I love my country. But these days I'm feeling a bit embarrassed by it. When I watch the political news I get the feeling I'm watching a bunch of brats fighting out back, causing a desire in me to blow a loud whistle or knock some schoolyard heads together. It seems to me our politicians' carping about each other's faults and throwing roadblocks in front of any idea to lift us out of our financial mess has smothered the point: to come up with a solution. In any business -- big or small -- solving a financial crisis isn't brain surgery: if your company's in trouble, cut spending and increase revenue, and do so as a team. Of course America is a very big business with layers and layers of complicated issues, and I'm just an ant on a donkey's butt in upstate New York furrowing my brow. Still, can't we all set aside our own ridiculous self-involved needs for a little while, put our heads down, and together push this rock up the hill? Simplistic nonsense I suppose. What we need must be fantastic Washington DC minds working day and night as us common folk sit around drumming our fingers and mewling about our jobs dilemma and waiting for problems to be solved by others.
I was in a local store today, and every item I picked up had a stamp on the bottom. Not one said "Made in the USA." Not one. As I write this I'm in my office. A tag on my computer speaker says "Made in China." So does a tag on my calculator. There's a coaster on my desk: "Made in Italy." The little wooden holder where my business cards rest was made in Taiwan, as was my stapler and my mouse pad. My camera...made in Japan. I have a Zenith television...made in Thailand. A decorative mirror...India. My glasses case...China. The HP scanner and another set of speakers...China. My Samsonite passport holder...China. I drifted to other parts of the house. Dog toys...China. Dog dish...China. Hammer...China. Picture frame...China. Shoes...China. Finally, desperate, I went into the bathroom and looked at a roll of toilet paper. Made in the USA. How appropriate.
American manufacturing once dominated the globe, turning the tide in World War II, allowing us to help rebuild Europe and Japan, and providing all material needs for a robust middle class. In 1965 American manufacturing was responsible for 53 percent of the economy. By 1988, that percentage was 39 percent. Just seven years ago, U.S. manufacturing accounted for 9 percent. It's estimated that fewer than 10 percent of American workers are employed in manufacturing. Our industrial giants are failing.
We Americans don't make stuff anymore.
There is something about the trend of American companies outsourcing to countries like China, Taiwan, Thailand, Korea, and others that is heartbreaking. What with globalization (the increased mobility of goods, services, labor, technology, and capital throughout the world) and outsourcing (the performance of a production activity outside the U.S. that was once done by a domestic firm or plant), the outlook for American manufacturing -- and therefore jobs creation -- is grim. For this reason, and of course for countless others, our economy is in shambles.
So what can Americans in the new millennium do about this? The problems seem so daunting it isn't surprising that many of us are immobilized. We stare at news programs where Republicans and Democrats and Tea People and so-called journalists throw darts at each other and point fingers. We watch our friends and family lose jobs and homes. We wonder if our children will be able to go to college. Food prices rise, gas prices rise, and paychecks dwindle. Is it any wonder we live vicariously through reality shows where ghastly-faced women spend money on plastic surgery and dress tiny dogs in diamond outfits? We sit numb, wondering what will become of us as our beautiful country founders.
Personally, I don't have a great invention to offer up as a solution. I don't own a big manufacturing company, I can't rally the employee troops to work harder to turn out quality and innovative American products, and I can't stop outsourcing to foreign countries because I don't outsource in the first place. I am not a politician and can't step forward with a brilliant plan for change. All I can do is stop the bleeding in my own tiny world. I may only be an ant, but this ant will no longer support foreign-made products. I have a Japanese car: it will be my last. The next television I buy will be made in the United States, as will my clothes, my shoes, my dog's dish, and my mouse pad. This will not be easy. Shopping will be longer and more difficult and, probably, more expensive. I will have to study merchandise tags to see where my purchase was manufactured, and will need to search bins and racks before finding needed items made by American hands. This will be inconvenient and I don't care. I'm going to do what I can do to fill my life with products made in my own country because, indeed, there are still a few out there. My efforts may not make a bit of difference, but at least the numbness will be gone. I'll be doing something, which is more than I can say for the bulk of our current politicians who rant and accuse and hunt for fame instead of buckling down and figuring out what to do about the problems in my country. In our country. We want -- and deserve -- our country back.
As for China...well, that's a lovely place. She will not, however, get another penny of my hard-earned cash.
When you go shopping tomorrow, take a minute and look at a tag. Think before you buy, and imagine your ten dollar bill floating across the ocean to pockets of people who will not help to rebuild America. Do this, because it's just possible that if we can get enough ants working together, we can push that rock back up to the top where it belongs. Political rhetoric is not the answer. We the people are.