I have not given enough recognition to the justified frustrations of the Trump voters. I want to apologize for that. I’m not thinking I was wrong to oppose Trump, but he is our President now and we all need to conquer our differences to move ahead.
Here’s where I admit I was wrong: He understood the anger of the people who have been left behind. He understood it better than his Republican colleagues and better than Hillary Clinton. He saw the anger and frustration and offered to do something about it. I think that’s why he got elected.
Loss of good jobs seemed to be the biggest frustration. My parents worked in a factory and provided a decent income for our family of six in High Point, NC. Both worked at Adams-Millis, a manufacturer of stockings and socks. This company grew to become the largest manufacturer of private label hosiery in the US at one time.
When competition heated up, my dad was asked to operate two large knitting machines instead of one. His health suffered. He had to quit in his 50s. Adams-Millis subsequently grew to 1,300 employees. Things began to change. Closures and layoffs began in the 90s and the last employees left in 2003.
In High Point, NC, the furniture and textile companies were the main employers. These industries were almost destroyed in the 90s by foreign competition, mainly from China. A lot of guys in their 50s, and 60s lost jobs and couldn’t find other work. Wives went to work to make ends meet. Some people took jobs at less pay and took a second job, or more recently, found a little work in the “gig” economy, like driving for Uber or Lyft.
The US lost 5.6 million manufacturing jobs between 2000 and 2010. That’s about 30% of our manufacturing jobs. Trump really understood the anger of people in places like High Point. Did he understand the underlying reasons for the problem? Is he on the right track?
Another thing was happening, something Donald Trump hasn’t talked about–something much more important than China–technology. Technology was accelerating across recent decades. While some towns like High Point lost jobs to China, jobs moving out of the US were only 15% of the total jobs lost across the US. 85% of the manufacturing jobs lost were due to technology. Everything in manufacturing that was repetitive was being automated. Robots calculated to cost only $8 per hour were replacing $25 per hour workers. Computers often operated the robots.
We have to ask ourselves, is manufacturing going the same way as agriculture? Agriculture provided 60% of US jobs in 1850. Now, agriculture only requires 3% of our workers. Technology is responsible for much of the reduced need in agriculture. Many other types of jobs are now at risk to technology. Scanners replace toll takers at bridge entrances. People are buying online, which means less stores and less clerks. Now we have driverless vehicles on the horizon. That’s potentially at least 4 million more jobs, counting taxis, Uber and Lyft, busses, and trucks. Then there’s 3D printing. And GE says their latest jet engines can diagnose themselves when something’s in need of repair. One study suggests 47% of all US jobs are eventually at risk to automation.
Trump understood the anger about loss of jobs, loss of good jobs and the pay that goes with that. Does he understand the real reasons? If he doesn’t know why we lost jobs, he can’t fix it. Manufacturing jobs cannot be brought back from China. Job loss is mostly about technology. The wall with Mexico is not going to bring back jobs. The buildup in military is not going to bring back jobs.
My father took pride in his skill at rabbit hunting with his dogs, down in Randolph County. He sometimes remarked “…that hound’s on a cold trail.” He could tell by the dog’s bark. Some hunters say they can’t be broke from it, get rid of them. Some say they can if you work with them. President Trump is on a cold trail. If he can’t be broke from it, we’ll have to get rid of him. We must work together to get him onto a hot trail.