Why Don’t We Buy American More Often?

by Ron Haynes

With the media endlessly trumpeting the decline in American manufacturing, you’d think there was absolutely nothing made in the United States anymore. Nothing could be further from the truth. Though the number has shrunk due to technology advancements and cheap labor overseas, there are still plenty of things manufactured in the US from appliances to yard tools.

What IS “American Made?”

One reason we don’t buy American more often is that we don’t know what is and isn’t manufactured in the USA. When 70 percent of a GM, or Ford vehicle is made from parts manufactured overseas, is it any wonder that we question what is and isn’t American? Honda (Japan), Mercedes (Germany), and Hyundai (Korea) all have manufacturing plants in Alabama, Michelin (France) has one in South Carolina. Are their products American made? Their US employees certainly think so. If 80 percent of your car is manufactured in other countries, is it really American? It’s hard to say with certainty. Sure, legislators assign a certain percentage of parts that must be American made to claim the Made In The USA label, but what is so miraculous about going from 59 percent to 60 percent?

Some would say that a product is “American” if it’s headquarters is in the US and the money stays in the USA. What about Chrysler? Formerly owned by Daimler Benz (Germany), but now owned by Fiat (Italy), do you really know which country receives their money? Regardless of any country’s public partnerships, do we really know whether those dollars are converted to Euros, or Yen, or Yuan as a hedge against the declining Dollar?

We’re disconnected from manufacturing

Not too many decades ago, you knew who manufactured your tires. You knew who wove your carpet yarn. You knew who operated the sewing machines, the presses, the giant machines of manufacturing. They were your friends, your cousins, your neighbors. Today, we’ve lost touch with people who make things.

We’re too interested in accounting

I call it the “accountification” of American business. We’re more interested in the buying process than in the manufacturing process, in how we can tweak the system to eek out another penny per share than in providing the highest quality product at the best price.

We’re too influenced by marketing

Whether we’re willing to admit it or not, marketing plays a crucial role in what we purchase. We’ve allowed ourselves to be convinced that a Lexus (Japan) is better than any other car out there and that having one in the driveway with a big red bow on top is the ultimate gift.

American business has been too slow

Not all the blame can be laid at the feet of the American consumer. American business has been very slow to react to changing conditions. When the gasoline shortages of the 1970’s hit the US, smaller foreign cars were snapped up like they were going out of style because they met the needs of the public. American manufacturing was incredibly slow to adapt and change. Not only that, but American manufacturers were perceived by the public as peddling shoddy materials as other countries (mostly Japanese) were steadily increasing the quality of their products.

Innovation comes from the field but accountants and “experts” are usually too slow to react to it.

The biggest reason is we’re a much more global economy

The interconnectedness of commerce today is astounding. Two hundred years ago, a chair manufacturer would buy lumber from a local forester, shape it with hammers and chisels made one town over, then sell it locally by delivering it on his own handmade wagon. Today, a chair manufacturer (even an American manufacturer) might buy veneers from a company in Canada, use adhesives made in India to attach it to a substrate made in Brazil, stain it with stains made in China after using power tools made with parts manufactured in 12 different countries, then ship it on a truck made in Sweden and a trailer made in Texas to a distributor based in France who will sell it to retailers all over the world using a marketing company that’s a partnership between and English and Japanese conglomerates. Assembled in the USA? Yes. Made in the USA? I’m not so sure.

What’s the solution?

We won’t be getting rid of the global economy anytime soon, not unless we’re hit by an asteroid or comet and life takes a radical change for the worse. What needs to happen is for manufacturers to focus on what they do best and for governments to get out of the way.

Does it really help a country to adopt protectionist measures when the problem is a lack of innovation, too much regulation, and politicians with ZERO business experience dictating how a company should be run?

History says no.

Check out:

Toys Made In America

Made in USA.org

Still Made In The USA

About the author

Ron Haynes has written 1003 articles on The Wisdom Journal.


The founder and editor of The Wisdom Journal in 2007, Ron has worked in banking, distribution, retail, and upper management for companies ranging in size from small startups to multi-billion dollar corporations. He graduated Suma Cum Laude from a top MBA program and currently is a Human Resources and Management consultant, helping companies know how employees will behave in varying situations and what motivates them to action, assisting firms in identifying top talent, and coaching managers and employees on how to better communicate and make the workplace MUCH more enjoyable. If you'd like help in these areas, contact Ron using the contact form at the top of this page or at 870-761-7881.


If you enjoyed what you just read and would like to get FREE email updates with the freshest articles from The Wisdom Journal delivered right to your inbox, subscribe today! It's ridiculously easy and you can unsubscribe at any time. Since your email address is never sold or abused, you can subscribe with confidence, PLUS you'll get free reports/guides/eBooks, subscriber only benefits, and other perks.


