Aside from Trump’s Ohio Carrier plant public relations stunt, he won’t keep his promise because he can’t, according to a new Brookings Institution study.
The reason is a 35-year-old trend that’s been, overlooked or conveniently ignored by Trump and his blue-collar supporters.
The simple fact is robots are manufacturing more and more goods produced in the United States–a trend that will only intensify over the coming years.
“President-elect Donald Trump would be hard-pressed to deliver on his promises to “bring back” large numbers of America’s lost manufacturing jobs, even if he does renegotiate the nation’s trade deals, according to Mark Muro, Senior Fellow and Policy Director of the Institute’s Metropolitan Policy Program.
When new manufacturing plants open in the United State, “the associated job-creation will not be what it once was,” Muro writes with research assistant Sifan Liu.
“Nor will the difference be just a minor effect–it’s going to be major,” they add.
Inflation-adjusted output in the manufacturing sector, measured over the past 35 years, is as high as it’s ever been in the nation’s history. Yet, the sector has shed more than 6 million jobs over the same time.
The trend actually represents American manufacturing’s strength. It’s productivity is the envy of the world. Fewer and fewer workers are needed to produce each $1 million in manufacturing output.
In 1980, 25 workers were needed to generate $1 million in U.S. manufacturing output, their study notes. Today, it takes just 6.5 jobs to generate the same amount.
So, who’s doing all the work? In a word… robots.
Indeed, automation is one of the few ways U.S. manufacturers can compete with cheap overseas labor. They aren’t about to abandon them to create jobs for high-wage workers.
To even come close to matching his promise, “the Trump administration will need to ‘bring back’ a huge amount of manufacturing activity in the next few years.”
Restoring just half of the six million manufacturing jobs lost since 1980 will require a “massive 26 percent surge in manufacturing output,” it states.
Manufacturing plants that do open in the Unites States in the coming years, will be even more automated. A case in point is Tesla’s new plant that will produce its electric cars.
“Tesla only plans to hire 6,500 people to produce an anticipated $100 billion in output over two decades, meaning its highly-automated operation will require just 1.3 jobs to generate $1 million output annually,” the study notes.
And, that’s based only on today’s level of automation. As computers become more sophisticated and advances are made in artificial intelligence, even more jobs are likely to be automated.
Workers who bought into Trump’s campaign promise were, sadly, duped.
Trump’s ability to save 700 or 800 jobs at Carrier’s plant was a one-off publicity stunt that involved a significant taxpayer subsidy.
Just counting Ohio’s $7 million contribution, taxpayers will pay Carrier owner United Technologies $8,750 for each job saved. Not counted are other, hidden costs that federal taxpayers will shoulder.
Even conservative economists have criticized the deal as “corporate cronyism” and “government paternalism.” Carried out on a wide scale, it would turn the United States into Venezuela, saddled by inefficient, government-subsidized companies.
The only real solution was espoused by Democratic rival Hillary Clinton. Workers need to be retrained for new 21st century jobs that can’t be exported.
Let us know your thoughts and be sure to follow Money & Power on Twitter for the latest news you can trust.