I’m no economist but I’ve long thought that one of the biggest problems facing the US economy is the fact that the US worker has become increasingly irrelevant in the global marketplace, largely because of the loss of US leadership in numerous key industries. Long gone are the days when US companies sat atop the pinnacle of global industry.
Aircraft: The US (Boeing) and Europe (Airbus) have been in a see-saw battle for the number one position.
Automobiles: Dominated by Japan (Toyota, Honda) and Germany (Volkswagen, BMW, Daimler).
Chemicals: Dominated by Europe (BASF, Shell, Bayer AG).
Petrochemicals: Dominated by the Seven Sisters – Saudi Aramco (Saudi Arabia), formerly Aramco; JSC Gazprom (Russia); CNPC (China), NIOC (Iran), PDVSA (Venezuela), Petrobras (Brazil), Petronas (Malaysia).
Semiconductors: While the US (Intel) occupies the number one position in the semiconductor industry, Korea (Samsung Electronics) and Japan (Toshiba Semiconductors) occupy no. 2 and 3 respectively.
Shipbuilding: Dominated by South Korea (Samsung Heavy Industries, Hyundai Heavy Industries, Daewoo Shipbuilding), Japan (Universal Shipbuilding Corp.) and China (Dalian New Ship Heavy Industry Co., Shanghai Waigaoqiao Shipbuilding).
Steel: Dominated by Luxembourg (Arcelor-Mittal), Japan (Nippon Steel), and Korea (POSCO).
Textiles: Dominated by China, Asia and Southeast Asia.
Americans used to build what the rest of the world wanted. Now Americans are the leading destination for import goods from around the world. This and irresponsible spending has helped to fuel the US’s “twin deficits” – a budget deficit (projected to hit over $400 billion this year) and a current account deficit (the trade deficit was $63 billion as of November 2007) – both of which are weighing the US economy down.
Here is one indication that the US economy is in serious trouble: the job growth engine is showing signs of stalling. So says Business Week in this sobering article, “The Great American Jobs Machine Is Conking Out”. The article points out that workers who lose their jobs are having a hard time finding new ones. This past January, 18.3% of jobless workers were out of work for six months or more, up from 16.2% a year earlier.
I still believe in the American Dream, that it can still be saved. Tomorrow is National Presidential Primary Day. I plan to vote. I hope you’ll join me.