Buying American is complicated

KPC News Service

Buying products made in the United States is a noble goal, but often times it can prove to be a challenge or even impractical.

The fact is, items made in foreign countries often cost less to produce and, therefore, cost the consumer less. While some U.S. citizens may hate the thought of supporting cheap manufacturing in other countries, it hasn’t stopped people from buying those goods – thus, the cycle continues.

If people want to buy American-made products, they must make conscious decisions to do so.

But, let’s face it, a large portion of the population may not have this luxury, because tight budgets do not always allow choice. If you need a new coffee pot, Mr. Coffee, “America’s original coffeemaker,” according to the company’s website, is the cheapest brand sold at big-box stores. While the brand has its roots in Cleveland, Ohio, many of its products are manufactured in foreign countries such as China.

In addition, as much as we would like to think all U.S. brands are the best quality, some foreign products may be superior. For example, in a recent issue of Consumer Reports, no clothing dryers produced in the U.S. made the publication’s cut to be recommended.

We must ask ourselves: Is buying foreign products really a bad thing? As long as the workers are paid a fair wage for where they reside, working conditions are safe and workers’ rights are respected, should we really be concerned about manufacturing moving to other countries? Besides, many of these companies still have a presence in the U.S., whether that is a corporate headquarters, research and development or sales and marketing.

We don’t like seeing jobs taken away from American workers but, in some cases, the movement of manufacturing is creating opportunities for others — as long as socially responsible practices are followed.

At the same time, if we want to support locally manufactured products, then we must recognize that we may need to pony up the additional dollars to cover the cost of an item made here, where wages and taxes are higher than many of the countries to which manufacturing is moving.

And, if we are going to pay more, then consumers have the right to expect a high quality. Each person has a level at which they are unwilling to pay more based on where a product was made.

One of the main reasons manufacturing companies have sought out cheaper labor is because the quantity demanded from U.S. consumers is so great. Our need to have things — lots of things — has spurred fast fashion and cheap gadgets and toys.

So, if you really want to buy American-made products, maybe the first step is to analyze your buying habits and how they affect the manufacturer’s response to your demands.

This was distributed by Hoosier State Press Association. Send comments to awoods@tribtown.com.