Opinion

Chrystia Freeland

China, technology and the U.S. middle class

By Chrystia Freeland
February 15, 2013

U.S. President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union speech on Capitol Hill in Washington, February 12, 2013. Jason Reed/REUTERS

President Barack Obama’s State of the Union speech this week confirmed it: The pre-eminent political and economic challenge in the industrialized democracies is how to make capitalism work for the middle class.

There is nothing mysterious about that. The most important fact about the United States in this century is that middle-class incomes are stagnating. The financial crisis has revealed an equally stark structural problem in much of Europe.

Even in a relatively prosperous age — for all of today’s woes, we have left behind the dark, satanic mills and workhouses of the 19th century — this decline of the middle class is more than an economic issue. It is also a political one. The main point of democracy is to deliver positive results for the majority.

All of which is why understanding what is happening to the middle class is urgently important. There is no better place to start than by talking to David Autor, an economics professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Autor is one of the leading students of the most striking trend bedeviling the middle class: the polarization of the job market. That is a nice way of saying the economy is being cleaved into high-paying jobs at the top and low-paying jobs at the bottom, while the middle-skill and middle-wage jobs that used to form society’s backbone are being hollowed out.

But when I asked him this week what had gone wrong for the U.S. middle class, he gave a different answer: “The main problem is we’ve just had a decade of incredibly anemic employment growth. All of a sudden, around 2000 and 2001, things just slowed down.”

Academics can usually be counted on to have a confident explanation for everything. That is why I was surprised and impressed by Autor’s answer when I asked him where the jobs had gone. “No one really understands why that is the case,” he said.

It was a winningly modest reply. But work by Autor and two colleagues — David Dorn, a visiting professor at Harvard, and Gordon Hanson of the University of California, San Diego — is starting to untangle the two forces that both the conventional wisdom and the academy agree are probably responsible for a lot of what is happening to the middle class.

Those forces are technological change and trade. The easy assumption is that the two go together. After all, trade needs technology — it is hard to imagine outsourcing without the Internet, sophisticated logistics systems and jet travel. Technology is dependent on trade, too: The opportunity for global scale is one reason technological innovation has yielded such outsize rewards.

But in a careful study of local labor markets in the United States, Autor, Dorn and Hanson have found that trade and technology had very different consequences for jobs.

“We were surprised at how distinct the two were,” Autor said. “We found that the trade shock had a very measurable impact on the employment rate. Technology led to job polarization, but its employment effect was minimal.” Trade, at least in the short term, really did ship jobs overseas. Technology did not kill jobs per se, but it did hollow out those essential jobs in the middle.

The big surprise, at least for believers (like me) in the classic liberal economic view that trade benefits both parties, is the strong and negative impact of globalization on U.S. workers — Autor estimates it accounts for 15 to 20 percent of jobs lost.

“The rise of China was such a huge change. It really did matter,” Autor said. “First, China is such a huge country. Two, China was 40 or 50 years behind in technology, so it had a lot of catching up to do. Third, it happened so fast.”

What is striking, and frightening, is the extent to which, at least in the U.S.-China trade relationship, the knee-jerk, populist fears intellectuals tend to deride actually turned out to be true.

“U.S.-China trade is almost a one-way street. This trade relationship doesn’t clearly give you the benefit that you can sell a lot of stuff to your trade partner,” Dorn said. “If you talk to someone who is somehow involved in the promotion of free trade, they may say that maybe the headquarters of Apple (AAPL.O) benefits. That may be true. But the first-order effect is of job loss.”

The impact of technology is more familiar. Autor, Dorn and Hanson found that it did not create fewer jobs overall, but it did hollow out the jobs in the middle.

“Technology has really changed the distribution of occupation. That doesn’t necessarily go hand in hand with reduced unemployment, but it creates a more bimodal set of opportunities,” Autor said. “There is an abundance of work to do in food service and there is an abundance of work in finance, but there are fewer middle-wage, middle-income jobs.”

