QUESTION: Polls show strong support for “Buy American” legislation – which requires that government entities using tax-dollar supported stimulus grants buy domestically-produced products such as steel whenever possible. From your conversations with friends and neighbors, do you think most people really understand why it is so crucial to the American economy right now?
Yes we can Buy American
We think that Americans are currently far more aware of the values of stimulus and buying American products than they have been permitted to be for the past several years. Because of the trust level in the current administration, driven by continuing efforts by the president to communicate with us, people are willing to make choices in line with what is best for our economy. Hopefully, this trust we have will extend to believing in Obama’s efforts on behalf of unions too.
Jay and Lucia Weinroth
Big Prairie, Ohio
Little thought of Buy American
We are already very strongly “buying American,” but my sense is that most people have not really thought about it very much. Local car dealerships are doing strong advertising along these lines, however, so that may pay off.
In this day of global economy, global stimulus plans, and Uni Global Union, we must, finally, admit Americans are in a GLOBAL COMPETITION for jobs, standard of living and national economic standing. The surrender policy this nation’s corporations and politicians have given this great nation in condemning it to a service economy is a travesty. All great economic powers are based on their MANUFACTURING ability. Due to other nations taking advantage of our corporate policies of off-shoring, union busting and desperate allegiance to higher profit margins, we are in position to become a second tier economy. While other nations devalue their currency, pirate American technology, and use all protectionist measures available to them, our leaders continue to see the global economy as first priority over American security. If no one HERE has a job manufacturing American goods at a livable wage, how do they expect us to be able to
BUY anything other than Wal-Mart Chinese goods on the Chinese wages we’re receiving? I say don’t blame the Unions. Blame political and corporate greed. Give us a level playing field: tariff now.
Point Pleasant Borough, N.J.
More Buy American education
People seem to understand the sentiment of buying American made goods, but they fall short in the practice. I even know of a New York affiliate that distributed Chinese made “union logo” jackets at their December holiday meeting. “If we bought American we couldn’t distribute them for free to our members,” I was informed by that local’s President. He seemed only slightly embarrassed as he said this.
Sad, but true. More ”Buy American” education is necessary.
Buy American and protectionism
I’ve been a union man since before I was born (my grandfather was a baker, my grandmother a seamstress, I’m a professor) and I strongly support almost every union initiative and position: except pushing for protectionist, “Buy American” legislation. Protectionism can lead to an uncontrollable retaliatory spiral that will ruin the world’s and America’s economy for years to come. “Buy American” is the wrong approach to a real problem: unfair competition, cheap wages and poor conditions in foreign countries.
The right solution includes:
1) enactment of single-payer national health so that we get guaranteed health and so that American business won’t be saddled with a competitive barrier compared to foreign companies that do not have to pay health care benefits;
2) a militant campaign against environmental and labor standards violations in other countries (not boycotts, but demonstrations at embassies, visits to the countries involved);
3) strong ties with and funding support for unionists in other countries — even symbolic short, large-scale sympathy strikes;
4) leverage our political strength to ensure that NAFTA, WTO etc. really get modified to promote better labor conditions world wide;
5) aggressive unionization here in America of all the industries that they CANNOT ship overseas, and aggressive struggles to raise the wages in those industries and sectors: food service workers, hospital workers, sanitation workers, doormen and janitors, transit workers, etc.;
6) repeal all right-to-work laws, the NYS Taylor Law penalties, etc. here and worldwide.
The case has not been made strongly enough yet. The Obama Administration could help make direct links between people’s basic concerns about the current state of the economy and job loss to a brighter future for every American family based on development of green industry and business built by Americans. Unfortunately, most people I know perceive “Buy American” as strictly a ‘union’ issue which they don’t particularly identify with personally, and don’t understand what is good for unions is good for them. I would like to see the issue framed as “Build America” instead of “Buy American” so that people might come to understand its importance to every American and to the global economy. People painfully understand the economy needs to be rebuilt, and are being told to save not buy at this time. The word “Build” instead of “Buy” better describes immediate needs.
