Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Is "buying American" un-American?

This semester, I'm taking a speech class. For my persuasive speech (final speech of the semester! HOLLA!) I'm talking about the importance of buying American made products. Quick info on why I chose this topic:

I'm an apparels and textiles major. Basically, my classes center a lot around manufacturing, buying and selling different types of garments. I'm learning to construct clothes, I'm learning about the history of the fashion industry, and I'm also learning about international trading. For one of my classes this semester, I had to learn the basics of the foreign fashion markets and their effect on the domestic market. As I was nose deep in info about the difference between bootleg and counterfeit goods, duty fees, trade agreements and import quotas, I found out I had to do a persuasive speech for my speech class. In my sheer insanity, I decided to kill two birds with one stone, so to speak, and do my speech on the importance of buying "American." I had just read in my Aparells book that the United States is number one in the entire world for buying imports but doesn't really compete in exports. Frankly speaking, we just don't make stuff to sell internationally. This, for those of us "in the know" is called a trade deficit and can greatly affect the economy. (Read: NEGATIVELY AFFECT)

Before I go any further, I want to clarify: I strongly believe that it's important to purchase internationally manufactured products AS WELL as American made goods. Frankly, the international markets give us a variety of fabrics, technologies and innovations that we just can't get in domestically made goods. It also helps the global economy, which in turn, can help our national economy. There is nothing wrong with purchasing goods made overseas in addition to buying domestically made products. The problem is, when everything we purchase comes from other countries, American workers are getting the shaft. (Not to mention, cheaper prices on imports can also mean cheaper or unsafe products. We've all had the clothes that tear or fall apart after just a few wears and we all know about the recalls on lead-laced toys.)

So, I have just embarked on my adventure into the world of researching American made products. After a simple Google search of "Why buy American?" I stumbled across several sites instructing me that buying American is simply "Un-American." I'm sorry...What? Apparently, America was founded on capitalism (silly me, I always thought it was founded on ideals such as "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" but what do I know? I was only born and raised here.) which we all know is about getting every last dollar without spending a dime...Or is it?

Capitalism is defined as: an economic system in which investment in and ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange of wealth is made and maintained chiefly by private individuals or corporations, especially as contrasted to cooperatively or state-owned means of wealth. (Dictionary.com)

Let me re-read that one..."in which investment in and ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange of wealth..." Whoa whoa whoa there! You mean capitalism isn't just about sucking every single cent out of something without spending a dime?! Well, call me confused!

Buying American IS the American way. Because buying American is about more than saving a few pennies here and there. (Companies pay duty fees for goods imported into the United States. This is to give domestically made products a fighting chance against imported goods. Basically, you are paying to import something into the country, which brings the overall "cost" of imported goods up to a rate closer to that of domestically made goods.) Buying American is about taking pride in your homeland. It's about helping out your neighbor. It's about supporting ethical treatment of employees.

There's a reason that imported goods can come cheap. Workers in foreign countries are often forced to work in inhumane conditions. (Google search "Bangladesh factory fire" to learn more about unsafe conditions in the factories that your favorite Walmart clothes come from.) Many work six to seven days a week, for more than 14 hours a day in unsafe conditions and all for very little pay. Many of those workers are children. There is a reason that Americans started creating workers' unions and child labor laws in the early 1900s.

Buying American means paying American workers competitive wages for quality goods. Yes, you might spend a few more bucks, or have to search a little harder. But with the constant fear of unemployment rates and unsafe goods, wouldn't you rather spend a couple extra dollars at the checkout for a little peace of mind? Wouldn't you rather give some money to your friends and neighbors to help jumpstart our economy?

Probably the easiest way to do this is to purchase local. Whether it's locally grown produce or shopping at a small boutique in the city, it's a great way to not only purchase American made goods, but also a way to truly become part of your community. Get to know the tomato guy at the farmer's market or the lady who sells handmade jewelry at the local craft fair. We, as Americans, owe it to ourselves and to our country to start taking pride in how we spend our money.

So, next time a major holiday, birthday or anniversary rolls around, do us all a favor and buy something made in America along with that new ipad.

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