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A Survey Serves As Another Reminder of Buy American

Updated on June 5, 2011

In a recent survey done by Alix Partners, a business-advisory firm, as reported by CNBC, an overwhelming 61 percent of Americans are not expecting to return to pre-recession spending levels for quite a long time, if at all. Certainly the most recent jobs numbers which showed an increase in the jobless rate, and severely insufficient newly added jobs doesn't help Americans to feel any more confident about the direction of the economy, and so the results of this survey aren't all that surprising to me.

Join the lackluster jobs numbers with the higher gasoline prices, and higher and higher costs to American's grocery bills and other household items, and it's easy to understand just exactly why most Americans are holding back on any discretionary spending, as well as simply feeling the pinch when it comes to their wallets for even the essential items. We're seeming to be in this prolonged period of stagnation, and when this sort of period goes on for an extended period of time, the natural progression is to feel like there's no end in sight. You get that nagging sense of negativity, and after a while you simply take to the idea that this is how things are, so we better just go ahead and get used to it.

In a way, it's actually exactly the reverse of what got us into this whole mess to begin with, isn't it? In the same way that we can't see the good days returning ahead as things continue to be negative, when times were good we couldn't see the bad days coming our way before the start of what's now being dubbed the Great Recession. To some extent that's a good thing, because if you recognize this thought, then there are certainly good days ahead that we just aren't allowing ourselves to believe. It is better to be safe than sorry, and until we see the forest for the trees, we better hunker down and just go with the flow as best we can.

Still, this whole idea of jobs numbers, and the growing sentiment of most Americans that we cannot see the end of this recession makes me wonder more about an argument that I've been ranting about for some time. Are we actually seeing a growing interest in Americans supporting American made goods? If the answer is no, then the next question is why? Because that would seem to me to be one of the wiser choices we could make as Americans to build more interest in American labor, especially in manufacturing where we've lost an untold number of jobs over the last 20 or 30 years or so. As we start going back into the stores and increasing our spending, are we going to tell these American companies that when they start hiring again, we want those jobs that our spending is going to demand to bring those goods to market? And are Americans beginning to think more about the correlation between some of the jobs situation and the effects that outsourcing to foreign labor has contributed to that circumstance, and the state of our lackluster earnings power overall? Because let's face it, Americans do not get near the same bang for their buck as they did during the robust industrial years, and we've also given up myriad benefits, which means there's even less money on the back end of our paychecks.

My big begging question going forward is not so much will we recover, because I'm certain we will, but rather will that recovery be lasting if we simply go back to the state of the way things were before the Great Recession got under way? I'm inclined to believe that if we return to what I think was clearly a false and illusionary sense of growth and prosperity, which was based entirely on access to credit and not on any real increase in earnings power of average Americans, we're in for something far worse and far more damaging than even the Great Depression was.

As I have always said, I'm not speaking entirely in terms of protectionism. I believe in the free markets as most of my fellow conservatives do, and I believe in the power of profit to encourage people to earn more and be productive. I think globalization and the idea of a robust global economy is important not only to our nation, but to the world. What I am speaking to, and what I have in the past spoken to in this argument is balance. We have to have a balance of what we produce and sell here and abroad, and what we import into our country. Otherwise the average American loses the opportunity that should be afforded to him if all the elements of a balanced system of commerce are in good working order.

But, and this is a huge but, this only works if it happens out of a natural process, and that natural process is the will of the free market. You cannot allow government to force companies to pay benefits and higher wages. You cannot allow government to force how we import and export goods in and out of the country. You cannot allow governments to find ways to artificially create the balance I'm referring to. Instead, Americans just like you and I need to be proactively engaged in that free market system, allowing supply and demand to work all on its own to dictate how things go, and who gets what and how much. Every achievement, and every realized benefit must be a product of real competition. And by the way, things we've created like NAFTA and CAFTA, and most favored nation status really aren't a help to real competition—in fact, they cripple any real possibility of American labor competing with foreign labor.

