A core belief of the hard core left is that free trade has killed American manufacturing and that increased protectionism is key to bringing it back. Harold Meyerson forwards this world view in today’s Washington Post:

The loss of several million manufacturing jobs during the Bush presidency coincides with the first economic recovery in American history in which the average family’s income actually declined.

When you compare Obama’s economic positions to those of John McCain, this should be no contest. McCain has supported every offshoring, free-trade accord, past or pending, that has decimated the Midwest; Obama has expressed skepticism that such accords serve the interest of ordinary Americans.

In reality, productivity gains are the true cause of less manufacturing employment. U.S. manufacturing production is actually up. Despite the painful recession in manufacturing from 2000 to 2003, real output of U.S. factories has still increased by 50% since 1994. Heritage’s Ambassador Terry Miller reports:

The growth in manufacturing productivity is a worldwide phenomenon. According to Ward, productivity gains in China between 1995 and 2002 would have eliminated the need for about 37 million Chinese manufacturing jobs. Actual manufacturing job losses in both China and the United States were far less than these numbers, because while productivity gains were reducing demand for manufacturing workers, gains in GDP were increasing it. However, the total number of manufacturing jobs went down in both countries.