Message to Hillary: Americans Still Make Lots of Things

This presidential campaign has featured more than its share of misleading statements about trade and manufacturing. Nowhere has that been more on display than when the two Democratic candidates have been hustling for votes in what used to be the nation’s industrial heartland of Ohio and Pennsylvania.

On the eve of today’s crucial Pennsylvania primary, here is how the Boston Globe described a scene at a Hillary Clinton event in the western side of the state:

“We need to still be a manufacturing nation,” she said at a rally in downtown Pittsburgh yesterday, as a woman in the crowd shouted “Right on!” “I don’t think a country that doesn’t make things can remain strong and vibrant and leading in the global economy.”

Right on? Not exactly. Implied in Clinton’s remark is that manufacturing has been in decline and that we are in danger of becoming a nation “that doesn’t make things.”

One huge problem with her statement is that manufacturing output in the United States has continued to EXPAND in recent decades. According to the Federal Reserve Board, America’s factories produced 30 percent more in real output in 2007 than a decade earlier and three times more than in the 1960s.

And just what sort of things do Americans make? According to the U.S. Commerce Department, in 2006 U.S. factories produced:

• 4,522 complete civil aircraft and 12,299 complete civil aircraft engines.
• 87 million metric tons of raw steel and 113 million tons of shipped steel products.
• 11,260,300 cars and light trucks.
• 26,925,715 million computers (digital, analog, hybrid, and other).
• 11,966,177 household refrigerators and refrigerator-freezers.
• 9,993,990 washing machines.
• 7,654,882 water heaters (electric and non-electric).
• 7,402,333 dishwashing machines.
• 6,004,765 household gas and electric ranges.
• 1,399,938 clothes dryers.
• 1.93 billion square yards of carpet and rugs.
• 11.4 million short tons of chlorine gas, 8.9 million tons of sodium hydroxide, 4.7 million tons of hydrochloric acid, and another 2.6 million tons of commercial aluminum sulfate, sodium sulfate, finished sodium bicarbonate, and sodium chlorate.
• 1,537.7 million gallons of paints and allied products at $13.60 a gallon.
• $127 billion worth of pharmaceutical preparations (except biologicals).

The real beef of the Democratic candidates and their union allies is that all that stuff was made with fewer unionized workers than in years past. We can make more and better things with fewer workers because of soaring productivity.

Please remind me what’s so bad about that.