My point in all of this is that we need to make sure as Americans that we support this balance if we wish to have a lasting and smart economic recovery. There are two main ways we need to do this. Support more and more small and local businesses which contribute to most of the jobs in this country, which will put more pressure on larger companies to bring jobs home and pay workers more, and buy American made goods whenever there is an opportunity to do so, or at least buy American at least 50% of the time if that is possible to do so. By the way, perhaps it's not that easy to do now, but if demand for American made products increases, so will eventually the choices of American made goods to choose from begin to increase.

If you ever wanted to know what is truly meant by the words by the people, for the people, and of the people, it's not just about government's role, but of the role of the American people to determine on their own, the progression of their country, their governments influence, and every American's own personal prosperity. Things do not come our way out of thin air. Our success took over 200 years of blood, sweat, and sacrifice to get to the top, and being lazy and complacent now is something we simply cannot afford if we want to stay at the top...

Or, to at least recover.


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    • Springboard profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Wisconsin

      I'd be willing to pay a short term premium actually on American goods. Eventually when there are more choices for consumers to make, to my mind competition comes back into the equation and prices start to come closer to each other. So long as there is demand, there can be profitability, and with those two things in place, there can then be real competition and real choice, and voila! The free markets act like real free markets again.

      Thanks for stopping in.

    • American_Choices profile image


      6 years ago from USA

      Smart economic recovery I feel is the key to your statements here.

      We as consumers must recognize the importance of knowing what we are buying. Are we supporting American jobs? Are the retailers giving us choices?

      When given a choice, would you as an American choose American if the value were similar?

    • Springboard profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Wisconsin

      Political correctness could surpass the nuclear bomb in threat potential. Perhaps that's a bit off, but then again...?

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Thanks for agreeing Springboard because many don't and that is so stupid. As Jason says there just isn't enough fed up but I think the facts are they don't realize how many million illegals for how many years have been draining our money supply and that is beside the fact they are not screened most working in or around foods ( besides the fact we get foods from there with no restrictions as our government put on our own farmers making it impossible for them to be our food supply) and I spoke to one woman here from Texas I believe it was saying they have a TB clinic secretly set up for them there. It's just a matter of time, I can see there is no hope. Political correctness is going to be the death of us all.

    • Springboard profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Wisconsin

      Anidae, thanks. American ingenuity and business tenacity is something to be admired the world over, and I think infact it is. Many other countries have modeled their businesses similar to American business. Where we go from here will be very interesting to see. What the attitude is of Americans about where things are made will be equally interesting. I can't help but think that these economic times are contributing to a shift in thought that maybe, JUST MAYBE, it DOES matter. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

    • Springboard profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Wisconsin

      Jason, I think the ones who aren't fed up are starting to fall into the minority. Obama's polling numbers certainly show that. His job approval ratings are abysmal. And yes, Congress' approval ratings are even worse. It's going to be a tough call because I've said that I don't think there's a real conservative in the bunch leading the way in the republican party, BUT if Romney gets the nomination I will still cast my vote for him considering while he may not be a conservative at all, his emphasis on business and being a businessman is something I think we need badly to bring this economy around.

      Tango, we can't. At least not from any sensible viewpoint. BUT, and this is a big but, it starts with you and I. Again, we must vote with our wallets. That's the free markets. I don't want any government intrusion into that. I want the American people to be engaged. I want the American people to understand how their actions influence jobs, the economy, and the way the rest of the world does business with US. We need to send a message to our companies here inside our borders that we want jobs to stay here. We need to send a message to any company operating outside the United States who wants to put their products on our shelves that its not okay to simply send us stuff to buy, but that we want them to have some of their operations here as well, and that trade with them needs to be win, win. If you see the words "Made in China," or "Made in Mexico," or wherever else something may be made, the first job every American has in order to save jobs in this country is to look for an American made alternative. If we don't take the time to look and if we aren't willing to understand the consequences of complacency and laziness to seek out not what's cheap, but what's best, then don't we sort of deserve what we get ultimately? When you look around your house and nothing in it is made here, is it any wonder no one has a job? We have to think about that every time we buy something, like it or not. Time consuming or not. Inconvenient or not. We simply cannot have our cake and eat it too.

    • anidae profile image

      Anita Adams 

      7 years ago from Tennessee

      This is an awesome hub--voted up and awesome! Buying American will help our situation right now. It will help create more jobs for those who don't want the responsibility of owning their own business.

