Who Lost American Jobs?

Americans are about to suffer a tsunami of professionally oversimplified political propaganda designed to cultivate scientifically targeted constituencies. The Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission prohibiting the government from restricting political expenditures by corporations and unions opened the floodgates of election year spending. Distortions are going to rain down on us like Noah’s flood.

The Partisan Blame Game

Here’s one question close to the heart of every patriotic American: Who’s responsible for the disappearance of manufacturing jobs? Republicans blame “corrupt” unions. Democrats blame “greedy” corporations. Both explanations are distorted oversimplifications. The truth is more complex. An important factor in the disappearance of manufacturing jobs is also a tribute to American ingenuity.

In the depths of the Great Depression, a North Carolina farm boy with a high school education gave up a job pumping gas, bought a secondhand truck, and went on to build McLean Trucking. McLean grew into one of the largest trucking companies in U.S. history, and was the first to be listed on the stock exchange. But Malcom Purcell McLean’s real claim to fame is as the leading pioneer of containerized shipping.

Before containerization, cargo was “loaded, lashed, unlashed and unloaded from the ship one piece at a time” by stevedores. “What was new about McLean’s innovation was the idea of using large containers that were never opened in transit between shipper and consignee and that were transferable on an intermodal basis, among trucks, ships and railcars.”

Manufacturers couldn’t move jobs to low-wage factories in other parts of the world until there was a way to economically transport vast quantities of goods long distances. McLean led the way in solving this problem. A container ship can be loaded or unloaded in a few hours. There is less breakage and pilferage. Containerization dramatically reduced shipping time and costs. The largest ships now carry up to 15,000 containers.

“By making shipping so cheap that industry could locate factories far from its customers, the container paved the way for Asia to become the world’s workshop and brought consumers a previously unimaginable variety of low-cost products from around the world.” It’s easy to discover what happened to American manufacturing jobs. Just list the world’s busiest container ports: Singapore,  Shanghai, Hong Kong, Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Ningbo, Qingdao, Dubai  and Rotterdam.

As McLean’s first ship was leaving port, “Freddy Fields, a top official of the International Longshoremen’s Association ., asked what he thought of the newly fitted container ship, replied, ‘I’d like to sink that son of a bitch.’” The unions weren’t the only ones trying to block practical innovation.“Shipping lines, railway companies … vehemently opposed and tried to block the use of containerized ships. Traditional U.S. flag carriers … Moore-McCormack, Delta-Lines and Prudential-Grace saw a threat to their market dominance with … conventional break-bulk vessels … [and] jointly … induced South American governments to invoke legislation outlawing Sea-Land’s containers …”

Noah’s Ark may have been the first container ship mentioned in history. Every kind shared one boat. First the flood of oversimplification is going to rain down upon us “until all the high mountains are covered fifteen cubits deep,” and balanced perspective is “blotted out from the Earth.” Then we will disembark together, to reconstruct the spiritual and material economies of our devastated lands, with God’s covenanted rainbow of diversity extending over all, guiding our common future and bolstering our hope.

One Nation Under God

Keep an Open Mind

The flood of election year distortion eventually recedes. When your mind’s made up, and you’re ready to tolerate any distortion as long as your side wins, recall Noah. Strive for truth and righteousness. Resist partisan oversimplification. Shun divisive distortion. Remember that the healthiest patriotism is grounded in facts, not partisan politics.


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