What is challenging about both of these trends, and what makes the hollowing out of the middle class a political problem as well as an economic one, is how different they look depending on whether you own a company or work for one.

Shipping middle-class jobs to China, or hollowing them out with machines, is a win for smart managers and their shareholders. We call the result higher productivity. But, looked at through the lens of middle-class jobs, it is a loss. That profound difference is why politics in the rich democracies are so polarized right now. Capitalism and democracy are at cross-purposes, and no one yet has a clear plan for reconciling them.

Comments
30 comments so far | RSS Comments RSS

Ms. Freeland, you quote Autor as stating, “The main problem is we’ve just had a decade of incredibly anemic employment growth. All of a sudden, around 2000 and 2001, things just slowed down.”

I’m no economist with a degree from MIT, but even I could have answered better than that.

You wrote, “What is striking, and frightening, is the extent to which, at least in the U.S.-China trade relationship, the knee-jerk, populist fears intellectuals tend to deride actually turned out to be true”.

Why is that “striking” and “frightening”? By that statement you imply that only the intellectuals enjoy a clear understanding of what is happening to the American Middle-Class, and the economy in general.

You also wrote, “David Dorn, a visiting professor at Harvard, and Gordon Hanson of the University of California, San Diego — is starting to untangle the two forces that both the conventional wisdom and the academy agree are probably responsible for a lot of what is happening to the middle class.”

Whew. Thank God they’re here. I feel so much better now.

Posted by JL4 | Report as abusive
 

“and no one yet has a clear plan for reconciling them.”
I beleive the Chinese do. Or far closer than anyone yet.

Posted by tmc | Report as abusive
 

Well, duh? Computers are doing the work that millions of clerks and secretaries and travel agents used to do. Today a few national warehouses can handle the distribution that once required many more regional centers.

When you can put stuff on one truck better organized and targeted for shorter deliveries, you eliminate trucks and drivers. This trend continues, and those jobs aren’t “shipped anywhere”. They are as dead and gone as those of buggy whip makers.

Over the last century, “factory work” that once paid “good wages” to those with less education became more and more expensive to employers. It became more and more possible and logical to replace more and more of those workers with computers or computer-guided robots, the latter being termed “automation”.

The “replacement machine” can and will work 24/7 when needed without overtime. It doesn’t get sick and it doesn’t get raises, health care, holidays, bonuses, vacations or pensions. It doesn’t have kids that get sick or need health care. Nobody need care how it “lives”.

It is also true that machines don’t BUY what they produce, so less and less in terms of production and services “consumed” by those who can buy. While not so much of a “problem” in a world of SEVEN BILLION (and climbing) humans, the cheap and easy to get energy necessary to support the present and increasing population is rapidly disappearing.

Population growth can no longer fuel economies. The merging swirl of these irresistible changes is thus far far too muddy for any economist to see ahead. Is it any wonder that many economies have slowed to a pace consistent with minimum danger until the “way forward” becomes more clear?

We can see that the American “economy” is separating out into “current owners and producers” in one “camp” and “retired owner/producers and our society’s economically dependent” in the other in the other. Human nature being what it is, there is greed, anger, envy, and manipulation constantly fomenting unrest between the two camps.

Increasingly, there is no “middle ground”. Individuals in these two classes then “shake out” in terms of income like darts in a target where the “bulls eye” is perhaps 10% (our VERY well off), the next 35% (our “upper middle class), the next 25% (our aspiring or slipping lower middle class) and perhaps a growing 25% (the young and/or students, the increasingly lost and bewildered, and our “criminal class”). It is less like viewing a jar of static colored sand than viewing a blender while running.

Posted by OneOfTheSheep | Report as abusive
 

So the only thing that is wrong with the economy is trade.

Posted by zbrowne | Report as abusive
 

On the one hand, this is something everybody knows in their bones – that trade has killed millions American jobs, and destroyed American careers and families. (And the same is happening in Europe.)

On the other hand, it needed to be said in a clear way.

