These are a bunch of random thoughts from my lunch break today. This argument will be framed under a hypothetical scenario: imagine if Apple would relocate its production to the United States. What would need to happen for this to occur? Two factors.
1. How do you convince a middle class person to consider a manufacturing job as middle class? First off, manufacturing has always had a respectable ethos (the satisfaction of building stuff with your hands); it just never was a signifier of upper class access to sex. The middle class strives for a white-collar job where you don’t get dirty and “brains over brawn” predominates. Fair enough. At the very least, manufacturing has to be able to pay an attractive middle class wage before tackling the other social image issues. If you could make $25-35 an hour building iPhones, you might jump at that opportunity.
2. How do you maintain profit margins when paying middle class wages? Apple goes to China for the labor, pure and simple. There are three potential excuses when dealing with logistics: do you have a labor force, do you have infrastructure, and do you have a site. With the modularity of construction techniques today, as well as the vast network of US Highways and Interstates, both the infrastructure and site issues are a non-issue. Apple could whip up a factory building and ship over the tools and machinery within a few months. A labor force is clearly the limiting factor.
Here is my theory on how we could blast US manufacturing into the next dimension and solve the recession easily.
Make a pact with manufacturing companies like Apple. Promise to cut all operating taxes if they relocate operations to the United States. Part of the pact is that they must offer consumer products as close to current market prices as possible while turning prior tax revenue into employee salaries. Seriously. As of right now, taxes get dumped into entitlement programs(medicare), defense, and state budgets. Fuck that. Send the government check to the company to make their (and our) wildest dreams possible. Its not trickle-down economics if your boss is physically handing you a $25-35 an hour paycheck. The current tax sinks would work just as well coming from a society that produces so much that it has time for philanthropic expenditure into said social programs. But if this could happen, everyone would be jumping to work, thereby greatly reducing demand on social programs- a perpetuating cycle.
If they could find a balanced budget way to do this, the company would be free to skim profit from the reduction in transportation costs. Tack on an associated incentive for creating growth around the immediate vicinity. Find ways to initially make the switch income-neutral (and completely patriotic, aka “We don’t really need to do this, but it would look really good and people would embrace us returning to the USA”). Make the switch income-positive in the long term future.