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Buy American vs. Going Overseas: Missed Points on Each Side, Revisiting Fareed Zakaria

Updated on November 16, 2015

One of the most common news stories is the concern over the declining manufacturing base in the U.S. It's inevitable for low-skilled manufacturing jobs to go overseas where wages are lower--one-tenth the price of Americans. A single world market exists for many goods and services; 400 million people are part of it who weren't involved 10-15 years ago.

Furthermore, the industrial revolution included clothes and textiles manufacturing in its early stages So we should accept that Third World nations would want to start where the US and England were in the 1800's to a certain extent--not remain in the rice paddies forever. Not only is my cap,"Obama: The President of the United States" made in Vietnam, but so was my other cap, "No Gano. Pero como me divierte" (I don't win, but I enjoy myself). I'm proud of Vietnam for the cap manufacturing, and I should admit that I used to teach ESOL to adult Vietnamese back in East Dallas. Many had been POWs in Viet Cong prisons because they fought for the South Vietnamese army.

Yet at the same time, I'm glad there's a store in New York called "Made in America," in which everything from clothes to hangers is made by factories here in the US. ABC Evening News with Diane Sawyer broadcasted a story about the store recently.

Our offical wholesale reconciliation to low-skill, low-paying factory jobs moving overseas overlooks another famous fact: the declining educational attainment in the US. We need jobs for the many uneducated, underskilled Americans. A Stanford Hoover Institution report, "The Decline and Fall of American Education," notes that American literacy has declined markedly since the seventies, according to the International Adult Literacy Survey (IALS). The US plummeted from fifth place for those schooled in the seventies to fourteenth for those schooled in the nineties. I observed an overall higher degree of literacy among my Vietnamese refugee students than my neighbors in East Texas. A few of the Vietnamese also knew Cambodian, French, or Russian.

America has a love/hate relationship with Wal-Mart; the prices are low and the selection is vast, but many products are imported from China. "Wal-Mart & China: A Joint Venture" reports Sam Walton's strategy stressed sails volume through the cheapest prices over high margins, so he looked to import from East Asia. Furthermore, Sears, K-Mart, Target, and J.C. Penny had all established networks in Asia long before WalMart made it to Hong Kong in 1981.

Let's look at a common sense angle. We seem to neglect what happens when those Chinese-made products hit the shores of America. An American truck driver in an American 18-wheeler hauls those goods to warehouses staffed by Americans. Then more American truckers bring those goods to our local Wal-Marts --also chock-full of American employees.

Thus we have globalization in terms of sequence of goods transport. "The bulk of the retail price pays for transportation..., rent for the store where they are sold, profits for shareholders of the U.S. retailer, and the cost of marketing," according to Seth Fiegerman in "Not Everything Sold in the U.S. is Made in China After All" Furthermore, it may seem like plenty of goods are made in China, or at least not the US, but even that has been exaggerated. In 2010, Fiegerman notes that 20% of furniture bought by Americans was made in China while 60% was made in the US. Even clothing and shoes only saw a slight edge for Made-in-China over the US, 35% vs. 25%.

Globalization is a big part of North Dakota's recent success-- a case of American success in exports. "North Dakota's prolific agricultural economy that is benefiting from global boom in commodities. The state is the largest single producer in the U.S. of fourteen crops, including barley, canola, durum wheat and navy beans. As more people around the world eat — and eat better — North Dakota's farmers are finding new markets and plowing funds into equipment and processing capabilities. 'We've seen phenomenal growth in our export markets, triple digit growth in the last few years,' said John Mittleider, manager of agriculture and energy development at the North Dakota Department of Commerce." Thus, agriculture has a major role in globalization as it did in the industrial revolution

All of these examples show benefits to buying American goods, importing Chinese manufactured products,and exporting American agricultural goods--three different situations in the economy. Furthermore, the death of American manufacturing seems to have been greatly exaggerated. Other countries' manufacturing are alive as well.


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    • bohemiotx profile imageAUTHOR

      Joffre Meyer 

      9 years ago from Tyler, TX

      I just added the stats from Seth Fiegermann, writing for

    • bohemiotx profile imageAUTHOR

      Joffre Meyer 

      9 years ago from Tyler, TX

      My two new edits lead up to the Hoover Ed report on declining American literacy togther with the drive for cheap East Asian imports by PBS.

    • bohemiotx profile imageAUTHOR

      Joffre Meyer 

      9 years ago from Tyler, TX

      Good points from "Someone Who Knows." I'll buy som'n cheap and generic when I have the chance, whether it's from the US or somewhere else. Maybe trading cheap goods with other countries will maintain peace. Developing alternative energy sources is imperative, and I'm glad our city has solar panels running some traffic lights at key intersections!

    • someonewhoknows profile image


      9 years ago from south and west of canada,north of ohio

      Why is it North Dakota can't sell their agricultural and goods develop energy here in the unitedstates? Why are corporate farmers the only farmers benefitting from susidies.Why not Organic farmers whose costs are higher and produce is healthier? I know why.Because these corporations grease the hand that feeds them.

      Exporting American agricultural goods at artifically low prices through subsidies only makes it harder for other countries to be self sufficient.

      Buying cheap and sometimes inferior goods from China makes us more dependent on them for those goods.

      Is,being dependent on other countries good.For any of those countries?

      The only reason we do such things is the disparity in the value of each countries currencies and to make them dependent on eachother.This works for a period of time then what? We know Japan went to war over the need for foreign oil.China may do the same.Unless better energy sources are found war is likely again.

      I'm not talking wind and solar.I'm thinking cold fusion as well as other more practical and less costly sources of energy.


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