“Products made in China are cheap through the exploitation of the workforce. Every time we shop, we are driving the nail further into the coffin of American manufacturing jobs.” – Representative Joe Baca
To its great credit, ABC News in 2011 highlighted an important issue in this struggling economy that most Americans have thought little about. The series was titled: “Made in America” and began by demonstrating how clueless most of us are about where the stuff in our house, our driveway and garage and our workplace is made.
Selected families volunteered to have ABC news crews remove from their houses anything not made in the US. Predictably, the result was both funny but also quite poignant as nearly all of them found pretty much all their furniture out on the street and the occupants expressing shock, yes shock, that so little was American made. In fact it shouldn’t have come as a surprise.
Most Americans simply don’t think about where their goods are made. They’re used to seeing their TVs made in Korea and everything else in China and to be honest they’re much more interested in the lowest price than where their wares are made. Yet, according to Dianne Sawyer, the ABC News anchor, studies suggest that over 10,000 new jobs would be created if every American spent an extra $3.33 on American-made goods.
With so many Americans unemployed this is one thing those of us fortunate enough to have a job and a half-way decent income can do to help a significant number of Americans in the manufacturing sector who might otherwise lose their jobs and we might even, perhaps, create some employment if enough of us make the effort.
In our house we’ve always had some awareness of the value of buy-American (well, excluding the kids I have to say) and in 2011 we decided to do some things we might otherwise have put off or spread out a bit. Unfortunately, we started the year on a misfire by thinking we were buying a US-made car in our new Ford Fiesta only to discover later that the thing is made in Mexico – something I could have ascertained easily enough with a quick Google check. Apparently, there’s even a sticker that tells you the US-made content. Duh! Well, at least it’s a US company!
Undeterred, we bought a US-made Shaw rug for our living room, and a cherry bookcase made right here in Seattle by McKinnon Furniture to go with two other lovely pieces we bought from the same company several years ago. In replacing two outside light fixtures and installing a third, we eschewed cheaper foreign-made alternatives and used, instead, handsome new hardware from Vermont-based Hubbardton Forge that we ordered on-line. We have two indoor light fixtures from the same firm for our entry and dining room.
And you can find US-made stuff where you least expect it. New Balance still makes some of their athletic shoes in the US and I bought a pair to add to the three I have already. A particularly pleasant surprise was Juicy Couture’s cute and fashionable plain hoody jackets, made in America, which featured prominently in our girls’ birthday and Christmas presents. And North Star Trading Company of Whidbey Island, Washington was the source for two pairs of beautifully made sheepskin bedroom slippers (with rubber soles, I might add, that allow you to walk outside in them!). And this doesn’t include the craft items we bought on the Oregon Coast and in Seattle this year.
Buying American is an issue that transcends political affiliation, race, gender, age or religion. It’s something we can all do for our country at a time when so many are suffering economic hardship. Of course, we can’t roll back the clock to 1960 when only 8% of our goods were foreign-made. But if we remind ourselves of the importance of buying American, where this is an option, and make it an integral part of our buying habits, together we will be performing a valuable service to our fellow Americans, to the larger economy and ultimately to ourselves.