Made in America vs. Made in China – a hand-mixer lesson
My Sunday morning breakfast predicament is responsible for this article.
Homemade pancakes were the decided breakfast meal this morning. Assembled all the ingredients and pulled out my shiny red, high-end electronic made-in-China hand mixer that I bought at Williams-Sonoma two years ago, and that I use intermittently. Whipped up the egg, working fine. Added the balance of the ingredients, turned on the mixer, and dead. Took the beaters out, re-inserted them, nothing. Checked the plug, checked the wall outlet. Everything’s fine, except the mixer.
Go to the pantry, pull out the old Sunbeam made-in-America hand-mixer that I bought when I moved into my first home in ’83. Plug it in, works like a charm, 29 years later. Pancake batter saved and pancakes savored.
As I’m eating, I’m remembering all the appliances, cookware, apparel that I’ve had issues with over the last several years:
- A new “American-made” stainless steel roaster with teflon roasting rack. In cleaning the rack after one use, the teflon is pealing off. Fuming, run out to the garage and find the box — made in China. Grrrrr.
- A new washer. Had a repairman out within the first six months to fix worn gaskets due to the machine’s high spin cycle. The fix lasted less than 30 days. The noise the washer makes is deafening. But my 29-yr old, made-in-America dryer, same manufacturer, runs like a tank, no problems.
- Side by side refrigerator freezer. Within six months, the ice-maker’s augur ceased to work.
- Casual apparel for around the house. Every year, they’re made somewhere else, Honduras, Vietnam, El Salvador, etc. Within six months, the stitching is unraveling, tiny pin holes and tears begin appearing. Yet, I have sweaters handed down to me from my mother, yes, made in America, with the ILGWU label still inside them, still holding up just fine.
How many of you reading this article have similar stories and experiences. We always hear the phrase, “they don’t make ‘em like they used to” and I always counter with, why? Was American labor more highly skilled than their non-American counterparts? Did we have better equipment? Did we have more training, better quality control programs? Did we have the uniqueness of the American work ethic, and pride in our work that gave us the competitive edge in productivity?
If the answer to any of the above questions is yes, than why are we witnessing the drain of manufacturing jobs overseas, especially to China. Why are we less competitive in the world, when our productivity is higher than its ever been.
The Economic Policy Institute’s exhaustive study, “The China Toll” released in August, provides some excellent insights into the American manufacturing sector’s issues with China. The Study also describes in great detail the reasons behind the our trade issues with China, which can be summarized in two words, currency manipulation. This charge has been talked about incessantly by Donald Trump, as well as Republican candidate, Mitt Romney, who would bring China’s currency manipulation to the forefront, if elected. Highlighted below are some of their findings:
The more than 2.7 million U.S. jobs lost or displaced by the trade deficit with China between 2001 and 2011 were distributed among all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.
Most of the jobs lost or displaced by trade with China between 2001 and 2011 were in manufacturing industries (more than 2.1 million jobs, or 76.9 percent).
Within manufacturing, rapidly growing imports of computer and electronic products (including computers, parts, semiconductors, and audio-video equipment) accounted for 54.9 percent of the $217.5 billion increase in the U.S. trade deficit with China between 2001 and 2011. The growth of this deficit contributed to the elimination of 1,064,800 U.S. jobs in computer and electronic products in this period.
Other industrial sectors hit hard by growing trade deficits with China between 2001 and 2011 include apparel and accessories (211,200 jobs), textile mills and textile product mills (106,200), fabricated metal products (120,600), furniture and fixtures (80,700), plastics and rubber products (57,600), motor vehicles and parts (19,800), and miscellaneous manufactured goods (111,800).
At the same time, China alone is not to blame. In the “2010 Global Manufacturing Competitiveness Index“, study done by Deloitte and the US Council on Competitiveness, business executives were surveyed as to the advantages and disadvantages of American competitiveness. In summary, our advantages lay in our intellectual property protection (75.5%), and our technology transfer and adoption (61.2%). Our top 3 greatest competitive disadvantages is led by government intervention and ownership of companies (59.2%); corporate tax policies (53.1%); healthcare policies (51%).
Another factor, America’s educational system. There has to be a fundamental change in our educational system from grammar school through college. This subject of Apple bringing its factories back to America arose in the second Presidential debate. Reminds me of the late Steve Jobs:
Steve Jobs, Apple’s late CEO, brought the issue up during an October 2010 meeting with President Obama. He called America’s lackluster education system an obstacle for Apple, which needed 30,000 industrial engineers to support its on-site factory workers.
“You can’t find that many in America to hire,” Jobs told the president, according to his biographer, Walter Isaacson. “If you could educate these engineers, we could move more manufacturing plants here.”
Bottom line, we have an education system that is not supportive in helping educate our children and displaced workers with skills they’ll need to find a decent, well-paying jobs, so we can compete in a global marketplace. We have a government bent on killing the free enterprise system through regulation and taxes. And because no one within the Obama administration understands the free enterprise system and how business works, they won’t raise their voices against China and its currency manipulation, in fear of sparking a “trade war.” China would have far more to lose in a trade war with the US than we would.
In tonight’s foreign policy debate, Mitt Romney will best be served by reminding the viewers that a strong America at home equals a strong America abroad.