing base that had been foundational in the economy of the South for 80 years moved overseas. The same thing has happened to our manufacturing sector in the northeast and central sections of the country, the part we now refer to as the “Rust Belt.”
The secret to jobs is manufacturing. Each manufacturing job generates five support jobs. Thus, one manufacturing job lost means six jobs gone. If we buy American products, however, the money stays in America and we create jobs for Americans. Yes, I know it’s more complicated than that. Some foreign made cars have American made components and some foreign owned firms manufacture in the U.S. Still, where does the money for management go and who banks the profit? If the answer isn’t an American owned company then we are losing jobs and potential profit for U.S. business and industry.
President Trump is going to need all the help he can get if he is to help grow the U.S. economy. Where will that help come from? The answer is “me and thee.” And, sadly, if we don’t begin to be more discriminating in what we buy, President Trump has no chance at all of succeeding.
Who has the power to create jobs? It isn’t the president or Congress. It is the American consumer — you and me. The issue is consumer choice. The more we buy that is “Made in America” the more jobs will be available for our friends and neighbors. Will it cost a bit more? Probably. But, if we are lucky enough to have a job, we shouldn’t notice it so much. Check the labels on what you buy. The job you save may be your own.
Dr. Mark L. Hopkins writes for More Content Now and Scripps Newspapers. He is past president of colleges and universities in four states and currently serves as executive director of a higher-education consulting service. You will find Hopkins’ latest book, “Journey to Gettysburg,” on Amazon.com. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.