A consumer movement that demands transparent country of origin labels could reinvigorate American economic prosperity.
In Buying America Back (SelectBooks, 2012), Alan Uke explains how we can create jobs and reclaim our economic prosperity by demanding a better country of origin label on our manufactured goods. By modernizing the iconic tag that reads Made in America or Made in China, Uke believes we can help end unemployment, increase economic prosperity and lessen the threat from imbalanced trade. The following excerpt was taken from the Introduction.
Wherever you are, pause for a moment. Look at the objects around you. Perhaps you are lucky enough to be reading this outdoors where much of what surrounds you is created by nature. Look at what you have with you and what you are wearing. If you are indoors, look at the things you use every day. Chances are, wherever you are reading this book, you are surrounded by many, many objects that are man-made and produced in factories by people and machines.
Before you read on, pick up five of the objects and look at them more closely. You rely on many of these things. Ask yourself this: Where do they come from?
Look for the country of origin label.
Very likely, most of what you found was not made in the U.S.A.
And there may have been some surprises. If you were in the kitchen you might have noticed that almost anything with an electric cord on it, no matter how familiar the American brand, was made in China.
There is also much that the label doesn’t tell you. In all likelihood, many of the objects have components from all over. You weren’t told the whole story when you made your purchase. Something doesn’t feel right, does it?
You use many of these objects on a daily basis. They are supposed to bring you comfort and well-being and yet their country of origin label hints at a deeper, more disturbing truth.
Why is it important to know where the things we buy are made? For starters, the country that makes the product you buy gets the money you spend. Years ago, most things we bought were made in American factories by American workers. The money stayed here in the U.S. and was used to build factories and create jobs. Today, 60% of the manufactured consumer goods we buy are imported from other countries. This means 60% of the money you spend for these goods is sent out of the United States, keeping people and companies in other countries employed and making money. Meanwhile our job base is disappearing, deficits are ballooning and our future looks bleak.
Consider the objects you found once again. Even though they may deliver moments of satisfaction or comfort, in many cases their very purchase quietly undermines your future economic stability, slowly erodes your standard of living, and chips away at the economic foundation you worked hard to build. All the while, another country is reaping the benefits of all that we lose.
The economic foundation of our country has been severely eroded over the past forty years. I am not talking only about the millions of factory jobs that have been lost, but also the creative people in research and development, and our professionals—such as engineers, scientists, and chemists—who are being replaced by outsourcing. Our future as a nation and as individuals is being threatened.
Since our spending habits as consumers have contributed to this situation, we can change our spending habits to reverse it. If we don’t, we are all in for tougher times.
In order to make this change we need more information at the point of sale about where the product is made that includes where the manufacturer is located and where the manufacturer spent money to produce it. In many cases more than one country is involved in the process, and we need labels that give complete information about the countries of origin of the product so we can be better informed when we choose which products we want to buy.
It is not enough to be angry and frustrated about our economy. In order for a change to happen, consumers must demand to be more honestly and completely informed about what they are buying and where their money goes. To this end, we are starting a consumer movement to bring this to the attention of Congress. We want them to enact laws for more thorough labeling, just like the government responded to the demand that the food industry reveal precise content information on every packaged food product. The goal of this movement and of this book is to encourage people to change their buying habits toward purchasing things that help the U.S. economy and job situation.
You are not alone. We have to band together before it’s too late. The American people are the largest block of consumers on the planet! We have immense power. Consumer spending makes up seventy percent of the U.S. economy. This means that we, taking determined action together, have an enormous influence on what happens to us in the future—by directly and indirectly revitalizing America’s manufacturing and job base.
We have the same situation about this consumer issue that we had with unsafe cars, unwholesome food, unsafe use of insecticides, and damage to our environment. Many corporations want us to believe that when they prosper, America prospers. That’s rarely true. Business interests are not in alignment with the American people’s economic interests. Our government is unable to act because it’s pandering to business interests that conflict with what is best for the consumer. Only a populist movement that refuses to buy products that are not beneficial to the American people can move business to act differently. Only a populist movement that refuses to vote for candidates who do not advocate America’s best interests can move politicians to act differently.
Many of us are not as well off as we might have been twenty or thirty years ago. But you do not need to be rich to make change. Changing our spending habits even slightly will have a massive effect on our economy and our own lives. Later in this book, I discuss how other countries do just that, and have built successful economies with similar measures. We need to create our own consumer movement along these lines, or face the consequences.
This book explains why this is important and why it will work. Other countries are thriving, enjoying a high wage and a high standard of living. We can once again have this, too, but only by taking action together now. When you have the tools to make thoughtful buying decisions and can purchase wisely, you not only invest in your own well-being, but in the prosperity of America.
This excerpt has been reprinted with permission from Buying America Back by Alan Uke, published by SelectBooks, 2012.