Cincinnati, Ohio one hundred years ago was once the machine tool capital of the world. As recently as the 1970s, Cincinnati was home to leading machine tools manufacturers such as Cincinnati Milacron and Carlton. Factories hummed day and night with the sounds of expert machinists on the lathe creating true precision parts. The industrial might that beat fascism was made possible by American machining. Every bullet fired, every tank, every plane in the sky over Europe, all of these were made possible through an accessible, ready supply of American tool and die.
The globalization of industry that has hollowed out the industrial base of the entire country can be seen in the demise of American machine tool manufacture and market share. Domestic market share held by American machine companies is barely 30%. Even if we wanted to properly reindustrialize we would be beholden to foreign interests for the very tools to kit the factories. This is tragic. Strategically, the loss of control of capacity this represents means that were we to end up in a hellish, true war against a credible threat we have no native way to upscale our defense manufacturing needs. Economically, this loss is a good representation of why so many of our young people’s highest legitimate aspirations will end with them serving burned coffee at a Starbucks. Skilled, fulfilling, well-paying manufacture has been on the wane for longer than they have been alive. Can we remain free?