Making It

Why Manufacturing Still Matters

From the longtime New York Times economics correspondent, a closely reported argument for the continuing importance of industry for American prosperity

“A tour de force of reporting, analysis, and—best of all—suggested solutions.” —Barbara Ehrenreich on Louis Uchitelle’s The Disposable American

In the 1950s manufacturing generated nearly 30 percent of U.S. income. Over the past fifty-five years, that share has gradually declined to less than 12 percent, at the same time that real estate, finance, and Wall Street trading have grown. While manufacturing’s share of the U.S. economy shrinks, it expands in countries such as China and Germany that have a strong industrial policy. Meanwhile Americans are only vaguely aware of the many consequences—including a decline in their self-image as inventive, practical, and effective people—of the loss of that industrial base.

Reporting from places where things were and sometimes still are “Made in the USA”—Albany and New York, New York; Boston; Detroit; Fort Wayne and Indianapolis, Indiana; Los Angeles; Midland, Michigan; Milwaukee; Philadelphia; St. Louis; and Washington, DC—longtime New York Times economics correspondent Louis Uchitelle argues that the government has a crucial role to play in making domestic manufacturing possible. If the Department of Defense subsidizes the manufacture of weapons and war matériel, why shouldn’t the government support the industrial base that powers our economy?

Combining brilliant reportage with an incisive economic and political argument, Making It tells the overlooked story of manufacturing’s still-vital role in the United States and how it might expand.


“Is there any way to bring back the manufacturing jobs that once supported the American working class? Louis Uchitelle, who so ably chronicled the massive layoffs of the ’80s and ’90s for the New York Times, thinks yes—if we are willing to accept the fact that manufacturing has always been publicly subsidized and owes the public something in return. If we should ever again have a rational and enlightened federal government, they couldn’t do better than to start by reading this book.”
—Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Nickel and Dimed
“Here’s a surprise: it is Big Government that makes manufacturing possible—yes, even here. And we better stop thinking otherwise if we want to compete in the world economy. Louis Uchitelle, the great New York Times journalist—and, for me, one of our best writers on the economy—makes the case for ‘making it.’ In this wonderfully readable book, he explains why the future of manual labor rests in our own hands.”
—Tom Geoghegan, author of Only One Thing Can Save Us: Why America Needs a New Kind of Labor Movement
“Louis Uchitelle brings the vital importance of American manufacturing to life. . . He effectively describes the important role manufacturing can and must play in our economy and delivers a wake-up call regarding the aggressive government action necessary to ensure that manufacturing remains the ‘foundation of our nation’s power.’”
—Rep. Sander M. Levin (D-MI)
“Both a lamentation and a blueprint for manufacturing in America, this compelling and humane book demonstrates the intimate connection between good work and national well-being. Making It is economics with a heart.”
—Mike Rose, author of The Mind at Work: Valuing the Intelligence of the American Worker
“Manufacturing goods in the United States rather than overseas matters in ways few understand as deeply as Louis Uchitelle, who for three decades has chronicled how government policy damaged this value adding sector of the economy.”
—David Cay Johnston, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Divided: The Perils of Our Growing Inequality

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