We keep hearing about how we need more jobs and that congress and the president are not doing enough to help create them. And of course there are those pundits who for lack of anything else to do as well as a lack of empathy and knowledge of anything outside their narrow view of the world are saying that not only is the recession over but it ended last summer in June. Well that's news to me and a number of unemployed people I am sure.
Let us rewind a bit though and take a look at where the jobs use to be. When the industrial revolution really got underway starting in the early 20th century. With the wide spread use of electricity and the automobile and then the telephone and radio, new industries sprouted up like weeds. Not just the end products themselves but most of the parts and assemblies that went unto them as well.
Separate companies for the carburetors and wheels and tires and batteries and ignition systems and radios that went into them. Parts for the radios and broadcast transmitters. Resistors and capacitors and coils and transformers and tubes and switches and controls - RCA, GE, Sylvania, Westinghouse, Zenith, Tune Sol - and speakers, all were either separate companies or divisions of those companies that made these products. The electric mixers and motors and heaters etc. Companies like Mallory, Sprague, Cornell Doubler, Centralab, Universal, Thordarson, Messner, Omite and on and on. And all of this by hand, little or no automation. All required people to do at least some, if not all, of the assembly and testing.
And steel. Just about everything had steel it it. Not just the cars but radios and appliances and office products. Steel was used for the chassis and for shielding and of course the power transformers. All of this made here in the good old USA. Wire - miles of it - used in everything. All electronics was had wired up until sometime in the 1950s. And even when circuit boards came into use, they were mounted on steel chassis and hand wired to the rest of the set. Support services with secretaries and administrative assistants and accountants to keep track of all of this.
Yes, up until sometime in the late 60s to early 70s American products were very labor intensive. Technology and international trade slowly but surely changed all that. Factories became more automated. Computers and automated systems replaced the manual labor. Even the accountants. Solid state electronics spelled the demise of the vacuum tube. Plastic and composites began to replace steel and other metals. Companies went out of business or became automated or were bought out by foreign interests. Their products no longer needed or were being manufactured better and cheaper elsewhere. Integrated circuits took the place of tubes and were made by machine in special clean areas to prevent any contamination. Transformers were not needed nearly as much since more and more electronics we being designed to work better and weigh less without them. Competition from foreign products made for more choices for the consumer but lead to smaller and smaller consumer base for American companies.
Where went the jobs ? The same technology and progress that gave us the advances and new industries put these self same industries out of business.