      I do believe in American ingenuity and stamina to create small businesses. Also, there are many individuals who are creating one-man or one-woman jobs with very little overhead.

      You have written a very thoughful hub and a very interesting hub to boot!

    • Springboard profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Wisconsin

      Ddraig, certainly I don't advocate for TOTAL protectionism. I want buyers on both ends of the spectrum to keep things advantageous for everyone. I just don't want lopsided global commerce which is what we have now. I'll put every dollar I can into helping right the lopsidedness. :)

    • tangoshoes profile image


      7 years ago

      Great hub! I had as much fun reading the debate comments as I did the hub. My continued support for livable wages! I recently did a hub on reasons to avoid shopping at Wal-Mart. One of the most shocking things I found while researching was the increase of imports from China compared to the increase in exports.

      How can we justify importing 4 times as much as we are exporting when jobs are so few?

    • Jason R. Manning profile image

      Jason R. Manning 

      7 years ago from Sacramento, California

      I have to nod my head to Pollyanna, with self-centered morons to the left of us in the house, and self interested morons to the right of us in the senate, we cannot find a leader who knows true north. As long as the politicians play the corporate tax game, and allow the EPA and other such frivolous runaway organizations calling the shots, its going to be business as usual. American’s are still not fed up enough to say “enough!” Good hub,voted up, well written.

    • Springboard profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Wisconsin

      Pollyanna, it's a sad state of affairs across the board to be sure. One thing that always strikes me is the numbers of foreigners who have businesses in this country, who can barely speak english. I don't know exactly what that says. But I think a lot of it has to do with tax breaks offered to them that you and I do not get. As I said to CMHypno, we've given so much of our country away and what's left for Americans in the pot is not a whole heck of a lot. To change that I think all Americans need to change their attitude. Look, I want to be open and friendly, but that doesn't mean I don't lock my door. I still want you to knock before you enter, and ask me permission to enter. And when you do enter, I want you to realize that the things I have in my home are mine, and not free to take with you when you leave. Perhaps a juvenile analogy, but it fits.

    • Springboard profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Wisconsin

      CMHypno, true to a point. But like I stated in a previous opinion piece, I think we've been duped into believing that the things we buy are actually cheap. If you think about it, how cheap is a pair of sneakers made in China that sells for $60 or more? How cheap is a shirt they sell at Kohl's for $40 made in Bangladesh? India? Pakistan? How cheap is a $50 soccer ball made in a foreign land? When it comes to those video game discs which aren't made here that sell for around $60 and cost about 10 cents to cheap are they?

      Like I stated in that other opinion, the interest in cheap labor has never really had much to do with what things cost to make them. It has to do with what the top echelon can take from the money pile. That's the reason that over the last 30 or 40 years CEO salaries have grown to 400 times the average worker's salary from just 40 times the average worker's salary in the 50s, 60s, and even part of the 70s. If anything would be true about the interest in so-called "cheap" goods, it would be due to the fact that because worker's wages have been at a standstill—you'll remember that people bought things with credit, not wages—no one can afford to pay higher prices than they do.

      Personally I think when we buy things not made in our home country, we are shooting ourselves in the foot. When we go to the register and open our wallets to pay, and moths fly out, it's probably because we've been so long giving everything we have away that now we really don't have anything left to give.

      At least that's my take on it. Glum, I realize. But I think there's some truth to it.

    • Springboard profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Wisconsin

      Witchteahazel, and I think to a large extent we must. It's sort of like taking care of your house. If you go over and pound in a few nails for your neighbor, or paint a few fences for someone down the road, eventually your own house will crumble. There's good in helping others and there's a benefit to the whole environment being viable, robust, and healthy. But if your own house falls apart the whole idea of the benefit BEING whole vanishes.

    • Ddraigcoch profile image


      7 years ago from UK

      As much as this is a message for the American nation. I can not help but think it applies to Britain also. We are almost a mirror image of America at the moment and suffer the same issues.

      I agree with your views and think there is room to support both.

      I would suggest we buy our own countries produce where possible and those of other countries when that is not possible.

