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Forbes Commentary: Help Mississippi, Not Michigan

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American industry is doing just fine outside of Detroit.

We should be getting used to the depressing spectacle of once-great corporations begging for assistance from Washington. Yet perhaps nothing is more painful than to see General Motors and other big U.S.-based car companies–once exemplars of both American economic supremacy and middle-class aspirations–fall to such an appalling state.

Yet if GM represents all that is bad about the American economy, particularly manufacturing, it does not represent the breadth of our industrial landscape. Indeed, even as the dull-witted leviathan sinks, many nimble companies have shown remarkably resiliency.

These include a series of small and mid-sized firms–in fields as diverse as garments and agricultural machinery, steel and energy equipment–that have managed to thrive in recent years. It also includes a growing contingent of foreign-owned firms, notably in the automobile industry, that have found that “Made in America” is not necessarily uncompetitive, unprofitable or impossible.

Indeed, until the globalization of the financial crisis, American manufacturing exports were reaching record levels. Overall, U.S. industry has become among the most productive in the world–output has doubled over the past 25 years, and productivity has grown at a rate twice that of the rest of the economy. Far from dead, our manufacturing sector is the world’s largest, with 5% of the world’s population producing five times their share in industrial goods.

So what is the problem then? If it is not the effort and ingenuity of American workers or our infrastructure, Detroit’s problems must lie somewhere else, largely with almost insanely bad management.

Read the rest of this really interesting post here.

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