Honestly, George, it's a good thing the government isn't doing even more counter-productive things. Even if manufacturing comes back in a big way, it won't be the way it was before.
Manufacturing jobs of the last century have to evolve into more IT-related jobs, or even robot machine tending jobs.
No one likes to hear hard luck stories, but we also do not need the government to artifically prop up stagecoach driving jobs, if you know what I mean.
I did not assert that the government hasn't contributed mightily to creation of a range of strategic industries, most notably electronics. With government funding of basic R&D, many of the technology advances of the last generation would not have been possible. What I intended to say, and apparently failed, is that successive administration have given manufacturing short shrift and have stood by and done virtually nothing to slow, much less stop, the outsourcing of manufacturing jobs. Indeed, they have looked the other way, and we have been paying the economic costs ever since. Government cannot magically create manufacturing jobs, but it can develop a coherent policy that emphasizes investment in training, R&D into new product design along with the creation of new jobs that employ skilled workers. I saw a guy last night on the "CBS Evening News" who took a manufacturing job for half what he used to make. He said he had lost his house, divorced his wife and had been living in fleabag motels for several years. He told the reporter he felt "crappy" about himself until he went back to work. Now he at least has his self-respect. There are many like this guy across the country, folks who just want a second chance and the dignity that comes with standing on your own two feet. That was my point all along. I wish I had made it better. In the meantime, let's keep this debate going. It's fundamental to the future of America.
Do you actually work in the tech field? Are you totally unaware of the government's contribution to the development of technology? To name a bit of government contribution... our public universities, the technology developed by NASA and the aerospace companies, the national labs, research programs sponsored by DARPA/NSF/NIH including SBIRs that have helped start many very successful tech startups.
That's not to mention the fact that we are competing with countries like S. Korea and China that have far more direct government support and industrial policies.
It's certainly worth the EE Times community weighing in on government priorities as the author did, but this sort of "government has made no contribution ever" political sloganeering has no place in any discussion within an industry that owes so much to the private-public partnership that made the U.S. the technology leader of the world.
aarunaku, it seems counter-intuitive to most non-EEs. A piece of woven fabric -- perhaps a shirt made in China or Bangladesh -- will fetch a retail price higher than the sophisticated applications processor that runs your smartphone. Why? Because that garment costs more to make and distribute than the apps processor does. Simple economics.
The wonders of Moore's Law do sometimes boggle the mind when you compare the low cost of what we build to the cost of many other ordinary things in life.
"What I do not understand in the domain of EE is, how can a block of wood or a piece of woven fabric costs more than a more sophisticated engineered electronic component?"
The manufacturing cost equation is heavily skewed to how much manual labor is involved, at least in developed countries. That block of wood, if it is carved by a craftsman, costs more than a chip with a zillion transistors, mass produced.
tb1, your point is well taken, particularly since you started by quoting one of my favorite sources. ;-)
As a thought experiment, let's do the following. Let's assign to the administration the best and purest of motives in setting up this fiasco by a half billion loan guarantee. Ok. Now, here's the problem that you allude to: why not make buggy whips instead of solar arrays? No market, hence any cost is too high, a lot of money committed, and in the end, no jobs, no factory working, and no buggy whips. It was inevitable that a system that cost 3 times a conventional system (built in the US) would flounder, unless some very special niche market appeared. It didn't; the company disappeared as well. Along with a cool 500 million.
I'm just an EE. Marketing strikes me a a combination of guesses, hopes and prayers, combined with a few statistics and surveys. Management of large firms completely escapes me. But I do know this: if you cannot create the market for your product, it had better exist before you start producing a solution to a problem. Also, it seems inescapable that the administration knows less about marketing products than I do. That's pretty scary, since the administration has access to the best minds in any field in the country. Too bad they didn't use them.
"What, in heaven's name, will a Democratic administration do to foster manufacturing in the US?"
Hah! There's a large recently built manufacturing plant in Fremont (Solyndra) financed through the help of the Democratic administration! Of course, the plant is now closed.
You can't do manufacturing just to have manufacturing. It has to be economically viable or it is just throwing money away. The tax code was changed a few administrations back that made it more economical to move manufacturing overseas. Whether is makes sense to undo this is an economic decision that is way over my head! Certainly it would be good to encourage manufacturing in the US, but what's the proper way to do this?
Agree that shrinking product life cycles have greatly complicated manufacturing, not to mention R&D. Products that took several years to bring to market lasted at least a decade. Now everyone is wondering when the next iPad will be available a few months after the previous model came out. Taken together, all this feeds short-term thinking and undermines attempts to revive U.S. manufacturing.