    • Springboard profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Wisconsin

      Sheila, I think your point further illustrates my thinking that when it comes to the whole idea of globalization helping everyone involved, that we've all been sold a bill of goods. American workers have lost pensions, seen their wages lowered, and the middle class is an ever dying breed of people in this country. The countries that were supposed to buy from us in the exchange can no more afford to buy anything—including those services we were supposed to be able to sell them—than they could before, and so it's always been a one sided deal. The only people prospering in this whole thing have been the CEOs and the heads of states. No one in the middle has seen a dime's worth of improvement in their way of life. At least NOT REALLY. Because again, every penny of that illusionary prosperity we enjoyed was not bought and paid for through wages and real money, but from credit which allowed people to continue to buy. Sure, people obtained and repaid credit through wages, but the debt to income ratios and debt to savings ratios in this country have always been way out of whack, and now here we are feeling the pains of all of that. Again, it's going to take a serious attitude change in this country to save us from a worse fate down the road. We cannot simply return to the way things were and think we've recovered. It's like a drug addict that returns to the haunt after a few years off the stuff. It tends to kill the second time around for sure.

    • Pollyannalana profile image


      7 years ago from US

      What we should realize is that we have millions of illegal immigrants filling their bellies, set up in housing, out on medicaid while also working, they have a medical plan 100 %, we pay and that is not counting the busloads brought in because their government won't pay for them when they have things wrong that will cost thousands...we pay that. How many hospitals have they bankrupted? We don't have a medical plan and we pay for another country's, this is true! Hillary took billions to the Mexican leader for drug control, they have no money problems and we are not allowed to protect our borders with the $600 million Obama took. Who believes this money is not going into pockets? It sure isn't stopping drug runners or keeping out illegals. I have a very sad story I am just waiting for my last hub to ride awhile before telling. Maybe you think it will get better eventually, well if you mean in the here after I might agree.

    • Springboard profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Wisconsin

      Pamela, it's certainly something to think about all the time when at any store. Thanks very much for stopping in—despite my unfortunate and undeliberate distance from this site of late.

      Wesman, glad I can help you to better understand the dynamics of markets and even macroeconomics to the extent that I believe it should work in exactly the way I describe. Not everyone of course agrees with me on the subject, there are very many people out there who define free markets quite differently than I do, but I think the words 'balance' and 'natural process' serves very well in my definition of free markets. Let the people decide how they want their economy to go. But KNOW as a people what happens when we decide the wrong things, and be aware of how what we do affects everything that affects our way of life. A man who drives a Toyota, who mows his lawn with a mower made in Mexico, who then grills his food on a grill made in China needs to understand that what may well be at the heart of his low pay, and lackluster retirement outlook may just be a direct result of his decision to not look a little deeper at what he buys, and from whom. Every dollar we spend casts a vote for the kind of world we want to live in. We are living in a world right now we, all on our own, bought and paid for many years in the making.

    • Springboard profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Wisconsin

      Nicomp, I'm actually beginning to think where things are made is becoming more of a concern. I'm beginning to notice more and more things clearly and boldly labeled Made in the USA, and I think that's showing PERHAPS that there is increased interest, and increased demand in American made goods. If that is true then I think we're off to a good start. When things start to feel better, we'll need to keep that attitude otherwise we certainly will revert back to our old selves again, and I think to our detriment. Thanks for stopping by.

      Drbj, thanks so much for the kind words. :) I like the idea of "turning this bus around." Let's go get 'em America...we've got the juice. Thanks for stopping by.

      KK, you bring up some valid points. However, I think we MUST, as Americans, if we want to prosper, pay a premium in the short term for those American made goods. The alternative is more stagnation and a necessity, rather than a choice between cheaper and more expensive items. I ask you to think about this as well. How cheap, really, are those foreign made goods? A pair of Nike's made in China cost $60-$100. A BBQ grill made outside the USA is still $300-$500. A car made in Mexico still costs around $20,000-$30,000. When you think about how many hours an American has to work on today's wages to buy those items, something doesn't add up.

