'This Week': Made in America

ABC News' David Muir, Steven Rattner, and Zachary Karabel on whether U.S. manufacturing is making a comeback.
3:00 | 03/30/14

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Transcript for 'This Week': Made in America
got a big boost when BMW announced a $1 billion investment adding 800 new jobs. Another victory for made in America. How much can we count on manufacturing to fuel our economic future? Our experts analyze that question after this report from world news weekend an consider, David Muir. Reporter: We first began asking the question three years ago. Does anyone check the labels anymore? Made in China. I know, I know, I know. Reporter: That eye-opening number after world war ii, the 50s and 60s, fewer than one in ten products bought in this country were made outside the U.S. Today more than 50% of what we buy is made elsewhere. Three years later, and the headlines that some manufacturing is coming back. Even the president with his made in America message in the state of the union. We also have the chance, right now, to beat other countries in the race for the next wave of high-tech manufacturing jobs. New goods stamped made in the usa. Reporter: But this morning, a reality check. Are manufacturing jobs coming back? We were the first taken inside this factory, making computers in America again. These are desk tops. The computer maker, lenovo. Now with a factory near Raleigh. So you're making computers. Yes. Reporter: That had been made in China, now being made here? Yes. Reporter: Did you think you'd see the day? No. Reporter: And Curtis Richardson, his job was outsourced. Now quality control, making sure there's sound coming from the computer. Music to your years. Music to my ears. Reporter: Why bring jobs back? Lenovo telling us what many are saying. Once you factor in growing wages in China and fuel costs to ship, it now makes economic sense to bring manufacturing back. A lot of people argue that the jobs lost in the 80s and 90s will never come back. Different jobs, more highly skilled. Reporter: Some of those jobs being created at apple. CEO Tim cook recently announcing in a tweet, we have begun manufacturing the Mac pro in Austin. Austin, Texas. How about big of a deal? It's a big deal. But we can do more. And in Arizona, we haven't said what it's for -- Reporter: The sapphire glass? It's the sapphire announcement. And it's sort of all I'll say about it. Reporter: When is does that glass come off the line? Can't tell you that. Reporter: Bigger iPhone screens? Can't tell you that either. Reporter: You heard it here first. And one more sign. South of Los Angeles, space X, their flight plan is entirely made in America. They have been hired by nasa to send supplies to the international space station. And this right here? This is the dragon capsule. Reporter: The windows are very tell, aren't they? Yes. Reporter: They don't just want to send supplies, but want to send American astronauts back into space again. This is the only capsule made in America making the trip to the international space station. I'll give you the idea of the scope, the space inside. This is where they put the supplies and equipment for scientific research. 3700 workers, more than 4,000 by year's end, they say. And when that next capsule takes off within days, it will not only be mission accomplished, it will be made in America. Made in America. Reporter: For "This week," I'm David Muir. Hawthorne, California. And now our experts, Steven Rattner, and Zachary karabell. Welcome to you both. Start with you first. You worked hard to preserve manufacturing jobs on the auto task force, but you have written that we have to get real about the renaissance in American manufacturing. What do you mean? When I served on the auto task force, it was an eye opener for me. I had not spent a lot of time in the manufacturing sector. I saw a sector under enormous global pressure. We lost 6 million manufacturing jobs from 2000 to 2009. Since 2009, when the recession ended, we have gained back fewer than 600,000. We have actually gained manufacturing jobs back at a slower rate than we have gained other jobs back in the economy. And the part besides the jobs that people don't pay enough attention to are wages. A lot of those jobs that are coming back are coming back at much lower wages than the jobs we have lost. In the auto manufacturing, $28 an hour in cash wages plus benefits. In Chattanooga, where Volkswagen has 2,000 new jobs, brought back those workers at $14.50 an hour. So give up on manufacturing or do it better? There's an interesting problem today. We could have a manufacturing revival of sorts. Really high-tech factories producing lots of stuff without creating lots of jobs. In the segment in introduced this, 800 jobs in the BMW plant that opened. That same plant 30, 40 years ago would have been three, 4,000 jobs and higher paying in adjusted wages. We could have the situation where you have the innovation hubs that president Obama is talking about, lots of high-tech, interesting output that adds to the gdp, make us look optically better without the kind of job creation that would have come with the factories. What's the smart way to insource better jobs? You have to be realistic about what the future of our economy is going to be. As Zach said, we will have manufacturing jobs. There are good proposals around for how to do that. From education, training, these manufacturing innovation institutes that the president proposed. Certainly dealing with the infrastructure problems, immigration. Same laundry list you talk about every Sunday will help manufacturing. The problem, of course, is that nothing's getting done in Washington. But Washington can make a difference here. You know, I think Washington can make a marginal amount of difference in creating interesting little Zones. States can make a lot more difference, and individual decisions can make the most amount of difference. Unless Washington re-creates the works progress administration a la the 1930s and actually goes out and hires people to do stuff, I don't think Washington as a job creator, even with stimul stimulus, is necessarily going to lead the way between whatever economy we have now and the economy we need. And the kind of things, you know, again, this is the whole education question of skills and choices about what it is you are going to do with your time and life. It is true that a lot of these manufacturing hubs are having a hard time finding people who have the requisite skills. Much more like software and innovation and creativity than line work like in the 1930s, 40s and 50s. And these are the jobs we want to value and encourage in the future, right? We certainly want these kinds of advanced manufacturing jobs. But remember this, manufacturing wages today in America are actually a bit lower than average wages in the economy as a whole. What I mean is there's lots of good, high-paying jobs in sectors like education, like I.T., like health care, service sectors that are not entry-level jobs, high-paying jobs. This is the competitive advantage. A lot of these ideas for stimulating manufacturing, special tax rates and this stuff I think is a mistake. It is true that some of these higher-end manufacturing jobs at 15, 16, $20 an hour are better than the entry level Walmart or McDonald's job. A lot of which are the jobs that are currently being created. Those are not good wage jobs. And that is the last word. Thank you very much.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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