The Myth of American Manufacturing and the Growing Wealth Gap

2064 WordsFeb 26, 20188 Pages
The Myth of American Manufacturing and the Growing Wealth Gap Like some diseased snake chewing and spewing filth, writhing its way through the forest’s underbelly, the murky Rouge River cuts a dark path through the greater Detroit area providing power to dusty columns of derelict factories that, admittedly, need the cheap juice no longer. Turn back the clocks half a century, however, and a different scene emerges. The year is 1957 and a chrome-clad leviathan clangs its way down the assembly line in Ford’s Detroit River Rouge Complex. A 2,000 acre sprawl of chimneys and spires, the concrete behemoth that is the Rouge was once the largest industrial facility in the world (National Park Service). At its height the Rouge employed 100,000 hardy workers who could roll a new Crown Victoria or Skyliner off the line every 49 seconds (“The Henry Ford”). I find it hard to picture the sweat-beaded factory man whose hands clang away at that metal monstrosity limbering down the line. Physically his face is obvious of course—leathery and rugged. But from my 21st century perspective, this blue-collar worker’s status in 1950s America seems bizarre. Completely integrated socially and politically. A card-carrying member of America’s middle class. In 1950 this man would have counted himself among the nearly 35 percent of Americans employed in manufacturing jobs, by far the largest sector that era (Halle and Romo). So—what happened? How did these manufacturing men die off? More importantly,
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