Here's the problem: We (meaning the U.S.) was once the most industrious nation in the world with a trade surplus, all that began to change circa the late 70's. At that time we reached a tipping point as our imports exceeded our exports.
Today we own a goods and services deficit of $62.2 billion and a trade deficit of close to a billion dollars. What this means is that we buy more than we make, which as any consumer can attest, is a surefire way to break the bank.
Well, I don't have any quick fixes to this problem (who does?) but I do have an idea that could possibly help spark U.S. production and start rebalancing the trade metric: Buy American.
Remember back in the 70's and 80's, those ILGWU commercials? You know the ones, "Look for... the union label... when you are buying as shirt, blouse or dress..." I think that's how it went. Anyway, the ad was a call to support American workers by buying American. Those commercials began airing during a period we refer to as stagflation – economic growth had come to a standstill as are nation's net worth dwindled. It would pick up later (at least on paper) as the Dow began to make its run at 10,000, but this was just an illusion, as we are now seeing.
Back to the point: My Big Idea then is to only buy goods made in the U.S.A. or if you must, buy foreign-made goods second hand – at the thrift store.
I've challenged myself to do just this for 30 days. I'm four days in and so far, so good. I did have to put a sweet set of sheets I needed back on the shelf of a discount store. They were made in Pakistan.
Now, I'm not a xenophobe or overtly jingoistic, but I am finally beginning to understand the big deal about buying items that say "Made in the USA" on their labels. By buying American we support American workers and American production. Enough of us do this and demand exceeds supply. What happens next?
Well, more workers are hired with the newfound profits; bigger factories are built, employing more American workers; those American workers who now have money burning a hole in their pockets spend it on more American-made goods. Next thing you know, we've got ourselves a thriving economy again, circa 1946.
I believe this is very possible and am willing to spend a few extra bucks here or there or do without here or there to contribute to the cause.
I'd love feedback, negative as well as positive on this idea. Shoot holes in it or support it. If you really like it maybe you will join me and maybe you and I and a bunch of others can organize and make a hip, cool, post-partisan movement out of it. It's worth a shot.
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