by Chudi Obi
Throughout most of 20th century, manufacturing was the core economic identity of the United States. America’s manufacturing sector thrived, helping to make it an economic superpower. It was indeed the face of American culture in many ways, with the image of the factory worker defining classic Americana in many parts of the country. Today, however, the economy has changed. Due to the comparatively low cost of labor in many other countries such as China and India, manufacturing companies have outsourced labor or have gone out of business altogether - unable to compete with cheaper imports. The decline of manufacturing was further exacerbated by the Great Recession in 2007-2009. Here we saw many companies collapse under the pressure, laying off workers who had been in their factories for decades. While the country has come out of the recession, many of the manufacturing jobs that were lost have not come back.
The American promise of the post-WWII generation that a high school education with little special training would be sufficient to get a factory job that pays well enough to support your family and send your kids to college is a thing of the past. The American dream that if you work hard and stay honest you will be able to live a decent middle class life is dead. The current reality is that the American economy is slowly becoming more service based, and moving away from the manufacturing base that bolstered it for so long.
This new reality does not mean that manufacturing cannot rise to prominence again in the American economy. The manufacturing sector needs to modernize and evolve to produce the things necessary for modern times, and for which the United States still has a comparative advantage. In terms of intellectual property protection, innovation, and technological advancements, the United States is highly ranked but lags slightly behind countries like South Korea, Sweden, and Germany, the latter of which is known for its progressive integration of science and technology into product design; a process known as “mechatronics.” As free trade continues to expand, it is important to ensure that domestic production modernizes to keep pace with foreign competition.
One way to modernize American manufacturing is to produce simple technology for domestic use. An area that is receiving significant attention is the production of drones. Apart from their military use, drones are increasingly being looked to for commercial needs.
Due to the versatility of drones, states have begun to explore their production. The University of Virginia, for example, has explored designing underwater drones for the US Navy. Senator Mark Warner took notice of this, and has encouraged the state of Virginia to promote drone manufacturing in the state as an economic driver. In a September interview with WTVF, Senator Warner aptly mentioned that those unskilled, low-education jobs that supported middle-class families are becoming obsolete; it is important now to find new avenues to promote manufacturing. Apart from military applications, we see private sector companies like Dominos Pizza and Amazon exploring the use of drones for delivery. Drone manufacturing can be very labor intensive, and would necessarily require an education-heavy skill set. That is one reason why many drones are manufactured in China, as Harry McNabb broke down in this recent Drone Life article.
Another way to rejuvenate manufacturing would be to have manufacturing firms partner with online delivery. In 2013, Proctor and Gamble partnered with Amazon in the latter’s program called Vendor Flex, in which Amazon sets up shop in the manufacturing companies and run its e-commerce and logistics. This helps companies reduce transportation costs. In addition, Amazon hires its own workers for the program which saves the firms money on additional labor costs. This program allows for companies to directly deliver its product straight to the consumer without going through a middle-man. Manufacturing firms can flourish as they have a direct line to sell their products to various outlets and customers.
Currently the US has brought about 22,000 manufacturing jobs back to the country that were lost overseas or to downsizing during the Great Recession. While it is good that some manufacturing jobs have been recovered, it is clearly not enough to have a significant effect on the economy, especially when many Americans are still looking for work. Therefore, it is imperative that the US explore new avenues to expand its manufacturing sector to help not only the economy, but meet the workforce’s growing demands. This can be done by changing the nature of manufacturing to focus on technological advancement. That means not focusing solely on drones, but also solar panels, electric cars etc.: commodities that are in demand today and require a higher degree of technical skill or innovation. Manufacturing firms partnering with Amazon in programs like Vendor Flex help lower the cost of manufacturing. Finally, the government must provide a suitable environment for such industries to grow. This means promoting research into technological advancements to help reduce the cost of manufacturing for firms. In 2015, one million foreign-built drones were sold in the country, mainly as consumer items. With public and military demand for drones rapidly increasing, the government should create an environment to facilitate new firms to produce - thus creating a new industry. It is time for the country to think outside of the box, to let go of the past, and to move towards a more modern vision of manufacturing.