And it needs to be said loudly, and repeatedly, to drown out the incessant propaganda by the wealthy that trade is a wonderful thing.

NAFTA was the beginning of the end of the American middle class. And immigration makes it all much, much worse.

Great article.

Posted by AdamSmith | Report as abusive
 

We are really back to the feudal view of things now. Is the country the property of the wealthy, to be changed as they see fit? Or is the country the property of the people as a whole? Can politicians who wear “For Sale” signs around their necks commit the country to a particular course to the detriment of the vast majority of the public?

Or can we actually rule ourselves?

The views of the lords, and the views of our politicians, coincide for some strange reason. The whole issue is coming down to a class power struggle, one that the powerful historically lose. The issues are very real and very explosive.

Posted by usagadfly | Report as abusive
 

Ms. Freeland, thank you for this piece. It’s one of the best I’ve read in years. It took courage for an admitted believer in free trade to report on economists who may be evolving into doubters – who now acknowledge that trade with China resembles more of a “one-way street.”

The results of our trade with China are consistent with our experiences with free trade with other densely populated nations. What makes China different, as you’ve observed in your article, is its sheer size. When our trade deficit is expressed in per capita terms, eliminating size as a factor, China barely makes the list of our top twenty trade deficits. Our trade deficits with many other nations, including Germany and Japan, just to name a couple, are much worse.

I mentioned population density as a factor. In fact, it is by far the most powerful factor driving our trade imbalance. In 2011, with the half of nations below the world’s median population density, the U.S. enjoyed a surplus of trade in manufactured products of $153 billion. However, that surplus is dwarfed by our trade deficit with the half of nations above the median population density – a deficit of $577 billion. Same number of nations. Starkly different results.

The reason for this eludes economists because it lies within their self-imposed blind spot when it comes to the subject of population growth and overpopulation. If economists would ever get over their Malthusian black eye and look beyond the issue of the strain on resources, they might discover the very real inverse relationship between population density and per capita consumption, and they might realize how this relationship drives trade imbalances.

When two nations grossly disparate in population density attempt to trade freely with each other, the work of manufacturing is spread evenly (more or less) across the combined labor force. But differences in per capita consumption remain. The result is virtually inescapable – an automatic trade deficit and loss of manufacturing jobs for the less densely populated nation – the U.S.

It’s heartening to learn that economists are at least beginning to admit to what seems obvious to everyone else – that free trade doesn’t necessarily benefit both parties. Their challenge now is to discover why.

Pete Murphy
Author, “Five Short Blasts”

Posted by Pete_Murphy | Report as abusive
 

Ms. Freeland, thank you for this piece. It’s one of the best I’ve read in years. It took courage for an admitted believer in free trade to report on economists who may be evolving into doubters – who now acknowledge that trade with China resembles more of a “one-way street.”

The results of our trade with China are consistent with our experiences with free trade with other densely populated nations. What makes China different, as you’ve observed in your article, is its sheer size. When our trade deficit is expressed in per capita terms, eliminating size as a factor, China barely makes the list of our top twenty trade deficits. Our trade deficits with many other nations, including Germany and Japan, just to name a couple, are much worse.

I mentioned population density as a factor. In fact, it is by far the most powerful factor driving our trade imbalance. In 2011, with the half of nations below the world’s median population density, the U.S. enjoyed a surplus of trade in manufactured products of $153 billion. However, that surplus is dwarfed by our trade deficit with the half of nations above the median population density – a deficit of $577 billion. Same number of nations. Starkly different results.

The reason for this eludes economists because it lies within their self-imposed blind spot when it comes to the subject of population growth and overpopulation. If economists would ever get over their Malthusian black eye and look beyond the issue of the strain on resources, they might discover the very real inverse relationship between population density and per capita consumption, and they might realize how this relationship drives trade imbalances.

