ABC News is running a week-long series right now that I think everyone should watch: Made in America. Tonight they visited the home of a middle class American family and removed every possession in it that was not made in the U.S.A. Tomorrow night they'll attempt to fill it back up with only furniture and other items that are made in this country.
It will be a daunting experiment. According to ABC, during the 1960s about 9 out of 10 household items that the average American purchased was made here. Today, it's down to about 5 out of 10 items, although I wouldn't be surprised if most of us couldn't accomplish that 50% mark on any given retail store trip if we tried. My mother recently found a frying pan made by a company called Tramontina, and was delighted to see "Made in USA" engraved on the underside. She was so overjoyed she plans on writing a letter of gratitude to the company, which has been in business for 100 years now.
It makes me absolutely ill to think that it's nearly impossible to find American-made goods anymore. Yes, I know that big items just as Boeing jets and Mack trucks are still made here, but we should be able to buy ordinary household goods that were crafted by American hands. Just going through my inventory of clothes tonight, I can find only one article of clothing - a beloved graphic top that's about 10 years old - that says made in America with American fabric. When I tried to buy my first guitar last year, I couldn't find a basic model that wasn't made overseas, unless I was willing to shell out thousands of dollars on a high end Gibson. I was flabberghasted to learn tonight that American Girls dolls are made in - you guessed it - China. Even my bras are made there.
This issue is near and dear to my heart, because I'm from one of the last generations that remembers growing up with American-made goods. We used to be such a proud and prosperous country: my father always purchased an American made car, and every appliance in the house was made here. This country was built by the hands belonging to millions of hard working, blue collar Americans who were employed in the manufacturing industry.
Back in the 80s I remember seeing a television advertising campaign that supported American manufacturing. This "Made in the U.S.A" series of spots featured several celebrities repeating the commercial's tagline, "It matters to me." Unfortunately, this attempt from 25 years ago to preserve American made products is now just a memory. So what the hell happened? According to the Alliance for American Manufacturing, since China joined the World Trade Organization in 2001, approximately 2.4 million American jobs have been lost or displaced thanks to the trade deficit with the Chinese. We also owe them an obscene amount of money. It was recently reported that China's holdings of U.S. bonds totaled $1.16 TRILLION dollars at the end of December 2010. How will we ever dig ourselves out of that mess? The AAM also says that China is involved in currency manipulation and is imposing tariffs on their exported goods.
Not only that, but some of what they ship to us is dangerous crap - I'm thinking about the tainted pet food that killed hundreds of American cats and dogs a few years ago, the Walmart flip flops that were giving people grotesque foot rashes, and the children's toys that were coated with high levels of lead paint which were recalled, including many items sold by Mattel.
But it's not just China; it's the fact that so many companies are greedy, cheap and care only about the bottom line when they send jobs overseas. They don't care about American workers and their families. Government just turns a blind eye to this enormous elephant in the room.
Here's the conundrum: according to ABC, if everyone spent a small amount of money on American goods on any given day, which goes back into our economy, we'd be creating 200,000 American jobs. The problem is so many of these items are often priced higher than their overseas-made counterparts. But if it means preserving what we have left that's manufactured here, isn't it worth it?
I encourage everyone to check out the ABC link at the beginning of my post; there's an interactive map highlighting American companies that are still producing American goods. I honestly think I'm going to splurge on something and pump a little money back into this country's economy. The AAM also gives some tips on what we can all do to help preserve American manufacturing.