Regarding the Aug. 18, Page 6 Perspective column “SWOT for the plastics industry,” Dave Larson has some good ideas but he hardly goes far enough to address the problem. Actually there is a dilemma; let's put it into better perspective.
Is he concerned about jobs going overseas, or is it companies losing business to foreign competitors because of lower labor costs?
He reports that 2 million manufacturing jobs have been lost in the United States in the last 2½ years, including many in the plastics industry. In the next breath, he bemoans the fact that “plastics manufacturers find it hard to compete with those countries.” Perhaps it's both.
But, if our U.S. plastics manufacturers become more efficient — and hence more productive — as Larson urges, won't that mean fewer workers to make the products? And won't that mean more jobs lost in our industry? The net result is the same as far as the workers are concerned: They are out of work. That's the dilemma. I call it the “productivity/labor cost/employment dilemma.”
We need to look at the forest rather than get immersed among the trees and branches. The really important issue is how well our citizens are able to live. Up until now, we have done well. Sure, there are some people on the lower end of the distribution curve, and society does try to make accommodations to help them and, hopefully, raise their standards through education and training.
Our national goal should be to keep trying to skew the distribution curve to the right so that more and more people are able to enjoy better and better standards of living. Of course, our plastics industry, as a major U.S. industry, is a significant part of this — and we can, and we should, contribute toward this end.
The obvious (?) answer to this dilemma is to find ways to keep our citizens well-occupied and more economically able to enjoy life. The question, then, is how to accomplish that goal.
I have my own ideas as related to the composites segment of the plastics industry. I present this perspective as a challenge to other readers of Plastics News. Let's see what good ideas they can come up with.
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