When two nations grossly disparate in population density attempt to trade freely with each other, the work of manufacturing is spread evenly (more or less) across the combined labor force. But differences in per capita consumption remain. The result is virtually inescapable – an automatic trade deficit and loss of manufacturing jobs for the less densely populated nation – the U.S.

It’s heartening to learn that economists are at least beginning to admit to what seems obvious to everyone else – that free trade doesn’t necessarily benefit both parties. Their challenge now is to discover why.

Pete Murphy
Author, “Five Short Blasts”

Posted by Pete_Murphy | Report as abusive
 

When will our incompetent politicians realize that we have been losing a trade war with China for years. Last year we ran an all time record $295 billion trade deficit with China. One of our biggest exports is scrap metal to China. We are being gutted and the Chinese are buying the scraps of our land and businesses in the US for pennies on the dollar with that same money. It’s time for our politicians to wake up and realize we are in a trade war and losing badly. Huge tariffs need to be slapped on Chinese goods just like they do to American goods and we need to shut them out of the same industries that they shut out American companies in China to level the playing field.

Posted by CountryPride | Report as abusive
 

The main point of democracy is indeed to deliver positive results for the majority.

The main point of capitalism is to deliver positive results for those at the top of money-generating enterprises.

Capitalists quickly discovered that they can enhance their positive results by using their wealth and influence to subvert the main point of democracy.

In America, there are only two viable political parties and competing with each other for a comfortable position at the public trough is costly.

It’s a simple matter for capitalists to tailor democracy to their advantage.

Posted by breezinthru | Report as abusive
 

Outstanding article!

It is exactly the paradigm shift in technology combined with unrestrained free trade that is killing this economy, and our country with it.

The only thing I would add to this article is the role that taxation and the lack of banking regulations play in skewing the profits to the wealthy class, all at the the expense of the middle class.

What seems to have the academic community totally baffled has been obviously for many decades, first beginning with trade with Japan, and then on steroids trading with China.

Once you lose your manufacturing jobs, you lose your rising standards of living for the middle class, and the country begins to decline.

The only thing that has set this country apart from the rest of the world since WWII is the rising middle class, which is also a paradigm shift in the US that we have never seen before.

Now we are going back to the “Golden Age” of the wealthy class, and we can look forward to losing everything we have gained in the last half-century.

Posted by PseudoTurtle | Report as abusive
 

Another way to think about things is, the next time you want to purchase a fancy phone built in Asia remember that urge for the cheapest price precludes the lost amount that would’ve paid for U.S. labor, thereby propping up our market, and goes to increasing Asian, possibly communist standards of living.
The bean counters raced to the bottom in order to beat the churning competition but ultimately other economies and ceos gained the most while we got “more for our money” while mom and pops, manufacturing, and now further employment gets eviscerated. So zbrowne is correct. I submit if oil goes high enough manufacturing will hopefully relocate to Mexico and Central America as well as here at home. That would help numerous domestic and multinational problems.
Meanwhile, the U.S. has perpetuated a deal with China for years while spouting that their vehicles don’t measure up to our safety standards, etc. It’s only a matter of time before the gauntlet is opened.

Posted by Mac29 | Report as abusive
 

@breezinthru,

Usual liberal class warfare drivel based on the envy life’s losers feel when they realize everyone doesn’t get a trophy in real life.

Remember this well…liberals are forever in denial of the reality that if and when “those at the top of money-generating enterprises” don’t see a reasonable profit from the investment of THEIR time and money, it is those on the bottom that wind up on unemployment, food stamps or go hungry. Be careful what you wish for!

Posted by OneOfTheSheep | Report as abusive
 

Professor Autor comes across as incredibly ignorant of the work of many of his peers more than a decade ago. Scientific American had a article about the impact of increasing American worker productivity, largely as a result of technology, more than ten years ago. The issue raised then was what the United States should do with the need for a declining work force as a percentage of population and a new meaning for the term “retirement”. Everything predicted in that article by these economists has been coming true.

Even more, this trend has been progressing for more than 40 years! It’s not new, only newly realized by a few Rip Van Winkles. Wakey, wakey!

