Made In The U.S.A.

“If you go to Wal-Mart, you’re a rat.”

In Adventures on May 20, 2009 at 12:51 am

Last week there was a “Keep it Made in America” rally held in downtown St. Louis. Simultaneous rallies were held in other cities around the country, promoting the idea that “building it where we buy it” is important to our economy.

At the St. Louis rally, 80-something car dealer turned Buy American advocate Dave Sinclair spoke to a crowd of already- and soon-to-be-laid-off auto- and steel-workers. Whether you’re on the side of the workers who think the corporations keep too much money, or the side of the manufacturers who think their workers make too much money, or the socialists who think the two sides deserve each other, you’ve gotta love a quote that cuts through the BS. “If you go to Wal-Mart,” Sinclair said, “you’re a rat.”

Other attendees said other things, but none of them were quite as awesome as Sinclair’s quote.

Jesse Jackson said something I agree with: “We are subsidizing the export of American jobs. Don’t get mad at the workers in foreign countries. They don’t take our jobs. Our companies go over there and give the jobs to them.”

But you can’t blame the companies. They do what makes money. It would appear we make it profitable to sell cheaply made things. Even if it means they have to go overseas to make them cheaply enough for us. And even if it means we’re shopping at Wal-Mart to get them even cheaper.

U.S. Senator from the great state of Missouri, Claire McCaskill, seconded Reverend Jackson’s notion. She agreed that it makes no sense to prop up ailing companies if those companies are simply going to outsource jobs overseas. “Let’s build them where we sell them,” she said. “We are in a defining moment in our history. We are drifting away from our heritage. If we begin to accept the notion that we are only going to ‘buy’ in America–we aren’t going to ‘build’ in America–then the sun is going to set on our greatness.”

I’m not sure if that’s entirely true. I understand the concept that manufacturing generates wealth, but I don’t know that I understand it.

It was recently pointed out to me that we need to face the fact that America is a consumer culture. Sure, I’ve heard that a million times. But this time it resonated a little more. It doesn’t just mean we like to consume. It means that we only like to consume. We like to consume so much that we consume ourselves. We consume items that enable our consumption–cheap things, imported things. Bad things.

The speakers at the rally probably don’t realize that they’re making my point too. We are rats if we buy at Wal-Mart, but not just because it’s anti-union–because it enables our additction to consuming ourselves. Foreign workers don’t take our jobs, we give them away in exchange for less expensive t-shirts and TVs and tchotchkes. We are at a defining moment in our culture. But it’s not going to be defined by a government propping up an industry. It’s going to be defined by the people who spend their money, one dollar at a time, and what we choose to spend those dollars on.

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