Hausman, S. (2016, September 26). Drones: A New Manufacturing Frontier in Virginia? Retrieved October 14, 2016, from http://wvtf.org/post/drones-new-manufacturing-frontier-virginia#stream/0
Noguchi, Y. (2013, October 28). Moving In With Manufacturers, Amazon Delivers A New Approach. Retrieved October 31, 2016, from http://www.npr.org/2013/10/28/240742832/moving-in-with-manufacturers-amazon-delivers-a-new-approach
Aww Do we NAFTA? (2016, October 21). Retrieved October 31, 2016, from https://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/599/seriously?act=3#
Hodgson, A. (2014, September 18). Top 5 Manufacturing Economies: What Challenges Are They Facing? Retrieved October 31, 2016, from http://blog.euromonitor.com/2014/09/top-5-manufacturing-economies-what-challenges-are-they-facing.html
McNabb, H. (2016, September 30). Eight Reasons Why Chinese Drone Manufacturers Are Dominating the Industry. Retrieved November 8, 2016, from http://dronelife.com/2016/09/30/eight-reasons-chinese-drone-manufacturers-dominating-industry/
by Madeline Merrill
On April 12, 2015, Hillary Clinton minimally surprised the world when she announced her intentions to run for president...again. As Secretary Clinton was a 2008 Democratic primary contender, vying against President Barack Obama for the official party nomination, very few were shocked when Secretary Clinton re-ignited her professional intentions to reside at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue as our nation’s Commander in Chief. At 3 PM on that Sunday in April 2015, her election team released a two-minute video with Hillary’s official pledge to run for president. This was the launch of what would be one of the most well-funded campaigns in American history.
Not too long after Secretary Clinton’s platform went public, on June 16, 2015, businessman and media mogul Donald Trump declared his intentions to campaign for the Oval Office. In the halls of his very own Trump Towers, the billionaire tycoon publicly shared that he would run for President and overturn years of legacy politicians to “make America great again.”
Fast forward a year and a handful of months - some $1.3 billion for Hillary and $795 million for Donald later - and we have a new president-elect. The images of sobbing Hillary supporters and ecstatic Trump fans inundate our news feeds as Cabinet positions are already starting to be filled and rumblings of potential Supreme Court Justice nominations circulate the web.
However one feels about the election, however you cast your vote, most Americans agree that the results were surprising. Secretary Clinton was projected to win, with an 85% chance of victory, as of 10:20 PM Eastern Time on November 8, 2016 . How could the pollsters get the numbers so wrong? And how could Hillary’s campaign, so machine-like and well-oiled in its deliverables, fail to propel Secretary Clinton to the Oval Office, with such a seemingly concrete victory almost within its grasp?
From the start of this presidential race, the characters in the running have been anything but predictable. On the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley challenged Secretary Clinton for the primary. Mr. Sanders championed debt-free and tuition-free higher education, access to Affordable Care Act coverage for immigrants, a demilitarized police force, among other notably progressive policies . Supporters “felt the Bern,” ardently believed in Mr. Sanders’ economic models, and when Mr. Sanders conceded the party nomination this spring, many felt Ms. Clinton was just “too moderate” for the Democratic party.
On the Republican side, Mr. Trump’s rise to the party nomination was unorthodox, to say the very least. The conservative party had a well-seasoned and well-established deck of candidates - Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Chris Christie, Ted Cruz, John Kasich, and Marco Rubio had to jump through a series of polls to even make it to the primary vote. The Republican field began with seventeen candidates vying for the presidential nomination - Trump silenced the competition on July 22, 2016, when he accepted the Republican party’s support at the GOP National Convention.
And now, with two short months until Inauguration Day, with a concession speech from Secretary Clinton behind us and an acceptance speech from Mr. Trump already circulated around the world, so many Americans are wondering how our country arrived here, with this candidate, in this fashion.
Political scientists, policy analysts, and the general public collectively lament the nature of this particular election season. The national conversation shifted from a comparison of party platforms to an attack on the other candidate’s personal character and integrity. Todd Purdum of Politico writes, “To judge by the daily parade of headlines and sound bites, the 2016 presidential election has boiled down to one steaming mass of invective, calumny, character assassination and contempt: the madman versus the prevaricator, the bully versus the biddy, the devil you know vs. the devil you don’t.” We reverted to a nation of bullying - on both sides of the aisle - and now, we must live with the unsavory politics we have collectively unearthed.
The margins of victory for candidates in specific states were more significant than the differences in the 2012 election. In the District of Columbia, for example, Secretary Clinton carried the vote by 93%, and carried the Northeastern region with three-fifths of the votes cast. In contrast, Mr. Trump won Tennessee and Kentucky with three-fifths of the popular vote, and in West Virginia, won by a two-to-one margin .
Regardless of party, regardless of political loyalty, the results are clear - America is more polarized and more divided than ever before. Online social media outlets create echo chambers that solidify our own beliefs and validate our pre-existing biases and values.
We live in a dangerous time. No matter which candidate you supported or which platform you adopted, we must collectively acknowledge that American politics is no longer civil. Our modern-day election cycle scrutinizes character over policies and personal choices over solutions to pressing problems.
by Samantha Guthrie
The University of Virginia was a Clinton stronghold. The state itself went blue, although the 5th district, which includes Charlottesville, elected republican Tom Garrett to fill the district's open seat in the House. Students at the Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy, where the Third Rail and the Virginia Policy Review are based, were heavily, prominently, loudly against Trump, if not all-in for Clinton. Among my peers today, I surveyed the damage.
