29 May 2016

As US politicians romanticize doomed manufacturing jobs, the new working class is suffering

Tamara Draut

My dad was a machinist at a steel factory in Middletown, Ohio. He worked there for 29 years before accepting early retirement, leaving the job with a nice gold table-top clock and a generous pension. He was the fifth generation of Draut’s to work at the plant, and the last. Operating today with a fraction of the workforce, the steel factory no longer dominates my hometown economy the way it did when I was growing up.

Today, politicians of both parties promise to bring back manufacturing jobs. But as much as it pains me to say it, these efforts are misplaced. Instead, we desperately need to direct our attention towards improving the jobs of the new working class—the legions of fast food, retail, health care, and janitorial jobs who now form the backbone of our economy. These are jobs that can’t be outsourced to China, Vietnam, or India. While America’s public intellectuals wax eloquently, and even idolize, the innovation and ideation done by tech workers, the reality that most Americans actually work in a bargain-basement economy remains on the margins of contemporary political discourse.


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