America's Manufacturing--Gone Or Just Different?

Jeremiahs and assorted doomsayers say American manufacturing has all been exported and we're doomed. But is it really gone...or just different?

A "Jeremiah", in case you're wondering, is a reference to the person of the same name in the Bible who spent a lot of his book calling down doom on various institutions, people and nations.  Thus, someone who spends a lot of his time on message boards saying things like "America is doomed", "we have no manufacturing capability left", "we're all wildly immoral", or making any reference to "sheeple" might safely be called a Jeremiah.

But then, I got a little ad email from the crew out at The Motley Fool that got me wondering--is it GONE?  Really gone?  Or just not what we immediately think of any more?

Go ahead, says the Fool--let China choke on their vast clouds of pollution as they make cheap clothes and cheap stereos and cheap damn near everything else!  We don't need that!  What WE'VE got here in the 'States, the Fool elaborates, is a specialized kind of manufacturing.  A kind of manufacturing that requires incredible precision and care and attention to detail.  Robots and slave labor can churn out endless piles of bargain basement crap, says the Fool, we tackle the really big stuff.  Like that one part for a gigawatt nuclear power plant that won't work without it.  Or those handfuls of tiny chips that an airplane can't fly without.   Stuff that, the Fool concludes with just a hint of smugness, a bunch of backward uneducated slave laborers couldn't possibly produce in their wildest dreams.

Of course, what the Fool really doesn't seem to get--or mention--is exactly how many people we can employ making that one tiny part that no one can live without, and what exactly we're supposed to do with the sheer flood of workers who are desperately and frantically hunting for jobs right this second before they're tossed out of their now-underwater homes. 

They do have a point in that Americans have always been innovators, and looking to the old models of doing business are sure to screw us all over, but this transition, as some put it, is neither cheap nor easy nor fast.  And how exactly we're supposed to get everyone on board is an answer that is, as yet, undiscovered.  It is an answer worth considering, though, and one that represents serious opportunities for investors.  Getting on board with this model might help bolster some badly damaged savings.

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