Traverse City Record-Eagle

Other Views

October 30, 2013

Another View: Buy American, but not because it’s legislated

The search for American-made — or at least partially American-made — items can be a challenge. Statistics from economic research groups target clothing and shoes as the worst culprit because only 10 percent of them are manufactured domestically.

Overall estimates for products consumed and made here in the good ol’ USA range from 40 percent to as high as 75 percent.

That’s a big range. But certainly worse than in the 1960s, when only one in every 10 items purchased in the U.S. was foreign-made.

It’s widely recognized among policymakers and political pundits that the decline in American-made goods directly impacts our economy. They attribute it to everything from failed trade policies to cheaper labor and fewer regulations overseas.

So when the Michigan Senate unanimously approved a bill that would ban local governments from buying foreign-made American flags to place on veterans’ graves, our initial reaction was favorable.

Sure, why not make it so our veterans who fought for our country also have an American-made flag fluttering next to their gravestones? That makes sense.

But then the fine print of the bill caught us off-guard. Local governments may still buy foreign-made flags if the American-made flags aren’t “competitively priced.”

Hmmm.

Then, of course, the question arose of who’s going to be the flag police? And how exactly would this be enforced?

The bill, on closer inspection, turns out to be nothing more than feel-good legislation. And that, and this situation in which we find ourselves, is sad.

How about instead of issuing unenforceable edicts to our local governments, our state senators look at ways to grow the business of manufacturing in our great state? Why don’t they investigate ways to better promote American-made, or Michigan-made, products here and abroad?

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