Two weeks ago this blog was dedicated to the subject of how this country has lost its manufacturing base to the extent that we import everything from clothing to sophisticated electronics which, obviously, contributes to the high rate of unemployment now stifling our economic recovery. One of the comments offered in response to the points made hinted at exploiting our "willingness to pay more for American quality", an idea I would like to further explore.
Let's start with the recent turn around by General Motors who posted a $1.3 billion profit last quarter and is on the threshold of conducting a stock IPO in the coming weeks that is reported to range from $6 to $8 billion, with more coming in the future. For those who questioned the financial assistance to the automotive industry two years ago, I think this performance puts your angst to rest. Then there is Ford Motor Company who did it all on its own. But the salient point to me is that it proves we do, in fact, have the capacity to make things in America on a grand scale. What seems to be missing is the willingness to take the risk. So, how do we kick-start that process?
First, I think we start with what the true causes of our high unemployment may be. Bob Herbert, an Op-Ed Columnist with the New York Times wrote a great piece on this very subject back on July 30th entitled A Sin and a Shame which you can read at http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/31/opinion/31herbert.html?_r=1&scp=8&sq=Bob%20Herbert&st=cse. In short, corporations began laying people off and/or reducing their employee compensation in greater numbers than actually were necessary simply to enrich their treasuries. That helps explain the $2 trillion cash hoard they have accumulated since 2008 which has gone unspent, un-loaned, un-distributed as dividends and un-invested in capital projects. During the same period productivity has increased dramatically while wages and salaries have stagnated, a contradiction to our conventional model (i.e. - where workers standard of living is supposed to go up with their increased productivity) that has occurred for the first time since WWII.
So let's think about a new approach to get these corporations to free up some of that cash for the good of the country. What if all of the major retailers in America (e.g. Wal-Mart, Target, Best Buy, Home Depot, Lowes, J.C. Penney's, Sears, Costco, Sam's Club, etc.) banded together and started an initiative to Buy American even though the price of their commodities might be slightly higher than the same products offered by foreign competition (see paragraph one above)? Many of those same firms helped build China's economy over the past twenty or thirty years, which just surpassed Japan's for the number two spot and is on track to overtake ours by 2020 according to some predictions, so why not re-direct that same power and influence to increase demand for American made products? Would greater demand not result in existing closed factories being opened or new plants being built, banks lending money for such expansion, people being hired, and these new wage earners increasing their consumer spending, as well as buying homes in a still depressed sector, all components to getting our economy ginning again? Perhaps, along with all Americans, those 9.5% of unemployed might prefer paying slightly more for products made here with the increased income that they would be earning, rather than paying lower prices with unemployment checks for imported products that fuel foreign economic growth.
Simplistic? Idealistic? Impossible? Maybe, but nothing seems to be working now, so I'm for pursuing a Made in America campaign with the same fervor that cranked up this country to fight and win WWII, as I consider this to be a battle for the preservation of our status as the world's top economic power. Also, it might just help reduce our national debt still raging upward as shown at http://usdebtclock.org.
For a list of various products that are, thankfully, still made in America go to http://www.madeinusaforever.com/ or http://www.stillmadeinusa.com/ or
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