The epic mistake about manufacturing that’s cost Americans millions of jobs

Jun 19, 2018

Looking back, there were two kinds of people who lived in America in 2016: people who believed Donald Trump, and people who believed data.

Trump claimed on the campaign trail that globalization had destroyed US manufacturing—and in the process, the American economy—by letting China and other countries steal American factory jobs. From the turnout at Trump’s rallies and the “Make America Great Again” stickers slapped on bumpers across America, it was clear the message was resonating.

The data camp didn’t get it. Yes, the US had hemorrhaged manufacturing jobs, losing close to 5 million of them since 2000. Trade may have been a factor—but it clearly wasn’t the main culprit. Automation was. Robots and fancy machines had supplanted workers, turning the US into a manufacturing dynamo at the cutting edge of innovation. An article in Vox, published a month before the 2016 presidential election, spelled out the situation.

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