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Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Reich: Detroit's "Small Three"

Robert Reich on the decline of the U.S. auto industry:

The Future of American Automaking, by Robert Reich: ...Detroit's Big Three are shrinking into the Small Three, now employing 15 percent fewer than they employed a decade ago -- half the number they employed forty years ago. ... In a few years more Americans will be working for Japanese automakers than work for American...

But, hey, we have the largest retailer in the world, don't we? Wal-Mart now employs more people than does the entire U.S. auto industry. And we also have the world's largest ... health care industry and biggest military. Over the last five years, health care and the military have been responsible for almost all the net new jobs created in America.

But the real issue isn't the number of jobs. It's their quality. Detroit's Big Three paid wages, health and pension benefits that together amounted to about $80 an hour in today's money. The Japanese transplants ... pay half as much. Wal-Mart pays less than a quarter as much. Meanwhile, hospital orderlies and elder-care workers don't come near matching the United Auto Workers at the old Big Three. And military work is just plain dangerous.

So as the Big Three shrink, we ought to be making up for the good jobs we're losing. But we're not investing in emerging industries like bio-technology, non-fossil based energy, new materials, and nano-technologies. Out of these could come the good middle-class jobs of the middle and late 20th century.

Yet according to a recent report ..., the post-boomer generation is less educated than the boomers, and less able to afford college. There's no bringing back the Big Three. But shame on us for turning our backs on the big picture.

    Posted by on Tuesday, September 19, 2006 at 12:15 AM in Economics, Policy, Unemployment | Permalink  TrackBack (0)  Comments (50)


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