After the last eight years of national trauma, people are skittish about ‘patriotism’ and the “Buy American” slogan may be off-putting. So, yes, “Build America” first could lead us into a future of “Buy American.” Also, the case for “Build America” and “Buy American” must be made by leaders outside the trade union movement as well as by our own Blue-Green Alliance. It’s time for coalition building again.
I suspect that most people do not understand that our balance of trade is so far out of balance; they may have heard that China holds around a trillion dollars of our debt, but they do not realize how much more the USA has bought from Chine than it has sold to China. To a lesser degree, we are out of balance to Europe, Japan, and Korea. If we slow our purchasing of foreign goods, perhaps the balance will tilt back toward a more normal position.
David G. Wagner, MD
My friends feel very strongly about “Buy American,” but are frustrated because it is not easy to find American-made goods. I would not know where to go to find American-made shoes or clothing. Furniture and appliance stores have American, Canadian, and Asian items side by side and it is difficult to know which is which. Food and paper goods are often not labeled. American-owned car companies purchase parts abroad, and ”foreign” ones purchase U.S. parts.
Corporations selling out America
The tax structure must be changed. Freightliner closed American plants and went to Mexico. Hershey Chocolates moved to Mexico. We have to keep the work in USA
Circumventing Buy American
I think most people are not aware of the importance of Buy American and do not realize foreign countries exploit their workers. I myself think that to import to the extent that our own country has almost no domestic production of items like washers, dryers or structural steel is wrong. Some government contracts require Buy American in their subsidies for say, rail coaches, and they get around this requirement by assembling a small final component in the U.S.
Consumers’ ignorance; manufacturers’ greed
For too long American consumers have made their purchases based on price and neither quality nor country of origin. This, coupled with the greed exhibited by manufactures and our nation’s trade policies has led to the demise of millions of good family wage jobs in the USA.
However, when the question is posed, should taxpayers dollars, meant for job creation, be spent overseas, I think that a vast majority of citizens would answer, “Of course not.” I also believe that the recovery of our nation’s economy cannot be achieved to a great degree until we return to a nation that manufactures the goods we purchase and not a nation whose economy is based on services.
Build American manufacturing
Instead of just passing out free money to the incompetent financial wizards at inept and possibility criminal Wall Street organizations, maybe the U.S. government should build manufacturing plants to make consumer products like refrigerators, washing machines, clothing, TV’s, and eventually all of the consumer goods that we import with that money. We should impose import taxes high enough on these products so that US-made products are competitive in price with imported goods. These plants should periodically and/or constantly be for sale based upon competitive bidding, but at a minimum price at least equal to as much as the government investment. The money passed out to the financial industries does nothing to create jobs or eliminate the problems with the US economy. Maybe it helps pay for the commissions of the U.S. salesmen of the expensive new French-manufactured private jet airplanes. The French people making these (Falcon 20-25) airplanes are probably very thankful for Obama’s generosity.
Gerald R. Spencer, P.E.
Given that we are thoroughly enmeshed in World Trade, an attempt at nationalism would probably be counter productive. Other countries would retaliate.
Instead, I should like to suggest the following changes:
1. Re-write our trade policies to correct the off-set balance of payments.
2. Make importers legally responsible for the safety of their products.
3. Reward businesses that create jobs for U.S. workers.
4. Give tax relief for small businesses.
Port Angeles, Wash.
Think past price
I don’t think most Americans think past the price. I admit I personally succumb to the temptation to pay less for imports manufactured with slave labor, although if there’s an American made product for not too much more, I will buy it.
I do make an effort to buy locally-grown food and wood products, as farming and lumber products support my neighbors. Companies like ADM and Cargill need their feet held to the fire with heavy tariffs or outright bans on importation of slave products.
Hopefully, the Obama administration will implement fair-trade mandates on imports, which will make U.S.-made products price-competitive and return our jobs.
Live long and perspire,
Jerry (Steve) Dodge