MADE IN THE USA! We see this saying all over the place. From our clothes, to tools, to the parts we bolt onto our cars. When we see Made In The USA it’s a sign of pride, quality, and craftsmanship. We will spend more money on those companies that are still producing their product here in the good ol’ United States. I’m here to say that saying is a bit of a farce – we shouldn’t be focusing on Made In The USA.
Let me preface this a bit by I’m a huge Patriot. I love the USA with my whole heart, and would do anything to defend her. This saying of Made In The USA has really gotten to me lately though because the more you dive into it, the more you realize it’s not all what it’s cracked up to be. People seem to put their blinders on and focus a little too much on this saying.
If you want to get a bit technical, you can define the term. Straight from Wikipedia they define it as “a country of origin label indicating the product is ‘all or virtually all’ made in the United States.” As I mentioned earlier, this conjures up feelings of pride in their product, one that’s higher quality than it’s imported counterparts, and a sense of craftsmanship in the product of a skilled worker making it.
Back in 1996 the Federal Trade Commission tried to make it so that if a product wore this Made In The USA tag, at least 75% of the manufacturing costs would be accrued in the USA and that the product was last substantially transformed here in the States. What that would have meant is that perhaps the raw goods came from overseas, but the product was manufactured here in the USA. Right off the bat – is that really Made In The USA? Not exactly. Only partially.
Right now it’s somewhere around 20% of the product has to be manufactured in the USA. That’s it – a mere 20%. For example, let’s say there’s a company out there that makes a 12″ section of chromed pipe. They can have the pipe made and cut overseas. If they only have that piece of pipe chromed here in the USA, that constitutes 20% of the manufacturing and now it bears the stamp Made In The USA. Still think it’s an American made product?
Here’s another made up example. Let’s say it’s a clothing company this time that is making T-Shirts. They buy all the raw cotton for these shirts overseas. Once here in the USA, they simply cut the material and stitch on a simple logo. That means more than 20% of the manufacturing is done here in the USA and it wears the Made In The USA tag. Still think it’s an American made product?
Finally let’s make up another example of a basic American manufacture. We will use the old college example of making widgets. The company is here in the USA and strives to maintain that label. They employ Americans and they even buy their raw goods from an American manufacture. However during the process of taking their raw goods and transforming it into a finished product, they use a German made CNC machine along with an a welder made of imported pieces. Is it still an American made product?
Unfortunately the discussion has to turn a bit political to fully encompass the Made In The USA statement.
We can dive deeper into this by talking about the Economics of importing versus the manufacturing in the USA. In order to keep this short, I’ll briefly touch on this. For the most part, it’s much cheaper to produce overseas that in the USA. That’s why we do it. Sure everybody would love to have everything made exclusively here in the USA, but it’s cost prohibitive. What if the computer or cell phone you’re reading this on cost four times as much? Or instead of building a motor for $5,000 it now cost you $20,000? These basic examples are reasons why things are made overseas – it brings down the price significantly in most cases. Remember that not too long ago pretty much everything was made in the United States. We are the reason they went overseas to bring us lower prices.
All these examples are showing you that the deeper you dive down into this Made In The USA label, the more you realize it’s kind of bullshit. There’s almost no way possible to make a product that is 100% Made In The USA. For me I don’t focus on that – what I focus on is companies that are employing Americans and keeping that money here in the USA. When the company profits, is it going back overseas or is it staying here in the USA? If we do that, then hopefully they can bring their manufacturing back home. It’s going to come at a cost though – straight from your wallet.
From now on, look at where the money is going. Try to support those that manufacture in the USA, but try not to get too sucked up in the label. It’s going to be a slow process before everything, if it ever, returns back on our homeland.