NAFTA is not the enemy!

Our view on free trade: Bashing NAFTA misses real reason for factory job losses


That force has been the unprecedented and sweeping gains in worker productivity that have allowed U.S. companies to churn out more goods with fewer people. Some of this has come from outsourcing the most labor-intensive parts of manufacturing, particularly to Asia. But much of it is from the use of more automated systems for assembly lines and high-tech inventory management.

Put another way, the main job killer of the past 14 years has not been the "giant sucking sound" of jobs going to Mexico, as enunciated by Ross Perot. Rather it has been that giant humming sound of machines replacing humans.

Overall, this increased productivity has led to rising living standards and made the American economy more competitive. It has also left some people behind at a cost of considerable personal pain.

But to make NAFTA a centerpiece of the debate over the manufacturing economy is cheap pandering. Modifying or scrapping NAFTA wouldn't create jobs or more skilled workers. The idea raises false hope and seeks to scapegoat Mexico and Canada.

The only real answer to the problem of declining employment in manufacturing lies in educating younger workers and retraining older ones. This is, to be sure, a big challenge and a tough sell politically. American schools continue to underperform, particularly in technical knowledge. And most federal retraining programs have failed.

Comment: Re "retraining": I've been retraining for my entire 40+ years in the workforce! I'm doing stuff today that was unthought of in 1967: Sharepoint, Cold Fusion, SQL Server 2005, HTML, CSS, SQL, XML, etc. As a free-trader, NAFTA is not the enemy!

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