“When we buy goods manufactured abroad, we get the goods and the foreigner gets the money. When we buy the goods manufactured at home, we get both the goods and the money.” – Abraham Lincoln
For more than a decade, the Savvy Shopper feature has emphasized that great deals don’t stop at price. For example, value may include purchasing more efficiently, in less time, or in a way that helps society. When looking for value, one way to approach the last point is to try to buy products that are made in the USA. As important as America is to most, the idea of supporting our industry still tends to fall through the cracks. And with all the hurdles to buying domestically, I can understand why.
Whether it’s sketchy information about a product’s origin or a simple lack of availability, I can attest that it’s not always easy. Among the many reasons for the massive tide of imports, I think one of the main causes is that we have been overwhelmed by misinformation. In turn, many have internalized the idea that where a product comes from doesn’t matter. In fact, the confusion has grown to the point that some even claim that buying American is a bad idea*! While the ability to distinguish foreign from domestic products is essential and will be covered at a later date, it is also essential to understand why the support of the local team is important:
∙ Economic future: Over the past 40 years, we have consistently run high trade deficits. Last year, we recorded a shortfall of about 860 billion dollars and accumulated an external debt of more than 9,000 billion dollars. At some point, the bills will come due and it won’t be pretty. Might as well not make matters worse, and an excellent step in this direction is to reduce the consumption of imports.
∙ Economic Viability: As an engine of prosperity, manufacturing is in a class of its own. Every dollar of manufactured goods generated generates an additional $1.43 of activity in other economic sectors. This is twice as much as what the service sector generates. Due to higher productivity, industry can also pay higher average wages than other economic activities. On top of that, 2/3 of all research and development that drives nation-critical innovation is supported by industry. Moreover, if we could eliminate the trade deficit, an estimated 10 million new jobs would be created.
∙ American Values: Some say nothing is more American than getting the best product at the best price, no matter where it’s made. Such a sentiment would be new to our founding fathers. When George Washington was sworn in as president, he insisted that his clothes be American despite the fact that foreign clothes were cheaper. Along with our greatest president, all the men of Mount Rushmore were ardent supporters of American industry. Instead of opting for cheap imports, these statesmen adhered to the principle that the strengthening of our country trumps mere price. And with such ideas, the United States became the predominant economic power. Ultimately, buying American is time-honoured in principle and in practice. Isn’t it amazing how our economic fabric is beginning to unravel when we have begun to lose sight of this?
∙ What is American? : Finally, some argue that globalization has rendered the term “American” meaningless. While offering examples like a Toyota Tundra being assembled in Texas and a Buick Enclave in China, it is argued that it is no longer possible to identify or purchase a purely domestic item. Talk about the trap of an all or nothing mentality! Throughout history, it is a rare product whose ingredients only came from one country. For example, a Model T’s tires were made with Asian rubber, but most people have enough common sense to consider that an American icon. While there may be few 100% local offerings, the fact remains that there are plenty of products that are predominantly local.
While there is nothing inherently wrong with foreign products, buying them when domestic alternatives are available comes at a higher cost than many realize. I’m just saying! Having covered some of the main reasons for supporting the home team, specific ways to do so will be covered at a later date. In the meantime, I encourage you to visit our Facebook site (Log in to Facebook and enter “Lubbock Savvy Shopper” in the search tool) or email us at [email protected] and share your thoughts, ideas and questions. Also, to stay up to date with developments, follow us on Twitter for updates: https://twitter.com/LbbSavvyShopper. We have a large community but are always looking for newcomers. Don’t miss!
* It’s true! If you don’t believe it (who would?), check out this article: https://reason.com/2011/11/03/the-stupidity-of-buy-american/. As the saying goes, truth is stranger than fiction because fiction must make sense.
SEAN FIELDS is AJ’s savvy client. Read his columns on Sundays and Wednesdays. Email him at [email protected], like his Facebook page at Facebook.com/LubbockSavvyShopper, or check out previous columns and offers at lubbockonline.com/savvy-shopper.