Are they laughing at us?

July 28, 2009

Recently, I was listening to a radio game show where listeners call in and attempt to answer questions based on what’s in the news that week. That would imply that the callers think they are up to date with what’s going on in the world. Similarly, one could think the live studio audience members also consider themselves abreast of the times.

One call-in went something like this:

HOST: Hello, who is this on the line and where are you calling from?
CALLER: Hi, I’m Joe Smith calling from Massachusetts.
HOST: And what do you do, Joe?
CALLER: I’m an engineer.
HOST: Oh, are you in software or do you actually make something?
<Light audience laughter in background>
CALLER: We actually make things.
HOST: Well that’s amazing. I thought all that was being done in China now?
<Louder audience laughter>
CALLER: No, we really make things here.
HOST: Good to know we still can.
<Still louder audience laughter>
CALLER: Of course we still get a lot of components made in China...
HOST: Of course ...
<Very loud audience laughter>

The caller and host went on to play the game, while I sat there steaming up in anger. Isn’t this just great! A lot of seemingly intelligent, well-informed Americans think the ongoing disappearance of the American manufacturing sector is cause for laughter, some kind of joke, and certainly not worth worrying about.

A few months ago, while threading my way through the Web, I found the blog site of Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration, now on the faculty of the University of California at Berkeley. Around the end of May of this year, Reich wrote a multipart blog item titled, “The Future of Manufacturing, GM, and American Workers,” in which he says in many different ways that the USA doesn’t need manufacturing. Our great need is for “symbolic analysts.”

From the radio waves to the ivory towers of academia, the word is going out: Manufacturing is all but dead in America ... and who cares? Who needs it anyway? It’s all a big joke, isn’t it? [email protected]

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