Monday, October 6, 2008

Made in America

Remember when you were a kid and you could still actually find stuff that was made in America? When was the last time you saw something with a made in America label? I know I can 't remember. It used to be only cheap stuff was made in China and it was considered inferior. We didn't have Wal-Mart when I was a kid. We had K-Mart. Sure we shopped there, but never for anything substantial. K-Mart was associated with cheap products. Often made in China. Or Taiwan. All of my Barbies, which we bought at K-Mart, had Taiwan stamped on them. Foreign made products made my WWII vet dad angry and he avoided them when he could. The implication was always that products made in China were cheaper and, therefore, inferior. For the past ten to fifteen years I've noticed more and more things have the made in China label. I've purchased gifts, say photo frames with little tags saying made in China. I always removed the tag so the recipient wouldn't think I was cheap. It has recently occurred to me that it is no longer only cheap things which are made in China. I bought a decidedly not cheap dining set last year. The brand name was American Drew. Imagine my surprise when the table and chairs were delivered and I discovered little tags saying made in China. You would think that if the company name is American Drew, their products would be made in fucking America Yesterday, I was washing dishes and noticed for the first time that underneath the Crate & Barrel logo on the back of my plates it says, you guessed it, made in China. Again, these plates were not cheap. I did not buy them at Wal-Mart. I bought them at Crate & Barrel. Fucking Crate & Barrel. I suppose I really shouldn't be disparaging China in this way and I sound a bit like Archie Bunker here, but it would be a lot easier if there weren't a story every other month about some new poisonous product coming out of China. First the dog food, then the toothpaste, the children's toys. Now of course they have the tainted milk. Products made with the tainted milk have, in fact, made it to the USA. Mostly to small Asian markets, but still, is anyone paying any attention? Shouldn't one poison scare be enough? And what's up with the Chinese?
They executed the former head of their FDA last year Now you would think that would be enough to put everyone on the straight and narrow and yet, here they are with tainted milk.

But China really isn't the problem. The problem is American companies who are so obsessed with profit margin that they refuse to make things in America anymore. Manufacturing jobs are going the way of the Dodo bird. And with these manufacturing jobs goes our middle class--the very people companies count on to purchase the products they have made in China, Bangladesh, Mexico, etc. Without a middle class, there just isn't going to be a market for consumer goods, no matter how cheaply Wal-Mart can sell them.
Look, I don't know what the answer is here, clearly we are living in a global economy (one that is in serious trouble right now), but the collapse of the middle-class in America seems almost apocalyptic in nature and I think it is about time American businesses thought about the big picture for a change instead of just this quarter's bottom line.

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