I never realized the huge consequences of our buying so much of everything from overseas manufacturers until a few things happened within a week. I call this the week I found out imports were bad.
Now I'm no idiot. I've known for a while that it's bad that we no longer have a manufacturing base in the USA. But the greater and truly wide-spread consequences of why imports are bad didn't hit me this hard until this week. Two things happened this week that really drove the point home. I bought a vending machine company and I was at a wedding.
First the vending machine company. The previous owner has been showing me the routes for the company so I can make sure my customers' machines are filled with candy and other treats to enjoy on their break time. Most of these machines are placed in employee break rooms. But at a number of places, the previous owner of the vending company told me that "this used to be a great customer, but they've had to cut back."
For example, one of my customers manufactures low-flow toilets. They have two large buildings that used to employ hundreds of people working three shifts a day. Now only a few work in the main building and two work in the back building. Why? A Chinese competitor paying slave wages to people who are willing to accept crappy working conditions and a nation (theirs) that is willing to allow companies to pollute its air and waters for the sake of cheaper toilets has taken away jobs of your friends and neighbors. Those guys overseas have no regard for others' intellectual property rights and will sacrifice the health and safety of their fellow countrymen for something cheaper.
They make cheap Chinese knock-offs of the toilets this company has made for years and people, American people, are willing to accept the cheaper imitation of the American product, likely not even knowing that it's a rip-off of a US design. Sure, the toilet people could drag the whole thing through the courts but they likely won't be able to afford the lawsuit anyway. Soon two huge empty buildings will stand with a "For Sale" sign on them where once toilets started their journey to all corners of the USA.
But the real culprit is the American buyer who will sacrifice hundreds of jobs for the sake of saving $50 on an asset that will last for decades. For a few dollars a year of the life of this product we Americans are willing to throw our fellow countrymen under the bus. That's just sad.
Think about all the people whose lives are affected by this so-called savings. There's me, the vending machine guy. There's me, the innkeeper as these employees are no longer able to take their wives on trips since they lost their job. There's the guy who delivered their uniforms, the guy who picks-up the toilets and ships them to customers. The toilet company also has to have a maintenance person, an accountant, a secretary, and other support staff. They had to buy boxes for the toilets and someone had to print the instruction manuals. Someone was probably in charge of advertising these toilets. There were people at whose machine shop they made those bolts to hold the toilets to the floor, there was the palate manufacturer on which the toilets were placed once they were ready for new homes.
Also, the workers would likely go and buy lunch at local eateries or even bring their lunches from home with lunch pails full of things that were purchased from local markets. They would buy gasoline, tires, oil and oil filters for their vehicles. They would buy their vehicles, for that matter. I didn't mention that the local tire shop, also a customer of mine, is similarly having a lousy year and some of their guys are out job hunting.
That $50 less for something like a toilet or that inexpensive pair of pants you have to pull down to sit on the toilet or even the magazine you read while sitting there are all factors in why your neighbor can't find a job.
Furthermore there is another huge loss, and this is what I found out at the wedding. One of my groomsmen is planning to leave the area after the wedding and seek employment in "the big city." Now this has been going on since the industrial revolution, but he has worked in a number of local places and has found that more and more of those "local places" are simply disappearing.
Folks, your children, for whom you have worked so hard so they could have a better life, are now faced with the fact that they won't have a better life. They may or may not have gone to college, but all are faced with the fact that employers aren't putting want ads in the papers. Heck, there aren't even papers to put the want ads in any longer.
The American dream is turning into a fantasy.
It used to be that someone could work at a manufacturing job all their life and rely on a solid pension and an excellent health plan. But they also filled out a time card printed in the USA or punched a time clock manufactured in the USA. They filled out reports typed-up by American secretaries who handed them to American accountants and filed them with American bosses. All these people bought cars, went on vacations, bought shirts, pants and even toilets. They took vacations, ate at restaurants and had cocktails with you. While we might have thought that slapping hub caps on Chevrolets or putting low-flow toilets together was a boring job, it's certainly better than spending years looking for anything only to wind-up doing something you totally hate for wages that won't even pay your rent all while hoping that the government safety net is there for you if you or your family get sick.
Yes, those manufacturing jobs used to help keep health care costs down too because more of us had insurance so when we went to the doctor's office someone backed us up and paid that bill rather than letting it lapse and go to collections. The doctor also has bills to pay and if that doctor has 10 patients and only five pay, the bill the other five get is going to be significantly higher because the doctor has to pay their bills somehow. They have electricity, an administrator, nurses, x-ray bills, insurance, shots, cotton swabs and uniforms.
Here I sit banging this drivel away at my Chinese-made keyboard while staring into my Chinese-made monitor and saving my baloney on a Chinese-made hard drive. Oh, sure the computer says it was designed in California but it sure as heck wasn't built here. They used to be - Apple used to have a factory in Fremont that was a former auto assembly line but it's not there any longer. I'm not singling-out Apple, they're just like everybody else.
Unfortunately, many everybody elses don't have jobs because all those other everybody elses thought it was better to buy that $7 imported shirt rather than the $15 USA made shirt or they're sitting on their Levis that are no longer made in San Francisco. But those cheap Dockers have a much higher cost than the $42 you would have paid. Sure those Dockers are only $29.99 at WalMart, so what? Now you have more money to spend, right? Wrong.
You now have to help subsidize the people who can't find a job. You have to subsidize the doctor bills for those who can't find a job. You will be paying higher taxes because the government has fewer people from which to collect taxes but more people to subsidize until they find a job. Those $29.99 Dockers might really be costing you significantly more than the $42 they cost when they were made in San Francisco.
So what do we all do?
Share this blog. Tell everybody you know to ask the stores they go to to at least give us a choice of whether to support the Chinese or our neighbors. And if you can only get eight pots and pans for $250 instead of 22 maybe that's not such a bad deal considering that the folks putting handles on those pots are likely going to need uniforms, cars, candy bars and whatever other thing you're selling or involved with and when they have jobs, you have a job. So you might not be able to buy as many pots and pans, but at least you'll still have a job so you can buy some. You don't need three TVs when one will do just fine. I have three iPods but, honestly, even one is a luxury.
We've all heard "buy American" but I have one more thing to say to convince you. Remember WWII? Probably not, unless you're older. I had to read about it, I wasn't even a glimmer in my daddy's eye yet. During WWII we simply out-manufactured everybody else and kicked their asses. Ford's River Rouge plant was called the "Arsenal of Democracy." When it came time to win the war we built whatever it took, bought from one another, saved a lot and simply put our collective shoulders to the grind stone.
Now we're getting spanked all over the world. Idiots wearing their bed sheets as clothing and living in caves are making us look like monkeys. Maybe it's time to take those bastards and dunk their toweled craniums in an American-made low flow toilet. Maybe it's time we stood at the border and said "no, thank you" to shiploads of cheap knock-offs of the stuff we invented. Maybe it's time a toaster cost $40 instead of $19 because someone we know is putting them together. Or someone we know is delivering their uniforms, or putting the bottled water bottle in the break room.
Maybe, if enough of us just said the same thing with the same voice instead of arguing for or against Obama or whether we're "right" or "left" we might not all be "unemployed." Because, pretty soon, Uncle Sam's going to also go apply for unemployment and I'm not really sure if he'll get his application approved or not without some proof that those millions of people hanging on to his coat tails have some sort of hope that they can simply feed their families.
Buy American or just put your money in the bank until you can. Seriously, it's your livelihood that's at stake and that of your children. If you want them to have a better life, give them the opportunity to do so by making sure they can afford that better life and that someone will be there to sell it to them.