Monday, November 10, 2008

New agenda for America: buy local, sell local

There is no fear in my household of the telephone ringing in the early hours of any morning, with someone from the Obama Transition team on the line, asking me for advice on turning the economy around. The soon-to-be president has plenty of brilliant minds locked in several rooms, contemplating just such actions.
However, if it were to happen, there are a few pearls of wisdom I’d love to share with them, and you: launch a nationwide campaign to buy American products – first and foremost – and to SELL American products – first and foremost. It’s time for this nation to begin supporting companies making products in the United States, selling those products in their stores and encouraging industries, long ago shipped away to foreign lands because of ridiculously cheap labor forces, to reignite their factories to make them here.
If I were President Obama, I’d call a summit meeting of the nation’s largest retailers, led by Wal-Mart Corpora­tion in Bentonville, Ark., and cheerleader of this disturbing trend. I’d strongly seek a return to “America FIRST” manufacturing and retailing as a major spoke in the economic recovery wheel.
I would insist on a full-blown media blitz, led by those retailers and manufacturers, to saturate the country with the “Shop Local, Buy Local, Make Local” message. President Obama can only do so much from his bully pulpit; it needs to come from the people involved in the retailing-manufacturing process.
Why Wal-Mart, the symbol of middle America? Precisely because it IS that very icon. Once upon a time, Wal-Mart used to pride itself (and advertise in a boastful manner) about ALL the things it sold “made in the USA.” Now, you can hardly find anything within its walls with that label (Wal-Mart was a frontrunner of the job loss stampede).
The American consumer must also bear plenty of responsibility for its insatiable “cheap is better” thirst. With price becoming the overriding consideration, little concern was given to the residual effects of “made in (Fill in the Blank);” the biggest being a near evaporation of the American manufacturing sector.
The United States, sadly, has become a nation of warehouses and distribution centers, storing cheap items pro­duced elsewhere. The main jobs offered are working the loading docks and driving the forklifts to pile things that should be made on these shores.
It’s been happening for some time now; it didn’t appear overnight. In the 1990s, the growth industry in many parts of the U.S. (notably Texas) was the construction of prisons (private and state-operated). Cities engaged in cut­throat campaigning for such facilities, often to replace and another dismal, dwindling sector – military bases which have been closed by the score for three decades.
And what exactly does it say about our society, our priorities and our future?
Americans must display some fortitude and endure some measure of self-sacrifice in order to restore our eco­no­my. We must steer away from the low end, ask/demand American-made products when buying anything, and loudly in­sist on that requirement at local retail outlets.
The results will be greatly beneficial for everyone, including the consumer in ways not always realized. Ask any small-town chamber of commerce and you’ll discover a single dollar spent with a local business is turned over 5-8 times within that one community – going toward payroll, toward rent, toward groceries, toward meals, toward other local businesses. Circulating dollars is the cornerstone of any stimulus package and doesn’t require the government to go deeper in debt.
If you believe such a campaign would be impossible to achieve, just ask yourself one simple question: what is the current price of gasoline?
Finally, a turnaround in American manufacturing would also revive a most important attribute seemingly lacking lately – pride. We need to remember what it feels like to wear something with the label, “Made in the USA,” or make something with American hands, mindpower and muscle. We DO have the best workforce in the world, but it isn’t being allowed to function at any kind of percentage close to normal.
When ALL Americans unite in a common purpose to buy American-made products, and sell those products (including the phone they use to call me) and many more, the U.S. will actually return to its rightful place as the number one economic power in the world.
And truly mean it!

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