Can’t believe this comes from the same person who wrote about the plutocracy. Did the plutocracy start recently, or 40 years ago as middle-class wages began their decline (while average workweeks increased)?

Posted by ptiffany | Report as abusive
 

What happens to American middle class is in what American middle class actually is. China, technology and many others that people are complaining about now, are just reflections of the reality that American middle class is becoming rotten and out-dated. Its population is getting old; its brain is getting frozen; its imagination is getting limited; its ambition is getting weak; its body is getting tired and lazy; its knowledge is aberrant; its attitude is getting abhorrent. I didn’t mean everyone in the middle class is getting worse; I only mean American middle class is becoming a class without much solution, but with more dissatisfaction and more incompetence. American middle class is actually becoming uncompetitive in many respects.

Posted by gee.la | Report as abusive
 

What happens to American middle class is in what American middle class actually is. China, technology and many others that people are complaining about now, are just reflections of the reality that American middle class is becoming rotten and out-dated. Its population is getting old; its brain is getting frozen; its imagination is getting limited; its ambition is getting weak; its body is getting tired and lazy; its knowledge is aberrant; its attitude is getting abhorrent. I didn’t mean everyone in the middle class is getting worse; I only mean American middle class is becoming a class without much solution, but with more dissatisfaction and more incompetence. American middle class is actually becoming uncompetitive in many respects.

Posted by gee.la | Report as abusive
 

“The big surprise, at least for believers (like me) in the classic liberal economic view that trade benefits both parties, is the strong and negative impact of globalization on U.S. workers — Autor estimates it accounts for 15 to 20 percent of jobs lost.”

In fact, both “parties” benefit from an exchange in which a U.S. company (one party) contracts with a Chinese company (the other party) to move a manufacturing location from the U.S. to China. In the classic liberal economic view, which is microeconomic rather than macroeconomic, that is what is considered. Classical liberal economics does not treat the United States as a collective trading with China as a collective. In classical liberal economic terms, the problem addressed in this opinion piece is that a certain type of international trade acts as a type of arbitrage between a high priced labor market in the U.S. and a low priced labor market in China and that the result, as with other forms of arbitrage, is to put downward pressure on U.S. manufacturing wages and upward pressure on Chinese manufacturing wages. That makes the U.S. middle class worse off, even as it makes the Chinese middle class better off.

Posted by Bob9999 | Report as abusive
 

An enjoyable read Ms. Freeland, confirming what has been obvious to all with open minds for at least 2 decades. Why pay a janitor in a US steel mill $100k a year with benefits when his Chinese counterpart is willing to do it for $2k? That’s the bad news.

The good news is the economic pendulum is always swinging and at this very moment that Chinese janitor and his fellow mill hands are thinking, “Hey! We want a car, we want a house, we wish our air didn’t stink of heavy metals and our water taste of rank chemicals.”

As the Chinese middle class rises, and Chinese industry is forced to catch up in safety and environmental, so will prices on Chinese goods rise. And in the not too distant future manufacturing jobs will return.

In the meantime, a wise society would prepare it’s next generation with excellent schools and myriad educational opportunities, because when the jobs do come back, they will not be the same as when they left.

And, as a side note, I wish we would stop describing our system as a democracy. We are a constitutional republic, and there is significant difference.

Posted by CaptnCrunch | Report as abusive
 

The argument in this article commits the same major flaw as in all dumb mainstream media: “Everything bad is blamed on China.”

Do they ever open anything “Made in China” and see how many percentage of the components is actually made in China? That is why some economists understood this misleading label and have been suggesting to change to something more detailed such as “Assembled in XXX”, or “Manufactured in XXX”, or etc. If one drills down the components, the part actually manufactured in China is probably not even one third of the final product. That’s a fact, and every curious person can confirm this, next time he/she tries to blame on China.

