Buy American

I was reading today about the tightrope that President Obama is walking between his promise to labor folks who want a strong "Buy American" provision in the stimulus plan and U.S. trade partners and companies with significant overseas exports who don't want that kind of language.

It reminded me of a meeting I had in Corporate America about four years ago. I sat in a conference room in the heart of America (i.e. Kansas) filled with about 20 of my teammates. We were participating in a call with about nine software developers in India. As I looked around the room I became aware of something odd - I was the only US citizen in the room.. it was a very odd feeling.

As I reflected on this I started to think about the irony of it all. We were in the process of shipping our work to an IBM group in India and the people facilitating the outsourcing effort were mostly people with green cards who immigrated from India. It helped me to come to grips with the fact that Corporate America was not only exporting our work overseas but also importing cheap labor from other countries.

I guess the moral of the story.. if there is one.. is that.. in my opinion.. we desperately need a government that will advocate for the American worker. I liked Obama's "Buy American" language during his presidential campaign. Lets hope that his words are more than rhetoric. It is about time that American workers had a friend in Washington.


  1. I prefer to buy the best product at the best price. I really don't care where it is made. I don't want to go down the road of the protectionism tit for tat. I think that since that meeting you had 4 years ago, the fad of doing IT work in india has faded. I know several instances of companies reversing their outsourcing to India.

  2. I definitely would like to see American workers get first crack at jobs in this country.
    With all our money and resources in China I don't see that happening. I hope what Obama has said proves to be more than reteric

  3. I was just thinking about this a couple of weeks ago. I asked myself, "What if everything in this area that was made in China suddenly disappeared?" I could see all of the Dollar Stores in the area being empty of goods. I could see at least HALF of the goods in the local discount supermarkets disappearing. Then I thought, "Where would all of the financially challenged people who depend on these stores then do their shopping?" (And this group is steadily growing ...) Get the picture?

    How can the unionized sector making upwards of $35-45 an hour (factoring in benefits) expect the poor schmucks struggling at $10-15 an hour to buy their product? Or do we just tax the hell out of those big earners and then subsidize the poor schmucks so they can buy the high-end stuff?

    Something's wrong with America - and isolationism isn't going to fix it. Free trade is a big part of our economy, and we cannot ignore the growing international market. (We sure aren't ready to buy only oil that's produced in America!)

    Nope. I don't think "Buy American" is much of a factor in the solution to our economic health. It sounds good - if we were a nation of maybe 3-5 million. We aren't though. If we consider ourselves a 'world leader', then we need to stay economically engaged with the world through trade.

  4. Great comments all. I agree with much of what is said about buying products made in other countries but wonder if our materialism and desire for cheap goods blinds us to human rights violations and child labor in the countries that we import from?

    Also, I was wondering if anyone had any objection to outsourcing Obama's renovation of the health care technology infrastructure to someplace like India. Seems that they could do it much cheaper but it also seems that American unemployment statistics would be negatively impacted.

    And what do you think of his idea to only use American made steel in physical infrastructure renovations?

  5. There are just too many shaeds of gray in the world we live in. I have a friend who serves in China teaching English in one of their universities. He's been there for many, mant years. He tells me what we consider to be 'slave labor' is a blessing to a nation of 1 billion plus. What they do puts food on the table - and more. Their 'slave labor' income has enabled them to surpass purchasing just the survival commodities and they are actually experiencing something called discretionary income (even if it is pitiful compared to our standards). Our 'poor' find a source of affordable goods (even if it is substandard) and their poor find opportunity to have more than the barest of necessities. Is it just? Do the Chinese deserve better wages? Of course things could and should be more equatible - but we don't live in a perfect world. There's lots and lots of gray.

  6. "Buy America" could really potentially be harmful to the company for which I work. Even though the plant will be here in the U.S., will employ American workers, and will pay millions in taxes here, we're not considered a domestic producer because the early stages of our processing occur overseas. One of the downsides to any "Buy America" provision is that it could, in fact, hurt American workers here.

  7. Hmmm.. I wonder if you all capture what most Americans feel about insourcing workers and outsourcing work?

    Do you all feel that the United States has a trade imbalance? Other than agricultural products what do you all think our major exports are? Do you see other countries needing anything that we make?

    Just wondering what kind of America my grandchildren will live in..


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