Part of a much longer article by Binyamin Appelbaum:
Why Are Politicians So Obsessed With Manufacturing?: ...Trump has made the revival of American manufacturing a signature issue... Hillary Clinton has campaigned on a broader economic agenda, but when it came time to describe those plans, she chose a factory outside Detroit as her backdrop.
Manufacturing retains its powerful hold on the American imagination for good reason. In the years after World War II, factory work created a broadly shared prosperity that helped make the American middle class. People without college degrees could buy a home, raise a family, buy a station wagon, take some nice vacations. It makes perfect sense that voters would want to return to those times.
From an economic perspective, however, there can be no revival of American manufacturing, because there has been no collapse. Because of automation, there are far fewer jobs in factories. But the value of stuff made in America reached a record high in the first quarter of 2016, even after adjusting for inflation. The present moment, in other words, is the most productive in the nation’s history.
Politicians of all persuasions have tried to turn back time through a wide range of programs best summarized as “throwing money at factory owners.” ... By and large, those strategies haven’t helped. ...
This myopic focus on factory jobs distracts from another, simpler way to help working Americans: Improve the conditions of the work they actually do. Fast-food servers scrape by on minimum wage; contract workers are denied benefits; child-care providers have no paid leave to spend with their own children. ...
In all likelihood, many more of Mr. Trump’s supporters are people who once worked in those kinds of jobs, or whose parents did. They are now caregivers, retail workers and customer-service representatives. When will they start to demand that candidates address the lives they actually lead?