Monday, January 31, 2011

America Needs Infrastructure and Plenty of it

One of the things people get wrong is the idea that American companies can somehow outsource their labor to cheaper countires and maintain the same standard of goods/services that they'd get here.  While that can happen on the micro-scale, it can't in the big picture and if Chinese workers could be as productive as American workers, they'll soon be paid American wages and the whole reason for outsourcing becomes negated.

And so I'm happy to read stories like this, which explain how America is still the top manufacturing country.
What's changed is that U.S. manufacturers have abandoned products with thin profit margins, like consumer electronics, toys and shoes. They've ceded that sector to China, Indonesia and other emerging nations with low labor costs.

Instead, American factories have seized upon complex and expensive goods requiring specialized labor: industrial lathes, computer chips, fighter jets, health care products.
And as I said, if China and these other countries could produce what we produce, then they'd get paid what we get paid.  And not that it should matter, but in case you find authority figures appealing, I should mention that I stole this idea from Krugman (not that I'm saying he invented it, just that that's where I first heard it).

Power, Roads, and Training

And here's the part that puts the lie to conservatives who insist that Big Government sucks and we could run our country on third-world tax revenues while maintaining a first world country:
Hook says the United States offers advantages over poorer, low-wage countries: reliable supplies of electricity and water, decent roads. And some localities support businesses by providing infrastructure and vocational training for potential hires.
"We need a highly skilled work force," Hook says. "So it's very advantageous to be in a country like the United States where people are educated and ready to be hired."
And that is undoubtedly the case.  It's not a coincidence that first world countries have first world laws and infrastructure and education; while second and third world countries do not.  We don't have these things because we can afford them; we can only afford them because we have them.  And if we did things like a third world country, we'd soon become one.

And the people who benefit most by a good education system isn't the Average Joe who might make $1.5 million his entire life, but the Rich Joe who makes $1.5 million every year.  The rich benefit the most from our first world infrastructure, so it just makes sense that they should pay the most for it, too.  After all, we wouldn't have fancy tax accountants to shelter their absurd incomes if we didn't have the government training those fancy accountants with loans, grants, and subsidies.

America needs an educated workforce.  America needs good roads and good water and good regulations.  These aren't luxuries we can cut back on when times are tough.  These are necessities that America requires in order to prevent times from getting tougher, and every penny we pinch on infrastructure now is a dollar we lose in the future.  America's fighting men need infrastructure.  The best infrastructure.  Plenty of it.

BTW, due to the obscure nature of my reference and because I like it so much, here's a link to America's Fighting Men Need Meat.

And here's the version you can dance to:
America's Fighting Men Need Meat

1 comment:

Godot51 said...

Are you familiar with the Firesign Theatre?