Explain what you mean?
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Ok, I will address what you said point by point:
1. US made stuff employs people in the US.
While the statement is obviously true, there are all kinds of underlying factors that it completely ignores.
First, it just assumes that because there is a need for a particular skill (job), that it can be filled by an American worker and that assumption is wrong
. There are shortages of all kinds of skilled labor in this country, e.g. doctors, engineers, tradesmen, truck drivers, etc. Three of those four examples are jobs that cannot be outsourced to other countries. All of those shortages have been exacerbated by multiple factors like the poor state of education in this country, entitlement mentality that pervades huge swathes of the population (Democrats, Republicans, and anyone else), an elitist mentality prioritizing (often worthless) college educations over trades, and immigration policy. Yeah, that last one will really get some people going!
Furthermore, you have tens of millions of jobs available in this country that have gone unfilled. Some of that is because people have chosen to collect "enhanced" unemployment over working right now, but it also is because there are certain jobs Americans just don't want to do. You assume that American workers (in sufficient numbers) want
to produce tires (or any other job). This is another wrong assumption.
Second, it assumes that just because something could
be made in the U.S., that it should. If I'm a Chinese business owner that can make tires identical in quality and features to an American business owner, but I can make the Chinese product for $100 vs. the US product at $300, why on earth should the product be made in the US? Conversely, if I am an American farmer that can produce corn at $4 a bushel and make way more than I need, why would Chinese people buy Chinese corn that costs $15 a bushel to produce? That makes no sense at all. And this is the basis of all trade between countries, and in fact, people. This is a concept known as comparative advantage, which states that countries/companies/people should engage in the businesses where they have advantages in production, and trade for goods where they don't, and then both parties are better off. It's the same thing for people. The mechanic specializes in what they are good at, and trades their labor (in the form of money) for what they aren't good at. Unfortunately most people don't understand why trade happens or how wealth is created. But think of it this way - why would any trade happen at all if it wasn't mutually beneficial to both parties?
Finally, tying the two concepts together, let's take a look at a particular industry that proves my point - leading edge semiconductor manufacturing.
Taiwan Semiconductor makes the vast majority (~70% share) of leading edge semiconductors in the world, followed by Samsung (Korea). Everyone else has crumbs. Nearly 100% of the most advanced semiconductors in the world are made in Asia. These were not jobs that were sent overseas by an American company. And these companies produced the chips better and cheaper than everyone else. They only produce the chips - they don't engineer and design them. The most advanced semiconductors are still designed and engineered in the US and Europe. And engineering and design is where a lot of the value is. So for a semiconductor design and engineering firm, instead of investing literally tens of billions of dollars every two years for a single fab (manufacturing plant), of which they might need dozens, for something they are not good at, it makes sense to focus on their strengths (design and engineering), and let another company focus on their strengths (manufacturing). Both parties win. Keep in mind that these chips are not junk, they are the highest quality possible, and they are made cheaper than anywhere else.
So to wrap it up, I've demonstrated several points:
- Certain jobs cannot be filled by American workers at any cost
- There are shortages of labor in jobs that cannot be sent overseas
- There are jobs that Americans don't want to do for any reasonable wage
- Just because something could be made in the US, doesn't mean it makes sense to do so
- Focusing on out strengths and engaging in trade for things where we are relatively weak, makes the country better off, not worse off
- Countries/companies/people engage in trade because it makes both parties better off
- Some jobs aren't done in the US anymore not because a company sent the jobs overseas, but because it can be done better elsewhere
So yes, it's just slightly more complicated than jobs being sent to China solely because of cheaper labor, which brings me to the next point you made.
2. Workers in China and similar countries are paid near slave labor wages.
This is completely wrong for several reasons. First of all, the median annual wage in China is 97k Yuan
Wages in China increased to 106837 CNY/Year in 2021 from 97379 CNY/Year in 2020. Wages in China averaged 15577.11 CNY/Year from 1952 until 2021, reaching an all time high of 106837.00 CNY/Year in 2021 and a record low of 445.00 CNY/Year in 1952. This page provides - China Average Yearly Wages -...
Which is the equivalent of $15k,
which happens to be higher than the federal minimum wage in the United States.
Minimum hourly wages in China equate to about $3.75 an hour.
I'd argue that average wages being higher than the minimum wage in the U.S are hardly "near slave wages." And while $3.75 an hour for minimum wage in China might sound low, or even $15k a year, you are completely ignoring the lower cost of living in China.
Conveniently, economists track such things as the differences in costs of goods between countries, and calculate the relative value of currencies in each country. This is called Purchasing Power Parity. Basically, it says how much purchasing power a foreign currency would have in U.S. dollar equivalents. In this case, how far does one Chinese Yuan go in China in US dollar equivalents.
The purchasing power of one Chinese Yuan in China has 4.186 times the purchasing power of one US dollar in the U.S. In other words, the cost of living is way lower in China.
Find, compare and share OECD data by indicator.
This means that you take the wages I just quoted above, and multiply them by 4.186 to see what the actual purchasing power is in China. Another way to think about it is what the equivalent wage would be in the U.S.
So in China, the average annual wage is equivalent to $63k US dollars, and the minimum wage is equivalent to $15.53 an hour when adjusted for difference in cost of living.
These are hardly near slave wages. China has had the fastest growing middle class in the world for decades now.
In fact, wages have grown so quickly in China that many companies have either started moving factories from China to other countries,
or stopped investing in new factories in China because of this. Right now it costs $10,000 to ship a single container from Asia to the U.S., which is a huge part of the cost equation for companies, not just labor.
3. Not all products are made equally
I agree, and I already addressed that above. These are choices consumers make and what drives the market. Unless of course you'd prefer the government control everything, in which case people would be complaining we are communists. Consumers determine the value of a product to them. Not everyone wants to pay for Snap-On quality tools when they are going to use them once.
4. China pollutes, which allows them to make products cheaper, but we are over-regulated
Is your point that we should pollute more to make products cheaper? Or that we shouldn't buy products that pollute and ignore those costs (externalities)?
If your point is the former, pretty much nobody is going to agree with you. Ever been to China? It's a polluted hell-hole.
If your point is the latter, I'm not sure how you force China to not pollute their country other than through various forms of coercion if they aren't willing to do it. You can educate consumers on these externalities that aren't in the price of goods and help them make more informed decisions. Fortunately all the evidence in the world shows that as countries become richer, they become much cleaner because people demand a cleaner environment. I suspect in a couple decades, China will be much cleaner.
This may seem like a long post, but it actually simplifies the issues quite a bit.
So yes, it's slightly more complicated than you make it out to be.