Don’t read this column until you are back at your desk.
Once there, take a look at the bottom of your stapler, pencil sharpener, hole punch and the Taylor Swift pencil cup sitting next to your computer. There’s a pretty good chance they were manufactured along the Yangtze rather than in Ypsilanti.
According to a report conducted by ABC World News Tonight, economists suggest that if college students exclusively bought American-made back-to-school supplies, the result would be half a million new jobs in the United States.
As part of its “Made in America Holiday Shopping Challenge,” Vermont Woods Studios — a furniture company that prides itself on crafting “fine furniture from sustainable resources” — uses this logic to estimate that if Americans only purchased American-made goods this holiday season, more than 4.5 million jobs could be created.
While the Green Mountain state-based company is the first to point out their estimation is not a scientific one, the spirit behind the message can’t be disputed. If Americans spend just a little bit more on American-made products this holiday season, the benefits will pay real dividends for American workers.
According to numbers provided by the Economic Policy Institute, Maine has lost an estimated 9,000 jobs due to U.S. trade with China over the last decade.
Unquestionably, China’s blatant manipulation of the yuan has given Chinese manufacturers an unfair advantage over U.S. producers. Through September of this year, the U.S. trade deficit with China alone was well over $217 billion.
According to a bipartisan poll conducted for the Alliance for American Manufacturing, 55 percent of Americans hold a negative view of Chinese-manufactured products — a clear indicator that most Americans spending habits could be changed dramatically if they’re given the choice to buy American goods.
This Friday, Americans across the country will wake up at disgustingly early hours to spend their hard-earned dollars on gifts to exchange this holiday season.
If most Americans joined the employees of Vermont Woods Studios in pledging to buy American this holiday season, at least in part, “Black Friday” would become “Red, White and Blue Friday.”
We Employ Americans, a collaborative marketing campaign focused on spotlighting U.S. manufacturers, estimates that if Americans each spent just $64 more on U.S. manufactured products in 2011, the shift would create an estimated 200,000 new jobs in the United States.
$64 in spending changes over the course of a year isn’t a seismic shift in an individual budget, but it goes a long way. In his new book, “Back to Work,” former President Bill Clinton notes that only 25 percent of the money Americans choose to spend on clothing goes toward products made in the United States.
“I’m not trying to put the importers and all of the people who work for them out of business,” Clinton writes. “I have shoes and clothes that are both made in America and imported, but if we raised [the amount spent on American manufactured clothing] to 30 or 35 percent, we could create a lot of jobs in manufacturing and throughout the supply chain.”
Though the number of American manufacturers are in decline, that doesn’t mean Americans have to follow the lead of the Maccabees and do more with less this holiday season. A variety of top-of-the line products are available at competitive prices.
Instead of the Nike Air Max 95 Men’s running shoe, which retails at $144.95 at Finish Line, the New Balance 993 provides a quality running shoe, manufactured in New England, for the same price.
Buying American doesn’t mean sacrificing quality and it sure doesn’t mean sacrificing a name brand. Polo Ralph Lauren’s Club Monaco recently launched a line of chic Michael Williams designer clothing manufactured exclusively in Ashland, Penn.
In a very real sense, the gifts you choose to buy for your family and friends this year have a real bearing on another family’s ability to provide for their own. Certainly, America’s ability to manufacture products for purchase by other Americans has always been of importance, but this year, it’s essential.
To recover from this economic quagmire, we need to put more Americans back to work. But job creation doesn’t just come from those with the financial resources to hire — it comes from those who spend money.
And if you’re in a job-creating kind of mood, I’d sure love a pair of American-made Frye Cowboy boots for Hanukkah.
Ben Goodman is a fourth-year political science student and the interim president of the Maine Young Democrats. His columns will appear every Monday.