Matt Towery

So now General Motors may join Delta Air Lines on the lengthening list of U.S. corporate institutions that are going bankrupt.

This is getting so common that it's hardly news anymore. But the announcement about GM hit me like a sledgehammer.

How many major providers of manufactured products and key services are going to have to disappear from our economic landscape before we come to recognize that our position as the financial engine of the world is being surrendered to countries like China?

The U.S. economy simply cannot take too many more of these blows.

In past columns, I've addressed the ails of the commercial airline industry. Now let's take a hard look at our economy's manufacturing sector.

It's become almost cliche to say that manufacturing in America is dying. And it's no great secret that the most significant cost disadvantage for U.S. manufacturers is labor. That applies to the auto industry and most others, including many small businesses that prop up our economy.

Last year, I watched an entrepreneur set about entering the fashion world with a popular pocketbook for women. Fashion magazines, retail stores and many customers were excited by her unique product.

But she quickly learned that to manufacture her product at a competitive price, she would have to have it made in China or Korea.

The prospect of long and expensive trips, communications and cultural misunderstandings, and the ins and outs of arcane government and business regulations in those countries all combined to complicate her plans exponentially.

This businesswoman's dream -- modest in comparison to the GM's of the world, but still promising -- is still underway. But when she first conceived of the project, she never anticipated the obstacles she was to face.

It's not easy trying to live the American Dream with workers from communist China.

Most public opinion surveys suggest that Americans are tired of seeing U.S. companies at a competitive disadvantage. But opinions vary widely on how to fix things.

As is often the case with major political and economic issues, most arguments fall into one of two polar-opposite camps. One favors tariffs on Asian imports. The other wants freer trade all over the world.

I'm considering a different approach.

Consider that American wages are dictated by contract, minimum wage standards or conditions in the labor market. The upshot is that U.S. workers are generally paid much higher wages than their counterparts in these emerging economic superpower nations.

The problem is that once the genie of high wages is out of the bottle, it's hard to put it back.


Matt Towery

Matt Towery is a former National Republican legislator of the year and author of Powerchicks: How Women Will Dominate America.
 
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