Note that the level of manufacturing employment, while it has cyclical ups and downs, is nearly constant from 1970 to 2000 at around 17 million. It plunged in the early years of the last decade as the trade deficit exploded. Most of the fall in employment was before the collapse of the housing bubble in 2008. This is what happens when a trade deficit increases from around 1.5 percent of GDP, the mid-1990s level, to almost 6.0 percent of GDP at its peak in 2005-2006 (over $1.1 trillion in today’s economy).
In his article Brad does a bit of slight of hand on this rise in the trade deficit, attributing it to an over-valued dollar rather than trade agreements like NAFTA. I agree with him on this, but I think the ignorant masses can be excused for failing to recognize that the jobs lost to trade were due to the Clinton administration’s dollar policy rather than its trade deals.
But at the top, there is paralysis: leading scientific organizations do little except chase money and reinforce the ruling nexus of politics and finance — even since the financial crisis of 2008, which discredited the free-market philosophy that underpins that nexus. I argued years ago (see Nature479, 447; 2011) that scientific leaders had failed to respond in any meaningful way to that collapse, and I’m still waiting.