From “The Seven Democratic Virtues: What You Can Do to Overcome Tribalism and Save Our Democracy” by Christopher Beem
As the rest of the world slowly rebuilt, the US manufacturing advantage began to decline, as did its economic preeminence. Competition heated up, and many jobs went offshore as companies sought cheaper labor in developing nations. Finally, automation (including robots) and computers eventually eliminated the need for so many assembly lines – and so many laborers: “Manufacturing and agriculture employed one in three workers just after World War II. Today, those sectors employ only one in eight.” The effects of these changes – good and bad – have not been distributed equitably. All over America, towns that depended on that one industry or that one factory reeled from the shift, and some have never fully recovered. Of course, economic growth has continued, but it has been driven by the comparative growth of service sector jobs, which offer lower wages and often no union support, and of highly skilled, professional jobs in the so-called knowledge economy. The latter are frequently in major metropolitan areas, and employees in these industries have become more transient and less attached to “place” than those in generations past. These changes, along with a dramatic lowering of the tax burden on those earning the most, have led to historically high inequality levels and a hollowing out of the middle class.