The Why's Guy

Buying American: Take a closer look at that 'U.S.A.' label

The idea is good.

"Buy American."

"Look for the Label."

Advocates say it will help us dig out of this recession.

If we all bought cars made by the Big 3, they say, the CEOs wouldn't be in Washington, hats in hand, begging for help. Instead, the patriots say, we deserted America, seduced by offerings from Japan, Korea or Europe.

It's not that simple.

Buying a car? Try a Saab. That's good for GM, which owns the brand, but you are paying autoworkers in Sweden. Bring home a Honda built in Ohio, and you're helping U.S. autoworkers put food on the table — but guess who gets the profits.

Be proud of that new Ford Fusion in the driveway, excited that you have helped the good ol' U.S.A. — until you discover it was made in Mexico.

Buying a techno gizmo for Christmas? Or clothing? Or appliances? Or toys?

Look for the ones with the "Made in U.S.A." label.

And look.

And look.

If you find a "U.S.A." label, look closely.

There is "Made in the U.S.A." And "Assembled in the U.S.A." And "Made in the U.S.A. of Imported Parts." How about "Designed in the U.S.A. — Made in (insert foreign country here)."

A "Made in the U.S.A. label" Google search turns up more than 10-million hits. It doesn't help, unless you are looking for a company that sells "Made in the U.S.A." labels.

I wonder. Are they Made in the U.S.A.?

The last company making Santa Claus suits in the United States shipped the work overseas and laid off its manufacturing employees in 2007.

Santa Claus!

Ho ho ho, here's a lump of coal.

So what is still Made in the U.S.A.? Stillmadeinusa.com lists some products.

We do pretty well with food, if you skip imported fruits, vegetables and seafood.

The prescription drug industry is healthy. But U.S. consumers get ill when they learn drugs cost more here than in Canada, even though U.S. taxpayers help fund drug research through tax breaks and grants.

Try saving a few bucks by getting your prescriptions from a Canadian pharmacy. Our government says that's a no-no; it can't guarantee your safety. Odd, since it has no qualms about you hitting the highway in a 3,000-pound car with thousands of parts that was built in Mexico.

What we're best at here in the U.S.A. is difficult to describe. Computer key strokes. Intellectual things. Ideas. Stuff you can't see.

The U.S. textile industry has all but disappeared. Our manufacturing base is gone. Information technology jobs set sail as soon as they appeared. Adding insult to job loss, some U.S. companies are contracting, at lower pay scales, to import foreigners to replace Americans.

Our president-elect wants America to be a leader in green technology and alternative energy. I believe we will design the "stuff." I don't believe it will be made here.

We all share the blame for this.

CEOs, influenced by short-term rewards, are reducing the buying power of the people who make up their target market.

Organized labor brags that the American worker is the best in the world, yet Japanese and European cars get the best quality ratings.

And we all want lower prices.

We need to stop pointing fingers. We need American companies creating American jobs, for American workers who take pride in making American products, for Americans who are willing to pay for quality.

Failing that, I do see a future when it will be easy to Buy American. When we're all making fries for a living and the best we can do for dinner is a combo meal wolfed down on a break at our second job, we can be content in knowing the burger is American.

Huh? We import beef? Are you sure?

Maybe the antidepressants will still be Made in the U.S.A.

Times staff writer Kyle Kreiger writes about the serious and silly with one question in mind: Why? He can be reached at kreiger@sptimes.com. To read previous rants, click on his name at the top of this column.

Buying American: Take a closer look at that 'U.S.A.' label 12/17/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 23, 2008 3:40pm]

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