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The other day I was driving down the road behind a very large truck when we were all forced to stop because some guy was taking up both lanes trying to back a huge trailer into a small, dirt road. Since there was nothing to do but wait, I took the opportunity to read the prodigious amount of writing on the back of the truck in front of me. Aside from the, 'How is my Driving?' question, along with the phone number to call in case it was horrifying, there was the statement, 'God Bless our USA' written boldly across the bottom of the truck door. This would not have given me any pause, except that the writing above this declaration of patriotic fervor clearly stated that the contents of the truck were generators manufactured by a huge, well-known Japanese corporation. Huh? Frankly, it seemed somewhat of a disconnect to me, even ironic.
My sojourn behind this truck got me to thinking about the fact that more than half of what we Americans own is undoubtedly made somewhere else. I decided to test this theory when Chuck and I were hanging around town one day waiting for an appointment, (actually, we were waiting for a hockey game, but that's another story), and we had some time to kill. I told Chuck that we were going to pretend that he was going off to college and that we had to purchase him the things that he would need for his dorm room, and then we were going to check and see where each item was manufactured. We made a quick list and went fake shopping.
The first thing we looked at was linen, sheets, a comforter, pillows, etc. we decided on some items that he liked and looked at the labels. The sheets were made in Bangladesh, the comforter was made in Malaysia, and the pillows were made in China. We found some towels he liked. They were made in Indonesia. We deliberately looked for any of these items made in the good old USA but came up empty. So much for the linens.
We then proceeded to the section that had appliances to find a small microwave and one of those small refrigerators traditionally found in dorm rooms. The microwave was made in China and the fridge was made in Taiwan. We had no luck finding either of them made in America. On to electronics, where we expected failure.
We decided he needed a small television, a DVD player, and something on which to play his music CD's. I probably don't even need to tell you how miserably we failed in finding a single item made in this country. We even deliberately looked at brand names that I knew to be originally American, but not a one of them was made anywhere near our shores.
We looked for a small end table, a chair, and some posters for the walls. Nothing, nada, zilch. They were all made somewhere in Asia. We thought we were doing good finding a lamp made in Uraguay. At least it's in South America. All in all, it was a disquieting experience. Admittedly, we were not in an expensive store, but your average family sending a kid to college couldn't afford one of those anyway. We were where most people shop for these kinds of things, looking in a price range that most people would have to stay within. We had not been able to find a single item made in this country.
It's one thing to say that nothing is made here anymore and another altogether to find that you are well and truly trapped into buying things made elsewhere whether you want to be or not. I crossed the last thing off of our list and sighed.
“Well, Chuck, it looks like sending you to college cannot be done without simultaneously supporting some other country's economy.”
Chuck asked why things made here are so much more expensive. I told him that it was because if companies in America make things they have to pay their workers a living wage, provide things like health insurance and matching 401 K's, and sick time and vacations while a lot of other countries don't have that problem.
Chuck raised and eyebrow. “You don't have health insurance or a 401K or sick days or vacation days,” he pointed out.
“True that,” I agreed. “I couldn't buy American if I wanted to.”
“That's the problem,” he stated, “Lots of us live in the richest country in the world, but we're trying to do it on a third world budget.”
Out of the mouths of babes.
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