Beth Macy Reviews ReMaking America

Nov 03 2014

The author of “Factory Man” on the book that outlines how to Keep it Made in America.

ReMaking America” makes a cogent, forceful argument about why American manufacturing matters, how it came to be decimated by unfettered free trade, and how we can get it back on track again. Meticulously documented, the essay collection, edited by Richard McCormack, pulls together essays by economists, trade experts and leading thinkers in global competitiveness.

As a source for my narrative nonfiction book, “Factory Man: How One Furniture Maker Battled Offshoring, Stayed Local — and Helped Save an American Town,” “ReMaking America” assembled disparate anecdotes and studies in one easy-to-understand exploration of contemporary American economics. It synthesized the latest statistics and studies I was reading in the media and helped me view them from a broader, longer-term perspective.

It’s one thing to read about Walmart’s push to sell more made-in-America products, but another thing entirely to understand that company’s historical role in America’s shift from a nation of producers to a nation of consumers. 

It helped me put the real-life anecdotes I was witnessing in the trade-impacted areas featured in “Factory Man” into a broader frame, and it was key to my understanding of one of the book’s most important takeaways: that the United States’ “grand economic experiment” of offshoring one-third of its production had decimated the working class while the rest of the country yawned — and bought more stuff at Walmart. 

No one was minding the back room of the new global store. 

Author Beth Macy

From 2000 to 2012, some 5.5 million manufacturing jobs vanished — a number that averages out to a staggering 1,200-plus jobs per day. “ReMaking America” shows how those numbers impacted other aspects of our economy, from the U.S. trade deficit with China ($318 billion) to a tripling in the number of people who receive food stamps.

McCormack and his authors put the barrage of statistics into perspective. Sure, the unemployment rate is down to 5.9 percent, but what of the 7.4 million Americans who are are woefully underemployed in part-time work, many of them toiling as Walmart cashiers? What about the fact that more Americans are now on disability than are working in factory jobs? 

ReMaking America” is a useful tool for anyone wanting a broader context on globalization beyond the latest economic reports. More importantly, it offers a clear blueprint for getting the economy on track again, from economic development and exchange rate regulation to investments in infrastructure and worker training.

Beth Macy