I finished up my shopping for this holiday season yesterday. My wife is retiring early next year and she needs some leisure clothes. As I wandered around looking for something she would like, I was struck by something. I noticed, especially when it comes to apparel, that American Consumers are being exploited on a regular basis and don’t even realize it. That exploitation is not for the good of American Workers but rather foreign workers.
First a little background. In 1993, NAFTA was shoved down our throats in a fast-track vote in Congress. Since then, we have seen China become a “Preferred Trade Nation” and the South Korea free trade agreement passed. Since 1993, America has lost almost 3 million factory jobs. If we still had those factory jobs, our unemployment rate would be about 3% and the economy would be booming.
These job losses are a direct result of these trade agreements. They have made it much easier for companies to shut down American Factories and ship them overseas to places like Mexico, China, and South Korea. Almost all of the garments you are currently wearing come from foreign countries even though the company selling them is supposed to be an American company.
This move overseas has also resulted in more companies avoiding their taxes. And, as we have heard recently, more companies are buying up foreign companies just to say the home country of the company they bought is now their new corporate headquarters. Again this is a ploy to avoid or seriously reduce U.S. Tax obligations. Because of these trade agreements, we are losing jobs and our government is losing revenue which increases our deficit.
That brings us back to my shopping yesterday. I don’t care what you want to purchase, every company now is putting their logo on everything you buy. For example, if you purchase active wear from Nike, you either have Nike on the clothes or the Nike Swoosh logo.
Nike, like the other active wear companies, hire professional sports stars to hawk their products. Then they sell their products at huge profit margins. For example, Nike pays stars like Michael Jordan millions of dollars annually to use his name on shoes. They make the shoes in China. The pay rate in China is about 1 dollar per hour. That may even be a bit high. So, including material to make the shoes, Air Jordans probably cost the company about 20 – 30 dollars a pair to make (that is a guess not actual fact). They then import the shoes into the U.S. and sell them for well over $100.
Nike is not alone in the either. Other companies do the same thing. Who can blame them for wanting to compete? But, the part where exploitation comes in is these stupid logos on the front of everything they make.
It isn’t just active wear companies either. You find logos on just about everything you buy. If you want a Polo brand shirt, you have their logo on the front. If you buy a winter jacket, there is a logo on the front. They are everywhere and we can’t help but wear them.
The exploitation part is that you are actually being used as a walking billboard for the company you purchase from. Take something as mundane as a ball cap. Many golfers wear caps while playing golf to keep the sun off of their heads. They usually purchase a cap that bears a company name on it. Then they go out and play golf and become a walking billboard for the company whose name is on the hat. Problem is that hat cost the golfer anywhere from $10 to $30 depending on where he bought it.
As a result, the golfer is basically paying a company to advertise for them. Shouldn’t it be the other way around? Shouldn’t the company be paying us to advertise for them? If people like Michael Jordan can be paid millions of dollars to advertise, shouldn’t the average person be paid at least hundreds of dollars to advertise for the same company?
As I said, this isn’t just with athletic and active wear. Your winter jacket has a logo on it. Your polo type shirts have logos on them. Your shoes have logos on them. Your hats have logos on them. Your jeans have logos on them. About the only thing that doesn’t have a logo on them is your underwear. If you were allowed to walk down the street in your underwear, there would be a logo on that too.
The concept of having a logo on clothes is not, in itself, offensive. The fact that I don’t have a choice that the logo is there, and therefore being used by the company as free advertising, is offensive. Especially when that product is not made in America. Look, I try to buy American every chance I get. But, as everyone knows, that is becoming harder and harder as time goes by.
Just about everything we purchase today either comes from another country, or at least parts of it comes from another country. Meaning jobs that could help boost our economy and our middle-class are being lost forever. So, we are basically being forced to purchase clothes we like at exorbitant prices and then give the company free advertising to boost their profits. Profits that are not helping Americans at all.
I can only think of one way to fight back. We need legislation passed through Congress that expressly prohibits logos on any apparel that is not 100% made in the U.S.A. That way we can easily distinguish the companies who benefit American workers and those who don’t. Yes, I know you can always look at the label to find out where it was made, but I bet hardly anyone does. Especially with the small print on the labels.
This may seem like a trivial matter to most people. But the best way for Americans to “Buy American” is to make it easy for the consumers to know what is made in America. Only allowing American Companies who actually manufacture their apparel in America is a good way to start. At least that way we have a better means to choose if we wish to advertise for a product by wearing it.
If we are going to be forced to freely advertise for companies, let’s at least make sure we are advertising for truly American Companies with their factories employing American Workers. I Bet that would boost the economy!