Save money: Buy U.S. goods
The Kansas City Star
In April 2011, The Wall Street Journal reported that our largest domestic corporations had, in a decade, cut their U.S. workforce by 2.9 million and outsourced 2.4 million jobs. It’s a sobering trend that our gridlocked politicians won’t soon reverse.
Shortly after the news report, I surveyed the labels in my clothing. Very little was made in the U.S. or otherwise produced under positive working conditions that would support fair competition for the patriotic companies that continue to employ workers here. I could say the same for most of my household goods.
Humbled, I became a label checker (which takes less time than I’d imagined) and declared myself a job creator. I mostly buy products made in the USA, or from countries with positive human rights records (e.g. Canada, Western Europe), or from Fair Trade cooperatives that do not undercut U.S. labor.
Fair Trade means workers are paid fairly by their country’s standards, not U.S. rates. Working conditions are safe, and workers are adults who earn enough to afford food, health care, a modest home and education for their children.
Compassion and a sense of irony prevent me from buying a Christmas ornament now if I suspect the worker who made it is trapped in a miserable, dangerous life, or may be an enslaved child. Moreover, facilitating economic stability fosters contentment and empowers people to resist extremist or violent influences that may oppose U.S. interests.
I also shop with local merchants (some, like Roasterie Coffee, practice “direct trade” and monitor their suppliers’ working conditions), and often at local vintage and consignment shops and charity thrift stores. If I must have something that originated in a sweat shop, second-hand retail assures that profits now go to the local economy or to solve local problems, and less waste is created.
Google has become my friend, as in “made in USA cookware.”
Only as a last resort do I buy unregulated retail products from countries I know tolerate abusive labor practices (generally in Asia, Latin America and Africa).
The shocker: I’m saving money. I buy less junk that I don’t need. Moreover, products made in the U.S. are comparably priced to products brought here on gas-guzzling freighters (despite lower labor costs).
The only time-consuming aspect of this experiment is that when I shop from large companies I inform them, by email, when I choose a domestically produced item over another.
I share my personal experiment hoping others may join me. At the 2009 Strategic Outsourcing Conference held in Dallas (and dedicated to “maximizing outsourcing strategies in challenging times”), 79 percent of the “senior executive” participants reported that outsourcing had met or exceeded expectations with regard to “overall value” and cutting costs. Perhaps we job creators should help executives rethink the “value” of outsourcing our families’ jobs. Also, shopping this way is oddly satisfying.
Debra Sapp-Yarwood, of Kansas City, is a seminary student and writer.