      My thinking has long been that this globalization thing, in the eyes of American companies, has NEVER been about the cost of manufacturing things here. NEVER. If you take a look at where things were as far as wages were concerned, and the state of the economy before globalization really took off, things were much different than they are now. CEOs made FAR LESS money compared to the average worker back then. In fact, it was around 40 times the average workers wages. It's now 400 times the average worker's wages. So really, I think that globalization, the way that it works now, is that things AREN'T nearly as cheap as we think they are, and the cost savings to American companies who have sent our labor overseas has gone into CEOs pockets. NOT into lower prices on the shelves. And the average American gets MOST of his buying power through credit. NOT wages. I think that's highly problematic and unsustainable. Furthermore, if supply and demand really works the way it is supposed to, and if free markets really work the way it is supposed to, then cost is not an issue because costs is absorbed by profitability. If companies are making their margins, it matters little what people earn to put those products to market because the price will be dictated by those real wages, and real ability to pay for those things.

      You brought up unions, and I must say I agree with you that unions are bad for companies, bad for America, and frankly bad for workers. Again, I'm for free markets. Not for influenced markets. I don't want unions to dictate wages any more than I want the government to dictate wages. In both cases these create false and illusionary perceptions of growth and prosperity. I think many union workers are maybe seeing this as they too are standing in the bread line wondering where their jobs went. Just like the government is not a money mill, nor is a company, and there ARE limits to what people can earn depending on the model those earnings are based on. The union presents a different dilemma though. I absolutely believe an American worker is able to be paid a union wage. I think companies can afford it, and I think that companies can easily incorporate those costs into their prices, and that IF union wages are paid to workers, that prices would not go up all that much. The problem with unions is NOT the wages. It IS the expectation of the worker for what one does to earn that wage that is the problem. It's the model, not the wage is my point. Because workers in union environments are typically not as productive as they can be, and when you throw efficiency out the window, it makes that labor VERY expensive, and that's the issue.

      Wow, that almost became another blog. lol. Thanks very much for stopping by and sharing your thoughts with me. :)

    • CMHypno profile image


      7 years ago from Other Side of the Sun

      I am a Brit, not an American, but until we in the West can get over our addiction to cheap clothes, electronics etc made in developing economies, we will never recover. We need to learn to want less stuff and spend more time researching our intended purchases. It would certainly be better for the planet if we all started to eat more food grown locally, and and buy more goods made in our own countries.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I believe we should buy American whenever we can.

    • sheila b. profile image

      sheila b. 

      7 years ago

      As far as I'm concerned, the factories in China and elsewhere employ slave labor. The workers earn about 2 dollars a day. If they went out for lunch, it costs one dollar. Instead, they live in factory dormitories above the shop and are fed in a cafeteria. Yes, I agree we should buy American for our own sake, and I add, let's not support slavery.

    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

      Wesman Todd Shaw 

      7 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

      I really like reading your thoughts about things like macroeconomics - I really have a hard time comprehending that subject on the level that I ought to.

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      7 years ago from Sunny Florida

      I also agree that this is a very well written article and we really must be prudent about how we spend our money. Buy American should be our motto.

    • KK Trainor profile image

      KK Trainor 

      7 years ago from Texas

      Very nicely written and informed hub.

      I agree with your points about buying American, however the costs of doing so will probably prevent a lot of that. Unfortunately part of the problem is that the good economy increased wages for those workers who make things, and now they don't want those wages to decrease. They make deals to keep their wages high through the unions, and that's a big reason so many of those high paying jobs have been lost. Bringing back those jobs is not going to help matters for the rest of us, and it certainly won't bring down the cost of buying American. As long as people can buy something comparable for a lower price, they will. Safety is often trumped by cost. While there will always be some people who feel loyal to their brand, more people buy based on quality and price.

      I understand workers wanting a fair wage, and I don't blame them for taking what they can get with the help of the union "bosses" -theives who take more than they ever get for those workers whom they claim to represent. It's a sad situation, but one that won't be resolved until foreign made goods begin costing more than those made here at home. Will that happen? I doubt it.

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 

      7 years ago from south Florida

      Jim - This is one of the most thoughtful and enlightening articles on the state of our economy that I have read in a long, long time. If all of us, every single one of us, can try to buy American whenever possible, we can turn 'this bus' around and head for prosperity again.

      Voted up!

    • nicomp profile image

      nicomp really 

      7 years ago from Ohio, USA

      A wonderfully well-balanced article. We should all be aware of what we consume and where it's produced. Without question, some offshore sources are poorly regulated, if at all.


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