The real problem is productivity says Greg Ip at the Wall Street Journal.
For the United Auto Workers, it makes perfect sense to demand more pay and better work-life balance from Detroit’s three automakers. After all, workers throughout this historically tight labor market are getting exactly that.
But what makes sense to striking factory workers makes no sense for manufacturing as a whole. Pay is ultimately tied to productivity: the quantity and quality of products a company’s workforce churns out. And here, American manufacturing companies and workers are in trouble. The issue isn’t with labor-intensive products such as clothing and furniture, which largely moved offshore long ago. Rather, it’s in the most advanced products: electric cars and batteries, power-generation equipment, commercial aircraft and semiconductors.
Yes, American companies still lead the world in design and innovation, but the resulting products increasingly are made abroad, especially in Asia. Biden, like former President Donald Trump before him, wants to reverse this, through tariffs, subsidies and other government interventions. Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and especially China certainly intervened plenty to help their manufacturers.