Made in the U.S.A.; Sold ... Nowhere?

Not made in the USA?

Reminders to buy American are everywhere you turn. Analysts warn of trade deficits and politicians talk endlessly about preserving U.S. jobs, while America's once-great automakers shutter factory after factory, done in by foreign competition.

So, what if you, as a patriotic consumer, decided to live by the slogan, restricting your purchases -- from clothing to tools to tents -- to products made in the U.S.A.?

A recent Utah shopping trip suggested not only that it would be expensive, it might well be impossible. To get a bead on what it takes these days to buy American, "Nightline" visited three temples of U.S. consumerism: Sears, Wal-Mart and Lowe's. The mission was to acquire clothes, sporting goods and household items while buying as few foreign goods as possible.

Watch the full story tonight on "Nightline" at 11:35 p.m. ET.

There were indications that it wouldn't be easy. American factory output is at a 26-year low, Reuters recently reported. According to the Washington, D.C.-based Economic Policy Institute, more than 2 million jobs have been lost to China since 2001.

And jobs aren't just headed to China. We stopped in Tremonton, Utah, home for 30 years to a factory devoted to a quintessentially American product: La-Z-Boy loungers. The local plant closed in June 2008.

Buy American: Jobs Go Abroad

Darrell Christensen, 60, worked at the La-Z-Boy factory for 28 years.

"They just stood up there and said we've decided to move all of our facilities, sewing -- cutting and sewing facilities -- to Mexico, and we will close the plant," Christensen said in an interview at his Tremonton home. "We were making good money, and of course, you had to work, but that's good for people to work. That's what it's all about."

The first stop on our mission to buy American was a Sears department store in Salt Lake City. We were after a full suit of clothes, with as many items made in America as possible. We came out with eight items total: sports jacket (made in China), pants (China), necktie (China), belt (China), boxer shorts (Mexico), undershirt (Honduras), dress shirt (Bangladesh) and suitcase (China).

Buy American: 'Not the Way Country Works Anymore'

None of the items was available at Sears from an American manufacturer.

Next was Lowe's, where we went shopping for tools and household goods: a hose (U.S.A.), hard hat (U.S.A.), hammer (U.S.A.), U.S. flag (U.S.A. ... but with the flagpole made in China), paint brush (U.S.A. ... but with imported materials), box of screws (Taiwan, China, Canada...), gloves (China), drill (China), rake (China), bucket (China), safety vest (China), toolbox (Israel).

A better outing. But far from perfect. It was on to Wal-Mart: sleeping bag (U.S.A.), cooler (U.S.A.), towel (India), goggles and flippers and fishing pole and life jacket and backpack and soccer ball (China), and those nice classic U.S.-brand Rawlings football and Wilson tennis racket (China).

Christensen, the former La-Z-Boy worker, said that without a salary, even if he wanted only to buy U.S. goods, he might not be able to afford it.

"It's hard to buy total 100 percent made in America," he said. "It's just not the way the country works anymore."

Christensen and his former colleagues are facing a central irony of the U.S. market. Unable to afford American goods, they end up buying foreign -- in effect, paying the very workers who took over their jobs.

Page
  • 1
  • |
  • 2
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...