This is an excerpt of a column I wrote for Dome Magazine:
President Donald Trump and Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow recently reached a bipartisan accord in a big way on a political issue. They didn’t appear on a stage together. A Trump event in Wisconsin and a Stabenow speech in West Michigan occurred days apart.
But the Republican president and the senator from the opposition party agreed on a stronger “Buy American” approach – Trump’s plan came through an executive order; Stabenow (and fellow Michigan Democratic Sen. Gary Peters) proposed legislation. The purchasing rules apply only to federal government spending practices but the clear implication is that consumers should favor products that are “Made in the USA.”
This amounts to sloganeering of the warmest, fuzziest kind. Most Americans say they favor buying products made in the U.S. But that patriotism fades the moment a person grabs an item off the store shelf.
An Associated Press poll conducted in spring 2016 found that a substantial majority of Americans don’t want to buy American-made products if that means paying a few dollars more. The AP-GfK survey showed that nearly 75 percent of respondents said they prefer to buy U.S. goods but many will not pay a premium for such loyalty, especially if the differential is significant.
Asked to make a real-life choice between $50 pants made in a foreign country and an $85 pair of the same fabric and produced domestically, only 30 percent said they would choose the American item.
A Buy American mantra seems quaintly out of date in an era when the Internet has revolutionized comparison shopping. Price-conscious consumers tacitly give a vote of confidence to the overseas companies that pay low wages – even poverty wages – to their workers.
Shoppers say they want to buy products from worker-friendly companies that don’t send American jobs overseas. But there’s a catch.
The Pew Research Center, in a late 2015 poll, discovered that only 53 percent gave the politically correct answer to the question: Do you try to frequent companies that treat their workers well, even if it means paying a little more? A full 46 percent said they’re not willing to pay more money, as a show of loyalty to these corporations, and that their purchasing decisions are not influenced by a business that adheres to a hostile atmosphere for its workers.
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