This is a guest post written by Celeste Drake, Trade & Globalization Policy Specialist at the AFL - CIO.
“Buy American.” “Made
in America.” In today’s interconnected
world, those ideas might seem more like leftovers from the Cold War – not
important maxims for America’s future.
After all, young Americans are drinking Colombian coffee in the morning,
skyping with friends in the UK at lunch, buying a made-in-China iPhone in the
afternoon, and drinking Italian wine in the evening. The idea of “Buying American,” or economic
patriotism, might seem quaint, if not outright ridiculous.
Fact is, making things in America isn’t an obsolete
idea. It’s how we built this country
into the largest economy the world has ever seen. And it’s imperative for America’s
In 2011, the US had a trade deficit of nearly $560
billion, fully $295 billion
of which was a deficit in goods trade with China. These deficits are not just about dollars; they
represent our ability as a nation to make the things we consume and the
products and technology we need to defend ourselves. The iPhone may represent itself as proudly
“designed in the USA,” but for how long?
designers and engineers want to be close to the production lines—it’s
simply more efficient. And if none of
those production lines are in the US, the good design and engineering jobs soon
won’t be either. And for those of us
concerned about job creation, giving up on manufacturing is simply
silly—there’s not a one-to-one relationship between designers and those who
physically make the product anyway.
When we rely on other countries to make the products we
want—from food to clothing to computers, our own capabilities and technical,
innovative, and productive capacity decline.
The US did not become the wealthiest country in the world by accident. It happened because of deliberate policy
choices, hard work, and ambition. We can
ensure there are good jobs, with decent pay and benefits, for Americans of all
levels of education and ability, but we need that hard work and ambition—the
right policy choices—and to avoid accepting that the current state of affairs
is the best we can do.
We can each do our part to contribute to that better future,
with better jobs and a better economy.
And it’s not even that hard. Some
of us are doing it already. Your
neighbor who’s obsessed with organic foods, who only buys locally grown
produce? She’s doing it. And your hipster friend, who refuses to shop
at giant chain stores or eat at chain restaurants? He’s
doing it. (In fact, as blogger Starre
Vartan notes: as large, multi national corporations continue to move jobs
overseas in order to take advantage of weak protections for workers and the
environment, “hipster entrepreneurs might be the only ones employing Americans
to make things 20-30 years from now.”).
Or, as Will
Oremus argued recently on The Hive, some bigger businesses like Whole
Foods, Etsy, and Kickstarter are helping to revive American manufacturing—which
means job creation—as well.
For most younger Americans, our biggest expenses are food,
housing, and clothing (and of course education if we’re paying tuition or
paying off student loans). In all of
these purchases, we can make choices that create jobs here in the US, putting
more money in Americans’ pockets, which creates demand, which means businesses
boom, more jobs are created, and so on.
It’s called the virtuous
circle. And here’s how we can make
Housing is a classic “buy American” product.
New housing, and maintenance and repairs on existing housing stock, create jobs for our
The USDA says that every
million dollars in sales through local markets supports thirteen US jobs. You can be part of that. When possible, consider shopping at farmer’s
markets or local stores that keep the money in your community. Look for US-raised meat and locally-grown
produce—you can often find
American-grown food that is also organic, hormone-free, or has whatever other
feature you are looking for.
Contrary to popular belief, there are plenty of clothing lines whose
manufacturing facilities are right here in the USA. In fact, the
Los Angeles Times says it’s a growing trend. So next time you need a t-shirt, a pair of
jeans, or just the right top, don’t overpay for fashion created under sweatshop
conditions in Bangladesh or Sri Lanka.
Instead consider Youth Monument,
Citizens of Humanity, Certified Jeans, or any of
dozens of other brands that sew their clothes here.
Use websites here, here,
to find US-made products you like, in your price range, and help the US economy
while you shop!
Buying American isn’t just an antiquated idea. Our future as a nation depends on reviving
our economy to create good jobs that allow those who put in a fair day’s work
to receive a fair day’s pay: to raise families and send the next generation to
college. By supporting American
manufacturers, we can all do our part to be America’s real job creators. For more ideas on reviving the American
economy, go to http://www.aflcio.org/Issues/Jobs-and-Economy/Economy.
Celeste thank you for your valuable insight and perspective regarding while American Manufacturing is important. We hope to have more guest blog posts from her in the future. You should follow her on twitter here: http://twitter.com/CDrakeFairTrade