The cold, misty weather of November 9th seems fitting. It feels like a bomb went off. Students walk in a stunned silence, eyes wide with shock. When we greet each other, instead of answering "how are you?" with the reflexive "fine, thanks," we pause, and answer honestly. We are not fine. We are shaken and anxious and scared. We are bewildered and blind sided and trembling - either from the slow realization of what our nation has become, or from the extra cups of coffee we needed to drag ourselves to class after a sleepless night hugging the radio, pounding the "refresh" button on the keyboard.
The reaction from most of my classmates is shock - how could this have happened? How did we get it so wrong? How can there be 60 million Americans living in an alternate reality that has not touched us? What have we missed?
Then there is the fear. Fear from LGBT students, fear from Muslim and Jewish students, fear from ethnic and racial minorities, fear from immigrants, fear from all those belonging to groups insulted and belittled by Trump, anyone with a child who will grow up and think that being an American means being represented by a hateful, petty bully. Many people have reassured me that the US Presidency is not an all powerful office, that he will still have to push bills through Congress. While that is true, both the House and the Senate continue to be controlled by the GOP, smoothing the president-elect's path to policy making. The real, fear, though, is not of Trump himself, but of the normalization of discrimination, insults, callousness, and selfishness he has caused.
Some eyes are red-rimmed from crying. Tears of anger and frustration and loss. We were so close, those red eyes seemed to say...so close to Madam President, so close to a rejection of all Trump's hateful, decisive rhetoric, so close to sustaining something good and beautiful.
But we did sustain something good - though certainly not beautiful. Our democracy worked the way it was supposed to. Votes were counted, voices were heard. I do not question whether democracy will survive this election, or whether our system is broken. I question whether our people are broken. I question whether our values are lost. I question whether the American dream will survive. The American dream is about being able to create a different, better life for yourself and your family out of nothing, not maintaining the status quo for those who feel cheated out of some promise of a steady factory job and a pension on a high school education in suburban Pennsylvania or Ohio. The American Dream was built by and for immigrants.
My heart breaks for the nation I once knew. I mourn the nation of my youthful naiveté. This election has aged me, matured me, taught me some basic human truth that even America cannot escape. The truth that people are ignorant and self-serving. The truth that fear wins. My Facebook news feed is fully of elite university students grieving the same loss. I have seen only four of my 985 friends posting openly in favor of the election results. I have created an ivory tower echo chamber...
As one of my main rallying points against Trump is that his campaign and his rhetoric stirred up hate, and reshaped a societal norm against racism and bigotry, I struggle with my current emotions. I don't want to hate them. I don't want to fear them. I don't want to say "them" at all. I want to unite. I want to share a vision of inclusion and cooperation. I want to focus on policy, not politics. Unfortunately, Trump's policies remain vague and unclear. I, like many, hold onto hope that he will continue to go back on his word and that all his threatening campaign promises were just healthy "sarcasm" and "locker room talk." So far, the one plan I can get behind is infrastructure reform. Interestingly, this is also the one campaign promise he re-iterated in his acceptance speech.
In four years we will have another choice. Where will I be? How will I feel? Will my classmates and I be serving in the Trump administration? Will we be entrenched in small, cramped NGO offices frantically trying to support children whose parents were deported without warning or providing resources for young LGBT people who don't feel safe in their own identities?
Regardless of what a Trump presidency brings, we are all still Americans. Trump's campaign rhetoric does not have to speak for you. We can respect the democratic process yet still fight for our values. We are on the other side now - the sidelines that many Trump voters have felt relegated to over the past eight years. If America is no longer the shining city upon a hill, if our political rhetoric has descended into chaotic personality politics, if we are in a post-truth era of politics, if America is no longer an exceptional example of democracy and inclusion and acceptance...we are not alone. There are much worse governments in the world, much more fear and hate and repression and violence, and we are still lucky to be Americans. The old system is dying, if not already dead. This is our chance to reshape it, to be the movement we have called for for so long. So don't try to immigrate to Canada, don't boycott politics, don't run away. Decisions are made by those who show up. Although one choice has been made, many others lie ahead.
Continue to fight for what you believe.
Continue to arm yourself with information and campaign and vote.
Continue to criticize and scrutinize and watchdog our politicians.
So today, I say goodbye to the American dream.
And I am preparing to say goodbye to inclusivity, to healthy trade patterns, to a strong labor supply, to reproductive rights for women, to birthright citizenship, to deferred action on child arrivals, to love is love, to the thriving beauty of diverse communities, to nuclear non-proliferation, to our NATO allies, to foreigners telling me they love America and that they dream of living here one day, and to America as the great superpower and world role model I have known it to be for my entire life.
I am putting these things in a box. Over the next four years, I will peak in when things feel particularly dark and be greeted by feeble rays of hope. I sincerely hope one day it will once again be safe to open it again and return these ideas to their rightful place at the heart of this nation. But today, I say goodbye.
**This opinion article solely represents the views of the author and not of the Third Rail, the Virginia Policy Review, the Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy, the University of Virginia, or any other organization.**