Dear Mr. President ...

George Weimer , contributing editor

Congratulations! On behalf of the millions of Americans who work, directly or indirectly, in manufacturing, we wish you well and offer our advice to you and your administration — as we do every four years. It was a tough campaign and we know it took a lot out of you and your opponent. It took a lot out of the rest of us as well. We're not used to all the attention.

During this campaign, Mr. President, we were especially flattered by both candidates. We've never heard so much talk about manufacturing from Washington. You both visited the Midwestern industrial states so many times and stopped at so many plants that we almost felt wanted. It was a nice, warm, fuzzy feeling we rarely experience, particularly from national politicians and their media groupies. So thanks for the attention and the visits.

We wonder now what will come of all this attention you paid us and our factories — those that are still operating, at least — and our problems. We wonder about you now, Mr. President, because we expect you will return to the same old inside-the-Beltway mentality that seems to overcome everyone we send to Washington. But you've been there for years now and you know how that town can seem like the most important one in the country.

To a lot of your colleagues and compatriots, we're just the rubes that do all the shop work that keeps you and yours in cars and clothes and all the gadgets and electronics that make modern life modern.

Yes, we're the rubes that invest and manage in industry in America. We're the guys and gals who work in the factories, big and small, that try to compete with all those foreign companies that have been doing so well over here and around the world.

We're also the families of the millions in industry that keep this country the envy of the rest of the world: the accountants and machinists, the software engineers, and manufacturing and material handling engineers, the middle managers and top managers who work hard every day to deliver top quality to the marketplace.

Please keep in mind, Mr. President, a good manufacturing job supports several service jobs. Perhaps more importantly, increasing numbers of manufacturing support jobs in this country are not even counted in the statistics as industrial work. Simply put, direct manufacturing labor is declining due to terrific productivity increases, true. However, overall modern industrial and production economics includes millions now who do not work directly on factory floors. Some of them are in Bangalore, India. Many, many more are all over America. These, too, are manufacturing people.

Sure, we have our internal differences in industry. After all, we're all trying to get our share, to make an honest buck in the manufacturing business. We have our arguments in terms of labor and management, but, looked at closely, we're all labor and all managers in industry today. The work is complicated, ever more sophisticated and ever more high-tech.

So, by and large, all of us want to offer you the same advice you may have heard on your many swings through our world on your way back to Washington. Here it is:

Keep us in mind. We deliver the standard of living you brag about. We deliver the arms you need to keep the peace and defend the country. Listen to us during your next four years. We've got lots of wisdom to offer you and our government.

We don't want handouts. We don't want protectionism. But we do want a fair trade world. We don't need subsidies, but we do need common sense in terms of regulations and environmental rules. Oh, and one final thing; we need to be recognized once in a while for our contribution to this country's economic strength. Thirty years ago and more, the fact that America led the world in output was a bragging point. We feel it still is.

Along those same lines, Mr. President, we've heard excellent comments from and about your new Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Manufacturing and Services. We suggest again that the title be upgraded to Secretary of Manufacturing and be added to the Cabinet you're reconsidering after your victory a few days ago.

Congratulations, Mr. President, and don't forget us now that you're back inside the Beltway. We want to help.

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