July 4, 2008, - 10:39 am
By Debbie Schlussel
Yesterday, I told you about Presidential candidates John McCain’s and Barack Obama’s definitions of “patriotism.” How do you define it? Do you include buying American-made products as part of patriotism?
Living in Michigan, where our economy has collapsed because of its incongruous dependence on the American auto industry, many people believe it is unAmerican to buy a foreign made car.
In my family, my paternal grandfather, my father, and I have always owned or leased American-made cars. It wasn’t just a sign that we believed in America and American workers, but also supporting our local community, of which we are not only a part, but from which we benefited (in the ’70s and ’80s, many of my father’s patients were auto workers and execs, but that quickly changed with the advent of HMOs).
But we also believed in (and I continue to believe in) the free market. Competition is always good. The Japanese auto industry, in the 1980s, forced America’s auto industry to catch up and make better products. Today, America has fallen behind again, and that would be the case even without gas prices approaching $5.00.
Some of that is because of gargantuan retiree health plans (absurdly covering Viagra and costing $1,500 of every new GM car) and union demands and wages. But many auto workers have lost their jobs and many of those who did not have made considerable wage concessions. While I support competition, I also believe we can’t exist as merely a consumer society. If we don’t keep some production here, we’ll continue to fail economically. And while auto workers’ salad days are over, they shouldn’t be paid sweatshop or slave wages, either. That will be bad for America’s economy, too.
Today, there’s another issue, too: What does “Made in America” mean? Does it mean the parts were made here and assembled elsewhere? Does it mean the parts were made there, but assembled here? That’s the mix of many cars (and other products) today, and “Made in the U.S.A.” doesn’t really entirely mean it was made here, anymore.
If I had the money to buy a new car today, I’d stay in the tradition of my father and his father. I would NOT buy a foreign model. Never. I do believe that’s part of supporting America and being patriotic.
On the other hand, my late maternal grandfather–who came here with nothing and built a multi-million dollar business–bought Japanese cars after his American ones were in the shop so much. He felt it was American to buy the most competitive, well-built product. When my grandfather bought a Japanese car for my little brother, my father was sort of embarrassed that one of his kids would be seen in a non-American car. It was almost sacrilege.
So, what do you think? Is patriotism not just sacrificing for our country, but also “buying American”? Even though I’m a free marketeer–in this age of America shipping many of its manufacturing jobs away to foreign markets–I believe that it is.
We have to support our country’s economy, or pretty soon, we will be China’s China or China’s El Salvador or Bangladesh. In the past, we developed the great new inventions, like the automobile. And we built them for us. I’m afraid that if we don’t support our own economy, other markets will create the next big things. And we’ll be building it . . . for their consumers.
Something to think about on this 232nd Independence Day: How independent will we continue to be if we produce nothing and buy their products?
In the late ’70s and ’80s, our gasoline supply and auto industry crises were bad, but they were tempered by the strong American dollar.
Now, our dollar is weak, coupled with incarnations of both of those problems. So, we are in a worse Catch 22 than ever.
Would producing and buying more American products fix that? I’m not advocating protectionism (the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act in the early 1900s “protected” our economy out of existence and into a steep depression), but part of my freedom–part of my independence–is to choose to buy American, whenever I can (which is, sadly, rarer and rarer an available choice, these days).
Does you patriotism include this view?