Posted by Pterosaur | Report as abusive
 

Immigration quota in any profession should be tied to the employment rate in that field. In fields normally entered by college degrees it should be tied to employment rate in that field for new college graduates without experience. They need get experience somewhere. If public taxpayer paid education is for economic mobility, it should be limited to citizens.

Posted by SamuelReich | Report as abusive
 

we seem to be guessing based on theory, rhetoric, policy, trends, necessity and we lose sight of what…I have no idea…
technology can be deemed a culprit, cheap labor elsewhere another, greed not mentioned above another, imported labor subsudized by other governments, we could build a mighty tower with all the reasons, some very legitimate yet it may be hard to understand and not easy to solve our doubts with a world population that continues to surge where poverty is prevalent and may be not!
who ever you, we are know that population, technology, consumption are two-faced with reality stradling a difficult proposition of comfortable survival for all…

Thank you.

Posted by chapapet | Report as abusive
 

How simply it truly is. My friend started as a sales rep. all the factories were located in the hub of Passaic,Clifton and Paterson NJ. In less than a decade, they were all in China or Mexico with computerized ordering directly to the stores! Merchandising was being done by huge organizations that pay nothing. Now, he’s making the same amount he made 30 years ago and it doesn’t go as far as it did then. The owners of the factories and stores cleaned up with the profits from lowering their cost. My friend can barely pay his bills. Amerika in the 21st century..terrific isn’t it.

Posted by rikfre | Report as abusive
 

“What is striking, and frightening, is the extent to which, at least in the U.S.-China trade relationship, the knee-jerk, populist fears intellectuals tend to deride actually turned out to be true.”

well, if i may presume to speak for the rest of the filthy benighted rabble (i am a union member since 1959) we told you so back in the day and you wouldn’t listen. but welcome! welcome to the dark side! can i interest you in a union card?

Posted by maskling | Report as abusive
 

I have seen this coming since the mid nineties (as a result of work experience in the field), since the coming of these sort of blogs I have been expressing my worries.

And now twenty years later it finally seems to have hit ground, regrettably about 15 years too late, but, better late then never.

The Big Mac Index is still 40% lower in China, as it was in 2006…are things really changeing for the better? (for all of us, working people)

Why should’nt we find a way to do something about this.

Posted by Beobachter | Report as abusive
 

How so convenient to complain about free trade when it does not serve our own interests and

promote and defend it when it does. . . During the 80s and 90s countless people in developing

countries also questioned the benefits of free trade only to be derided as protectionists and

ignorant of basic economics. When those same effects are felt home, it’s different, right? These

professors at MIT are not really discovering anything new here: free trade creates winners and

losers, just like technological progress does as well. We already knew this. However, the effect

of trade on efficiency and economic progress is on balance positive. The way to help the

American middle class is not protectionism.

Posted by facebooksux | Report as abusive
 

This is the game with the tampered dice (Marx, 1867)

“In a free and open market economy people (work) and money (capital) fight an unequal battle. When the economy grows, the demand for labor will also grow, employees should then be able to put down higher demands. These market workings are however interfered by the reserve army of unemployed (now…..in the emergeing markets). People that work and people that are unemployed keep each other in a strangle hold (now… world wide), the excessive work of the employed (see working hours Foxconn…and the rest…) on the one side increases the unemployed labor reserves, while at the opposite side the employed are forced by competition of the unempoyed to subjugate to the demands of “capital” (share holders)”

Just to state that we are facing a classical problem….

Communism as a matter of fact helped us (the West) to protect ourselves (because of the cold war) that “advantage” has now gone.

We need to find another solution …controll, i.e import duties.

I do not like communism, like I do not like extreme capitalism, read the laissez-faire supply side economy, which is endangering our democratic system far more than communism ever did…the latter funnily enough brought us together.

