Buying American keeps money- and jobs- in America

Managing Editor Lisa Towers says it's an important lesson that bears repeating.

By Lisa Towers, Managing Editor

Here in suburban Chicago, where we produce this magazine, there are two new stores whose retail hook is only selling products that are made in the USA. I was thrilled to read about these stores in the local paper. Like some of you, I was raised by a patriotic Vietnam-era sailor who imbued the pride of being an American, as well as buying American, in his children. Rabid American pride is the norm for me, and I always find it odd when I come across other Americans who, via their actions and words, show that they don’t live by this code of patriotism. Part of that code is buying American-made goods and supporting your local economy whenever possible. So I found it equally shocking when in the course of conversation with two acquaintances on separate occasions, they asked me why it was so important to buy American-made products.

I truly was taken aback. With all that is going on in the world, I thought everyone was up on the buy-local-recycle-be-patriotic-help-your-neighbor trend that has reemerged in recent years. I happily explained that buying American keeps money in the country, and in our cities and towns, instead of being sent overseas. It keeps your friends and family in their jobs. It helps maintain our high standard of living, which so many of us take for granted.

I’m not sure if I made a difference in these people’s buying habits, but these conversations taught me that the valuable lesson of buying American-made products bears repeating. As cogs in wheel of American manufacturing, are you passing on this invaluable lesson to your children, extended family and friends?

Is it always easy and convenient to buy items made in the USA? Unfortunately, no, but if more of us did, it would lose its novelty and become mainstream again. Just devoting a small part of your household budget to buying American-made goods could make a difference. An excerpt from www.madeinusa.com illustrates this point:

“There are 305 million people living in the United States. If each one would shift $20 a month in spending from foreign-made products to American-made products, it would create 5 million new jobs.”

It’s a rough estimate at best, but pouring money into goods made by our own people is bound to have a positive effect on the economy, and we can use all the help we can get right now. According to the Alliance for American Manufacturing, the U.S. unemployment rate hit 7.2% in December, which is a 16-year high. The United States lost 149,000 manufacturing jobs last month, and 793,000 manufacturing jobs in 2008. Right about now is when you’ll start to hear the news about your neighbor, friend or family member losing a job. Could our purchasing habits have prevented some of these layoffs?

Sure, it’s not always possible to buy American. If you’re looking for a cell phone, laptop or other electronic device, you’ll have to make some concessions. But how about investing in an American-made laptop bag or other accessory? Shopping for American-made products is made exponentially easier using the Internet, where a search for “made in USA” yields multiple sources for locating whatever it is you’re searching for. Several top contenders include www.madeinusa.org, www.stillmadeinusa.com, www.madeinusa.com and www.madeinusaforever.com.

Many a time I have picked up an item with the intent of purchasing it, only to turn it over and see that’s not made in the USA. No matter what a find I thought it was before I picked it up, it loses its appeal once I see that it doesn’t have that USA label. I gladly leave the item on the shelf in pursuit of something made here. It’s that simple.

Another favorite pastime of mine is shopping in antique stores. Here it’s easy to find household items and tools that were manufactured in the United States. I am comforted and amused by the bucolic labels that decorate glassware, flower pots and even silverware. I live for seeing “Made with pride in Wisconsin,” “Manufactured in Connecticut,” and “Hand-crafted in Iowa.” I see shelves laden with Depression-era glassware and marvel at the rainbow of inexpensive plates and cups that were manufactured to lift people’s spirits in those abysmal times. Holding a piece in my hand, I imagine a worker who is grateful to be able to provide for his family because he works the press that churns out this dinnerware. I picture a mother scrimping to gather enough pennies to add another piece to her humble glassware collection. Maybe it’s the only luxury she can afford all year.

The longevity of these antiques reassures us that American manufacturing has seen us through a century of good times and bad. Buying American is the least we can do to repay the favor.

E-mail Managing Editor Lisa Towers at ltowers@putman.net.

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