At last, the 2016 election season has come to a close. Last week, millions of Americans let their voices be heard through the power of their ballots. As the campaigning and politicking has come to an end, there are several issues that were discussed during the campaign season that don’t often see the limelight outside of the political cycle. Issues, such as American manufacturing, should be a topic of national conversation not only during election season, but year round. There are several significant reasons that the state of American manufacturing is important to the country, regardless of election outcomes.
The sheer size of the American manufacturing sector highlights its pivotal role in overall economic health. Manufacturing may only account for 8.8 percent of total employment in the United States, but it is responsible for 62 percent of all national exports. In terms of generating revenue, the National Association of Manufacturers finds that “In the most recent data, manufacturers contributed $2.17 trillion to the U.S. economy in 2015… In 2015, manufacturing accounted for 12.1 percent of GDP in the economy.” The importance of manufacturing on the economy cannot be understated.
While the scope of the manufacturing sector is impressive, its performance leaves much to be desired. In a span of 15 years, from 1997 to 2012, approximately 5.5 million American manufacturing jobs were lost. These losses have led to a shortage of well-paying jobs for millions of Americans, many of whom have struggled to find gainful employment since the manufacturing downturn. Additionally, a weakened manufacturing sector has led to a greater trade deficit, which only further hurts the economy and hinders growth.
Luckily, there are opportunities on the horizon. The automotive industry has the potential to bolster and improve the manufacturing output of the United States. According to Auto Alliance, “The automotive industry spends nearly $100 billion globally on R&D – $18 billion per year in the U.S. alone – or an average of $1,200 for research and development per vehicle. In fact, the auto industry provides 16 percent of total worldwide R&D funding for all industries.” By investing in the industry, the United States can create manufacturing jobs and begin to reverse the trade deficit.
After the election, there are no longer swing states or battleground states, only the United States of America. The issue of creating American manufacturing jobs is much more than stump speech fodder: it is an opportunity to provide rewarding employment and improve the economy at large. The creation of American manufacturing jobs needs to go further than the automotive industry, but it is a perfect place to start.