Posted by Beobachter | Report as abusive
 

Unfortunately the majority of studies demonstrate the exact opposite, that information technology and computers have radically reduced employment. There are the same number of manufacturing workers in the U.S. now as in 1948 with over 600% the output. U.S. manufacturing jobs have further declined since the 2007 crash but production is still higher. It takes one third the number of auto workers to build the same volume of cars as 20 years ago. This is simple common sense and common data, factories today are highly automated and require many less workers.
As for trade, a recent OECD multi-country study demonstrates that the most successful economies are those which are open to trade and that trade enhances job opportunities over the long run. The more GM and Boeing export, the greater the job security of their employees back in the U.S. Workers at firms that export have higher wages and greater job security than those which do not.
And yes, China is an outlier, and creates problem with their currency manipulation and export subsidies but keep in mind that Chinese exports have little value added, only amounting to about $5 – $10 on a $150 Iphone and similar products, with the high valued added components made in Japan, S. Korean, and the U.S.
The bottom line is that the more trade, the better countries are off in general, although the low-skilled segments of Western work forces need extra government assistance as they are the ones whose jobs are disappearing in the global labor pool. But trying to hold on to those low skilled jobs is fruitless, unless the U.S. wants to subsidize them and uncompetitive industries.

Posted by Cassiopian | Report as abusive
 

“However, the effect of trade on efficiency and economic progress is on balance positive.”

How?

“The way to help the American middle class is not protectionism.”

They need jobs, don’t they? They have to produce stuff that others want to buy….but that is always produced cheaper elsewhere, devalue the dollar?

Posted by Beobachter | Report as abusive
 

Feb 15, 2013
6:53 pm UTC said:

“and no one yet has a clear plan for reconciling them.”
I believe the Chinese do. Or far closer than anyone yet.

And their clear plan is to use “reverse tariffs” by currency rigging. If the United States had democracy instead of Revolving Door Government run by the Plutocracy we’d respond with our own form of tariffs and to hell with acting as the world’s principal source of deficit spending that runs down our own industries and ultimately our ability to defend ourselves from a Chinese Communist Super-Power!

Posted by IfAtFirst | Report as abusive
 

Please forgive any typo’s, I am using modern technology in the form of a tablet which auto corrects when I least want it to. Interestingly, I think this is a perfect example of the small point I want to make here. Yes we have developed technology to replace some parts of society, and make things more efficient, however, my tablet still auto corrects and requires, me the one actually doing the typing to make sure the sentence is correct.

I have been an engineer for almost 30 years now. I remember the days of my first engineering job, when drawings and other engineering specifications were all done on paper. It was only about two years into my first engineering job that the company, started to look at and use electronic drawings and documentation.

Today, everything is being completed using electronic drawings, and specifications. there are databases of information on how to build just about anything. That being the case, one might come to believe that all you need to do is hit the design button and out comes the product you desire.

We seem to forget that is not possible, just as it is not possible for me to hit the write article button and out pops a grammatically correct intelligent response or comment to an article.

Right now I work in China, teaching young Chinese engineers how to put the pieces together and think critically. Why am I in China doing this? Because, my middle class job is disappearing in America. Corporations may have their headquarters in America, but just as they have moved their manufacturing jobs overseas to save money, they are moving their engineering functions.

I am in a tough spot, I either stay in America, earning less and less, or I come to China and make a decent wage. Of course that will only last until I do my job well enough that they no longer need me. Then what will happen?

The Chinese will have learned how to put the pieces together without me. America will now longer be the generator of new ideas and new technology once the engineering funtions are offshored as well. If you hollow out the middle too much, there is nothing left to support the edges and it will all collapse. You can’t print yourself a new economy made out of hollow hundred dollar bills. You don’t need to be an engineer to understand that concept.

We need to balance our economy and understand the value of the people that make things happen, not just those that cut to the bottom line. Finance is only as good as the people financed. Stop paying CEO’s millions of dollars to cut costs and offshore the very people that worked to generate those millions in the fist place.

Shareholder value, is not the only thing we as a country should value. Greed, arrogance, and the concetration of wealth, into the hands of a few will be our downfall. We must see and reward the value of all Americans.

Posted by Dj301 | Report as abusive
 

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