CNN Presents: Half the Story

By December 1, 2004General

Did anyone see “CNN Presents: Company Town” last night? Anchored by Aaron Brown and produced by Emily Probst, it was a fairly one-sided and gloomy account of manufacturing and our purported decline. It was actually a strange hour-long program in that it had no voice over, just an occasional black screen with an ominous text message, with more hand-wringing, more crepe-hanging. Amidst the innuendo in this meandering tale, there was some ersatz expert from Harvard, of uncertain portfolio, who spoke in the tone of an undertaker and foretold the end of the middle class. For some reason, no one thought to contact us in the hopes of finding balance (remember balance?) along the way.

Had they reached us, we would have told them that manufacturing is still one-sixth of the US Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Standing alone, it would make us the fifth largest economy in the world. We are 60% larger than the retail sector and 130% larger than the agriculture, construction and mining sectors combined. We are responsible for two-thirds of all research and development and three-quarters of all exports.

We prefer to focus on the positive story of manufacturing and the effect we have on a town when a plant decides to locate there. If CNN is serious about the health of manufacturing — and not just in taking cheap shots — they should probably focus their attention on the 22% (non-wage) cost disadvantage we have with our trading partners.

As manufacturers know all too well, we are in a worldwide competition for jobs and we are still the most productive nation in the world, the most competitive, the best manufacturers in the world. However, the growing burden of legal, regulatory, energy costs and taxes are making it tougher and tougher for us to compete. If you’re looking for threats to the middle class, look no further.

We’d be happy to work with CNN whenever they decide to present this other half of the story.