NEWS BLOG (WSAU) -- Today I have no solutions… just observations.
We’ve already lost huge numbers of manufacturing jobs in the United States. There are some things that simply can’t be manufactured in our country at a competitive price. Scissors for arts and crafts projects are one of them. I feel sorry for the local workers at Fiskars, but there is no way that an American wage can be competitive with the same workers overseas.
Fiskars announced today that they’re closing their plants in Wausau and Sauk City. Those jobs are moving to Mississippi in 2011. Good for them, bad for us? No. The victory for Mississippi will be short lived. A pair of scissors will be manufactured for less in Mexico, and then for less in Taiwan, and then Malaysia. Eventually the only thing to ring out of the cost of a low-cost product is the price of labor, and domestic labor will always be too expensive.
Like I said, I have no solutions. This certainly isn’t a union issue. Even at minimum wage in a non-union shop, our scissors will be more expensive. All of the potential solutions are unappealing. A tariff on foreign arts and craft supplies? Protectionism doesn’t work, and only drives up prices for consumers. A ‘buy American scissors’ campaign? I think this is the kind of product, like dozens of others, were people buy on price. Fiskars products are thought of as high-end craft supplies, but the threshold to pay a premium price is small. Or do we just give up these kinds of manufacturing jobs to other counties? That’s a totally unsatisfying outcome, and is exactly what’s been devastating our blue collar workforce.
Anyone who works for a manufacturing company must have in the back of their head that their job could disappear in the blink of an eye. We’re becoming a country that manufactures nothing… no televisions… no computers… no clothing… no consumer products… no toys… you can’t find American-made products in any of these categories. It’s scary.
There are some economists who tell us not to worry. Let the developing world build things. Let us be a service, technology, and knowledge-based economy. But I don’t trust that advice. Even a high-tech is dependent on things that are built by someone else. We are becoming a shell economy. Solutions anyone?
Operations Manager-Midwest Communications, Wausau