Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Does It Matter if it's Made in America?

Until recently I confess to being an imported car buyer. My dad didn't like a lot of American-made cars except for Chevys and extinct ones like the Edsel and De Soto. Being a dutiful (?) daughter and completely ignorant about any car, his attitude became my attitude. My first car was a 1950 something German Volvo that was given to system failure at any moment (usually after midnight). From there I went straight to VW's with two buses and three versions of the Golf. There was an interlude with a baby blue Camaro, but after a year I traded it in for a VW because I couldn't put big stuff in the trunk. Being a Cub Scout mom and do-it-yourselfer, I needed more hauling space. My current ride is a used 1995 Ford Ranger pick-up truck with a camper shell, but that's another story. Supporting Americans by purchasing American-made items didn't come to my mind until the economic crisis starting smacking us around.

With good intentions I went shopping for a new battery-powered toothbrush and chose the nationally known brand instead of the house brand. Good intentions thwarted, however. They're both made in China! Economics Class experiment: if I gave away all the products not made (and assembled) in America in my living room would I have anything left?

Canada: VCR player ($500 - 12 years ago)

China: printer ($90), computer screen ($130 on sale), computer ($600 on sale),Christmas decorations ($60 - some from thrift shop), computer components (Value-?),computer desk ($50), lamps ($200), one end table ($90 on sale), credenza ($60), book shelves ($120), plant basket ($5), computer speakers ($19), television stand ($120), headphones for the t.v. ($90), Calculator ($1), and a lot more small stuff.

Germany: Photograph paper ( $30)

Ireland: Computer ink ($16)

Japan: Camera ($350)

Malaysia: CD Player ($50), telephone system ($100)

Mexico: Cable box is licensed to manufacture by an American company to a Korean company who outsources to Mexico. (Value? We rent this from the company)

Taiwan: Television ($998 on sale)

U.S.A.: Some assembly of the computer in America - parts made in China, one old end table whose company now outsources to Mexico($100), tiny copper pot (Value? Bought at thrift shop), three planters ($20), computer paper ($4), various computer stuff ($20), two old recliner-type chairs, likely made in the U.S.A., but newer chairs are manufactured in other countries (Value ? given to us by friends), one couch (We bought it at a yard sale; it was made in Tacoma, WA by a company that no longer exists.)

The contents of my living room if I kept only made-in-America items: three plant pots, computer paper, some small computer stuff, an end table, and two really old and well worn chairs and couch. Since we are about to replace our living room furniture (the cat is almost finished clawing them into oblivion), we'd have no furniture at all. Check this out for some interesting info about which furniture manufacturers outsource:

Could I restock my living room with American-made items? I'm on a fixed income and am concerned that I couldn't afford to buy American, but that may not be true. How about if companies that outsource production are misleading us? After all, these American-based companies that have moved jobs away from the U.S.A have to make a profit. Do I really need to buy at that Big Box store because I can't afford American? Does the item need to be completely manufactured and assembled here to be supportive of the U.S. economy? The answer to this last question turns out to be extremely politically complicated, so what do all those numbers actually mean? I'll let you know if I ever find out.

I intend to buy as many products made in American as I can. Check your particular state for items made there. You can find nearly anything you want by looking at your state's list and the ones below. I've verified all of the ones I provided, but as always, if your computer screams "virus," don't open the site. There are plenty of others that will be just fine.

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