For all its glory, the demise of American manufacturing had long been considered inevitable. That is, until recently.
In his third State of the Union Address, President Obama laid out an ambitious vision for a stronger America, in which manufacturing loomed large.
Though details of the president's proposals have sparked controversy, his calls for a manufacturing revival have not. In an era of staunch partisanship, support for U.S. manufacturing enjoys a rare bipartisan consensus.
But should it? Is the rebirth of America's manufacturing industry necessarily a good thing?
Not everyone agrees.
According to some economists, Americans should invent and innovate, rather than work on assembly lines.
Others point to the positive impact manufacturing jobs have had in developing countries. By moving their factories to China, U.S. firms like Apple have helped lift hundreds of millions of individuals out of abject poverty. Bringing these jobs back home risks stifling such progress.
What's more, many believe it may be impossible to bring many of these jobs back. They argue that the U.S. cannot compete with the low wages, willing workers, and efficient supply chains overseas.
Still, the U.S. has lost nearly 8 million factory jobs since the 1970s. Economists once predicted that other sectors would pull up the slack. They were wrong. While low-wage service sector jobs have grown, middle class jobs-like those in manufacturing-have not. For millions of Americans, it's now harder to enter or stay in the middle class.
Where do you stand? Can and should U.S. manufacturing make a comeback?
For more information see
David M. Ewalt, "Manufacturing Jobs Aren't Coming Back and That's OK," Forbes, November 8, 2011
Charles Duhigg and Keith Bradsher, "How the U.S. Lost Out on iPhone Work," The New York Times, January 21, 2012
Photo Credits in order of Appearance:
Pete Souza/The White House [also for picture 4]
Kyle Bruggeman, Nebraska News21/Released