Walk into any big supermarket, pick up an item randomly off the shelf and look at the label. Chances are you will see one of three phrases: “Made in China,” “Made in Mexico,” or “Made in Vietnam.” It almost certainly won’t say “Made in the U.S.A.” U.S manufacturing is not what it was a generation ago. The contraction of the U.S. economy has been felt by firms, suppliers, workers and entire communities.
Buying U.S. manufactured, assembled and packed products is important because it supports the American economy and creates jobs. Investing in products made in the U.S.A not only secures the future of business within our country but also reinvests domestic consumer dollars.
First, making American products creates American jobs. According to a 2015 report from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), the U.S. lost a total of 5.7 million manufacturing jobs between 1998 and 2013. This was partly due to the Great Recession of 2008, but mostly because of trade imbalances with foreign nations like China and Mexico. China and Japan manipulate their currencies to make their goods and labor cheaper, which in turn reduces the demand for U.S. manufacturing goods. This collapses the manufacturing output, which reduces jobs. More American manufacturing jobs not only reduce the unemployment rate but also benefit the country in numerous other ways, including expanding the tax base to pay for benefits like Medicare and Social Security.
Purchasing American products will also build a prosperous nation. The economic growth of the U.S. is not determined by how many dollar bills the U.S. Treasury prints, but rather how fast those dollar bills change hands between domestic producers and consumers. When American factories flourish, they hire American construction firms to expand their buildings, American accounting firms to handle their money and American energy suppliers to provide them with power. The EPI estimates that every U.S. manufacturing job supports an additional 1.4 jobs in other areas of the economy. In addition, the Center for Automotive Research (CAR) estimates that every new job in auto manufacturing supports nine other jobs, from restaurant workers to parts makers.
Manufacturing products within America will minimize or even stop intellectual property (IP) theft. IP theft— the use of patents, trade secrets, trademarks, and copyrights without permission—represents big money. According to the Harvard Business Review, intangible assets, which include IP, make up 80 percent of the value of S&P 500 companies. The U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) has estimated the annual loss to China due to IP theft as between $225 billion and $600 billion. Although Chinese companies can use cyber attacks and corporate espionage to commit IP theft, the most common form of IP theft is requiring U.S. companies invested in China to provide IP details and licenses. Through manufacturing in the U.S., we can avoid these pitfalls.
Some might argue that buying foreign-made products is required to keep down prices. However, production standards vary across countries. In the United States, consumer protection laws ensure the production of safe, quality products by all manufacturers. American-made products are developed under strict compliance regulations and undergo rigorous testing in order to guarantee this standard.
An additional argument for foreign-made products is their ability to produce a high output in a short amount of time with cheap labor. But most foreign labor standards are considerably lower than domestic labor standards. While labor exploitation occurs both in the U.S. and other countries, our nation has legislative acts to prevent this exploitation. For example, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) in the U.S. prescribes standards for wages and overtime pay.
Buying domestically minimizes the support of exploitative practices and will eventually pave the way for eradication of those practices.
It isn’t possible for everything you buy to be made in the United States. Some types of goods are harder to find than others, and sometimes you simply have to make cost and quality your top priorities. However, in my opinion, we can greatly improve the American economy by buying American. By doing so, we’ll support a higher tax base, reduce the American trade deficit and achieve greater economic growth, which will sustain and strengthen our economy for generations to come.