Fletcher in the News

Manufacturing is No Magic Pill for the Economy: Op-ed by Prof. Michael Klein

Michael W. Klein is a professor at Tuft University's Fletcher School and a Non-Resident Senior Fellow in Economic Studies at The Brookings Institution. Klein recently served as chief economist for the Office of International Affairs at the U.S. Treasury in the Obama Administration.

In 1983, in the midst of a deep recession, Bruce Springsteen recorded the song "My Hometown" that reportedly was based on the closing of the Karagheusian Rug Mill in Springsteen's own home town of Freehold, N.J.

The song's theme of economic hardship from the displacement of manufacturing jobs resonated, propelling it to 6th place on the Billboard charts.

Today, in the midst of an even deeper and more prolonged recession, the 1980s debate about whether manufacturing matters is front and center.

In his State of the Union speech, President Obama said that the blueprint for economic recovery "begins with American manufacturing."

There are, of course, welcome developments. But anecdotes about some firms' successes are not representative of the performance of an entire industry. It is magical thinking to believe that manufacturing can reclaim the role it had in the mid-20th century, and be the main driver behind the resurgence of today's economy.

Read the entire op-ed (more)