I recently read the following article, which appeared on the website of public radio's Marketplace, on the decline of manufacturing and how it affected Rochester, New York, and the people who live there.
Before reading any further, go read it:
Did you read it? OK.
As it happens, I have connections with Rochester, and I shared it with someone who spent a couple of decades living there, working for a local company. He had this to say:
It’s a good article. The real message is that manufacturing as it was – manufacturing that made the middle class – is gone. What manufacturing does come back will not provide enough jobs for everyone.
Too bad they didn’t examine my company too. They would have seen that we not only sent manufacturing offshore, but we also outsourced white-collar engineering and I.T. jobs to India and replaced them with minimum wage call-center jobs.
The lady in the last paragraph of the article hit the nail on the head.
This is the lady he's referring to:
“You didn’t even have to go to college. You got out of high school and went to Kodak, Delco, Rochester Products, Xerox, Bausch and Lomb and you made $20 an hour. Back in the day, you got out of school, and you could be 18 and move off on your own into an apartment.
Today? These kids today? If you don’t have college, those top companies are just not here anymore. My youngest daughter did it the hard way. She found out without college here, there’s only $13-an-hour jobs. If that. She’s still at home, 31, but back to school now to get that degree to get out on her own. There was an article in the paper this past weekend, ‘Oh, middle class America, so many jobs are coming back,’ $12 to $15 an hour. Like, what are you gonna do with $12 to $15 an hour? You cannot live on your own.”
That's hard to argue with. This is the world we've built over the last few decades. And if you want to understand why so many Americans are frustrated, angry, and losing hope, ready to vote for someone like Bernie Sanders, who promised a revolution, or Donald Trump, the Big Man who promises to make everything better (without specifying how), you need look no further.
And pray that somehow, we find a way out of this mess.