{ 7 comments }

Bella

Made in America has been important to my family, but I have a husband who has always (and still does) work in Manufacturing. Of all our friends, I think he has always been the only one who does and to them it is a foreign concept that he goes to work in that non-descript warehouse looking building. Thanks for bring some attention to American Production! :mrgreen:

Mark W.

Great post Ron.
Two thoughts in this post which really resonated with me -
1) We’re disconnected from the products we purchase. This also applies to the food we consume.
2) Our government that should be an enabler but rather manages to get in the way.

Carla

With the exception of cars (I have a strong, personal bias against American cars) I try to buy American made and local as much as possible if I’m not buying used. Food, clothing, furniture, etc.

Melissa

We have the same kind of push in Australia – to buy Aussie. This is nothing new, our manufacturing industry has been dying (was never really sustainable??) for years. Dick Smith, an Aussie entrepeneur has his own label of Australia made and owned food products – but the taste is yuk so I don’t buy them. There are also a few grocery stores that stock only Aussie products.

I’m somewhat ignorant of the whole globalisation debate, so you may have to educate me – but I’m not sure what is so wrong with it – except for the industrialisation of food and the exploitation of people with less power. But that unfortunately happens regardless.

I mean you are a blogger. What you do is global. You are participating in the new economy. You earn your living from a global phenomenon. I’m sure you have readers from all over the world.

There will, I hope come a time when there will be no “us” and “them”. I’m sure that some poor person in China is deserving of a job just like an Aussie or an American. And I’m unemployed. It’s hard at the moment.

I am a student of history. We have seen a lot of change over the Longue Duree. I think it’s more empowering to embrace change and ensure that it is for the better, have a say at driving change that is equitable and sustainable and fair, rather than be a victim of the inevitable. Rather than be “crushed under the grinding stone of history’. And part of that change today is manufacturing going off shore – same as here in Australia.

But that’s just my opinion, and like I said, I don’t konw a lot about it, so I’m open to suggestion. I realise (intimately) that its hard to lose a job – I don’t have one either.

Jenni

World globalization, is where parts are made all over the place, to the lowest bidder, and can be put together in the country you live, or not. That it is usually made by the lowest bidder, from countries that can make their workers work for very little money, like communist China, and will costs the corporations little, and can sell to us at a lot. And the corporations in the US put their holdings offshore, to an island, so they can’t be taxed on it. And with the countries having problems, from the banks, and other such companies, dealings, put us in this deep dodo. But not them, we are bailing them out, and our future generations will be paying for what they are doing for a long time to come. Just look at where all the stuff around you come from?
I do what I can to find American made, and buy that. Which can be misleading, since some of the places aren’t in American states, but the islands around us, where they are holding the wages down, to sell cheaply to us. Our want for cheap stuff, is causing a lot of the wages to be help down for the people around, making the stuff for us, over here. We use to protest about sweat shop and slave labor, but now it goes on, for us, and no one says a thing.
I buy jewelry, beaded, and others items, from the people who make them, so I know who made them. And go to social events where a lot of artisans sell their items at booths. Which most may not know they can do. Like at a powwow, where there are usually a lot of boothes, and anyone can go to check it out. Or the tribal arts fair. Check on line. At arts and crafts fairs around your area. The farmers market for food. I just get the dolls, since I know where to get the patterns for the clothes, and know people who can make them, for my grandchildren, for toys and gifts.
Check for fair trade items, in coffees, and other food items. Here in the US, there is a lot of going back to old fashioned, now called “organic”, ways.
I hope that will help some.

Prasanth

It is amusing to see the anti-globalization back lash and the “buy American” movement in USA. Pre 1991, my country, India was a closed economy. Jobs were scarce, private industry was heavily regulated and one had to wait years to get even basic stuff like a phone connection (Would you believe that there was a 7 year waiting list to get a phone connection?!!).

That was also the time US was preaching open markets and globalization to countries like India. US wants access to these countries markets so persuading countries like India to “open up” made good sense as a policy. However, what people should realize that nothing comes free. When countries like India opened up, it unleashed the pent up energy of the people resulting in a boom of private enterprise which looked to big markets like US for revenue and profits.

Curmudgeon

I am the son of a steelworker from the 1960s and 1970s. After the 1970s, the great steel mills of the US went out of business. Guess what? Today, we manufacture more steel than we ever did during that time, except that we do so with fewer than half as many workers and plants.

Guess what? Technology changes. Economics change. The world changes. And I regret to say that the people involved in the process sometimes don’t. Our parents (largely our fathers, as we tended to exclude women from the workforce until the 1970s) lived not in a golden age of lifetime employment in the same job, but rather in a blip in a changing world where people do very different things at different times of their lives.

It’s not bad; those that can change with the times will do well. Those who cannot, and those who believe they have a lifetime high-paying manufacturing job will be disappointed. I feel for them; I’m sure they are good people. But they are living a life of their imagination, not of reality.

Previous post:

Next post: