The Benefits of Buying American Made

There is a definite sense of pride and purpose when you pick up and buy a product that is stamped “Made in America.” You know that a family has a roof over their head somewhere in the states because of making those goods somewhere in the states. Blue-collar towns that rely on American manufacturing flourish; Little League teams have sponsors, small businesses open and grow when manufacturing stays home rather than abroad. But what are the broader implications of ‘Made in America?” 

The Overview of USA Manufacturing Decline

We are living through unprecedented circumstances. Yet, we do not believe that circumstances define us. On the contrary, we are a strong people, built on the shoulders of cultures that have melded together to give us the greatest prosperity the world has ever known. 

Over the years, political winds shift, and political leaders seek accords with other political and world leaders based in the name of trade. And why wouldn’t they? Humans base our lives on consumption; we have been trading goods and services throughout the history of humanity. International trade history reaches back to the Old Testament, with it being the source of King Soloman's immeasurable wealth. Europeans discovered America in search of trade routes with India, and trade was the sole reason why pirates came into existence. In short, international trade has shaped the world that we know today. 

America’s gross domestic product (GDP) is massive, making up nearly 19 percent of the world’s economy. To put this into perspective, roughly 332 million people in the USA make up 4.2 percent of the global population yet produces nearly one-fifth of the finished goods and services

The question then is, if the U.S. is creating so much of the global GDP and exports nearly 12 percent of its goods annually, why are Americans buying so many goods that are manufactured abroad and imported? 

Why Have Jobs Left the USA?

We have to get to the bottom of why jobs are leaving the U.S. economy, but many factors are to consider. 

Multinational Companies

Everyone who has watched the epic TV series Breaking Bad remembers the multinational conglomerate Madrigal Electromotive. It was a fictional German company that owned subsidiaries in many countries, including a significant hub in Albuquerque, New Mexico. 

Madrigal may be fictional, but the concept is far from fiction; companies like this exist worldwide. For example, Airbus is the second-largest jetliner manufacturer globally and is considered a European competitor to Boeing, yet they assemble jets in Mobile, Alabama. The same with Volkswagen, Toyota, Honda, Nissan, and so on. These companies are foreign, yet they provide tens of thousands of jobs to American workers. Yet, according to the Council on Foreign Relations, “Creation of high-wage U.S. jobs by multinational companies, after a strong decade in the 1990s, has stalled, and these companies have shed nearly three million jobs over the past decade.”

Exports

Taking a look at what the U.S. is exporting pulls the curtain back a little on what the U.S. is manufacturing. 

  • America is a world leader in industrial and agricultural machinery. But, do you know what colors you're likely to see on any field in the world? John Deere green. With nearly $25 billion in sales in 2020, Caterpillar yellow. 
  • As odd as it sounds these days, America is one of the largest exporters of crude oil globally, shipping over 3,100,000 barrels per day abroad. Our most significant trade partner is India, with Canada and China leading recipients. 

Canada and Mexico make up about a third of our exports, which is not surprising considering that was the entire premise of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), enacted in 1994. 

The Drastic Decrease is American Production

Between 2000 and 2010, American production decreased by an alarming 11 percent, while the GDP grew by 17 percent! Furthermore, the distinction between what exactly is an American company and what is American-made continues to blur. It is easily argued that a Toyota Tundra, assembled in San Antonio, is as American-made as an F-250 in Lexington, Kentucky. The semi-conductors used by both manufacturers are produced in Taiwan. General Motors has manufactured parts and vehicles in Mexico for decades and even has had production lines in China. 

But it certainly doesn’t start or stop with the automotive industry, although that might be the most significant.

Overall Domestic Consumption of USA-Made Items

While we export many products globally, most of our production stays here. So it's hard to tell what you're consuming. For example, how do you know if your gasoline is from an OPEC nation or drilled outside Houston? Gasoline certainly doesn’t have a sticker, but the petroleum extraction industry employs around 127,000 people in the U.S., and another 174,000 work in refining. 

Most American consumers support buying American first and will gladly spend the money to support local. But in such a complex global economy with so many moving pieces, it does get a lot harder to quantify. For instance, is the steel used to forge an Estwing hammer mined in Appalachia and forged in Ohio, or did it roll off of a ship in Long Beach from Chinese mines

Benefits to the USA

The benefits of buying USA-made items are apparent: pride of ownership, supporting local, keeping your money in the states. These are all the best reasons to own American-made, but there are also other reasons American industry and consumers should source American-made. 

Steel jobs have long been leaving our shores, and China has picked up the slack, not just for the west but for much of the world. China has around ten times the steel manufacturing capacity of the U.S. and exports nearly one-quarter of total steel export. In 2016, China manufactured almost eight times as much steel as the U.S.

With this surplus production has also come a slew of quality control issues over the years, with inferior quality steels being received worldwide. These are the same bulk materials used in building construction, machinery, cars, and a million other durable goods where metallic composition matters a lot. 

When you buy steel that was mined in the states and forged here, you can rest assured it meets the stringent standards of the U.S. steel industry. 

Benefits to the Local Community

In a word, jobs. The benefit to buying American is that the money stays right here. When you buy new steel panel roofing and steel siding made in Wisconsin, you are putting money back in the heartland. 

You are also putting money back in the steel mills in the rust belt. You are putting food on the table in logging communities and textile communities. 

Personal Benefits of Buying USA-Made

It is nothing personal to importing countries; they also need roofs over their heads. But our concern should be in exchanging goods and services with our fellow citizens, particularly in durable goods that can and should be made here. 

Good, bad, or indifferent, we also understand that all items produced from the beginning to end in America are taxed in America. We may disagree on how that occurs, but at least we say where it goes. When that money leaves our shores, we have zero influence on what happens. It may go to support a regime that participates in human rights violations. It may go to supporting wars that we are against. Wherever it ends up, it is out of our hands. 

Conclusion

Buying American has been a position and matter of pride for generations. Our grandfathers drove a Ford, our fathers drove Ford, we drive Fords, and so on. We buy DeWalt or Milwaukee tools because they are made here by American hands that know the value of craftsmanship, built by hands that equally respect the hard work our hands will perform with their tools. It is a symbiotic relationship among countrymen. In exchange for your goods and skills, we have forged a tool. It goes back to the earliest times, and although the global economy has radically evolved, we all yearn for community. We believe that the simplest form of a community remains to buy American-made products, help your fellow man, and grow the American dream!