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Topic: A question: American-made vs foreign-made
Message: Posted by: George Ledo (Aug 29, 2015 01:16PM)
Not wanting to derail "that other thread," here's a new question...

A lot of businesses source out their fabrication to other countries because it's cheaper - even including transportation and customs - to have their products made this way. After all, businesses need to make a profit and therefore have to be very careful about pricing their products according to the market. Fabricating products here in the U.S. has become too expensive for some industries, due to things like OSHA, ADA, labor unions, health insurance, liability insurance, local regulations, ambulance chasers, and such.

So the question is, would you be willing to pay more for a product made in the U.S. than for the same product made overseas? Let's assume that the business complies with all regulations, that it requires prospective employees to prove that they are "legal" to work in the U.S., and that it pays a reasonable wage. And let's further assume that it's an everyday product, not a specialized or luxury item.

I would love to throw this question out to the general public, but let's start here.
Message: Posted by: S2000magician (Aug 29, 2015 01:34PM)
If the U.S. doesn't have a comparative advantage (an absolute advantage isn't necessary) in manufacturing certain items, then it shouldn't be manufacturing those items.
Message: Posted by: Magnus Eisengrim (Aug 29, 2015 01:44PM)
[quote]On Aug 29, 2015, S2000magician wrote:
If the U.S. doesn't have a comparative advantage (an absolute advantage isn't necessary) in manufacturing certain items, then it shouldn't be manufacturing those items. [/quote]

Assuming that economic efficiency is the only relevant criterion.
Message: Posted by: Kabbalah (Aug 29, 2015 02:05PM)
No.
Message: Posted by: George Ledo (Aug 29, 2015 02:08PM)
Okay, so I think I'm hearing that you would not pay more for a U.S.-made product if you feel that it shouldn't be made here.

I'm trying to phrase this question at a level that "a guy on the street" could answer. :) Maybe I need to re-phrase it.
Message: Posted by: Starrpower (Aug 29, 2015 02:09PM)
If the product is better due to being produced in the US, yes. If there is a marginal price difference, I would choose the US product, although it's really hard to tell these days, and truthfully I don't specifically look for countries of manufacture. Some products are "Assembled" in the USA, but manufactured elsewhere.
Message: Posted by: Magnus Eisengrim (Aug 29, 2015 02:16PM)
I will support local agricultural product and lumber whenever possible.
Message: Posted by: funsway (Aug 29, 2015 02:31PM)
In theory, I would -- just as I will frequent a local, owner-operated restaurant over a less expensive chain as long as the food is reasonably comparable. I shop at a local hardware store even though they sometimes charge more than Home Depot, and I like to listen to the old-timers on stools by the counter.

But, I don't always believe a "made in America" ad. Often some of the assmebled items are manufactured elsewhere. Some cars are assembled in the USA but all profits got to Japan or Korea or even Denmark.

Henry Rifle claims that every item in their product is made in the USA. Too bad I am not in the market for one.

So, how does one know if the item is actually "American-made?"
Message: Posted by: George Ledo (Aug 29, 2015 02:33PM)
There was some hubbub recently about the Apple factories in China: low wages, bad working conditions, and so forth. But people here still buy iPhones and other i's made there. So the question becomes, would you (the general public) be willing to support workers in this country by paying more for the exact same i-whatever? Ten percent more? Fifty percent? A hundred percent?
Message: Posted by: landmark (Aug 29, 2015 02:43PM)
[quote] Maybe I need to re-phrase it.[/quote]
"Should Americans buy American?"

Yes. But not easy at all, given supply chains.
Message: Posted by: RogerTheShrubber (Aug 29, 2015 04:46PM)
[quote]On Aug 29, 2015, George Ledo wrote:
Not wanting to derail "that other thread," here's a new question...

A lot of businesses source out their fabrication to other countries because it's cheaper - even including transportation and customs - to have their products made this way. After all, businesses need to make a profit and therefore have to be very careful about pricing their products according to the market. Fabricating products here in the U.S. has become too expensive for some industries, due to things like OSHA, ADA, labor unions, health insurance, liability insurance, local regulations, ambulance chasers, and such.

So the question is, would you be willing to pay more for a product made in the U.S. than for the same product made overseas? Let's assume that the business complies with all regulations, that it requires prospective employees to prove that they are "legal" to work in the U.S., and that it pays a reasonable wage. And let's further assume that it's an everyday product, not a specialized or luxury item.

I would love to throw this question out to the general public, but let's start here. [/quote]

My answer to your question is no, a resonunding no. I used to buy American to be supportive when I was single, but once I had a family to support I dropped that habit fast.

I, like almost anyone else who makes his own living, already pay too much for the overbearing, out-of-control government whose ridiculous and endless regulations are squeezing the life out of American businesses to begin with. With what I have left, I go for best bang for the buck, and if that means everything I buy is made in China, Japan and Korea, that's the way it goes. I understand that such an attitude makes it harder for American business, but I have a family of five to feed and no amount of small gestures on my part is going to change anything. The more the government can get away with in terms of squeezing business, the more it's going to. If Americans were to suddenly ignore overseas products and buy only American, you'd just see more taxes and more regulations in response. Nothing is going to change for the better, ever, and I'm not going to pay extra for it anymore.

Further, while I support the right to unionize, I see less and less instances where I actually side with a union in labor disputes and I'm not going to pay more than I have to just to fund their retirement when I have my own to concern myself with. I haven't bought an American car since 1988 and I probably never will again. I am not concerned with the wages a company pays its employees unless it's the one that signs my checks, so this "reasonable wage" issue you mention doesn't come into it at all - I have never believed that a workweek of 40 hours should be a guarantee of a comfortable living to begin with (and don't get me started on the demands of fast food workers). A person's salary is not my business unless it's mine or my wife's, and I'm not willing to pay more just so that someone else gets what they deem a reasonable wage.

In terms of the economy, the government doesn't look out for business and it doesn't look out for us. All it does is grow bigger and squeeze harder, and as a result we work more and more for less and less. The only people who will look out for you are you and yours, so no matter how good your intentions are, we're past the point where we can make a difference, and bang for the buck should be your first priority. It's certainly mine. I can't stop the government from screwing me, but I am no longer going to screw myself just to be a nice supportive guy, as I did for years and years with no positive result. When I want to leave myself with less money, I donate to charties I know will do some good - at least that way I get something out of it.
Message: Posted by: slowkneenuh (Aug 29, 2015 05:56PM)
+1 for Roger The Shrubber.
Message: Posted by: Bob1Dog (Aug 29, 2015 07:09PM)
+2!!!
Message: Posted by: balducci (Aug 29, 2015 07:40PM)
FWIW, the United States has one of the most self-contained economies in the world. Only about 15% of its GDP is tied to the import of goods and services. Among developed nations, that figure is (or is about) the lowest. For many nations the corresponding figure is 40 to 80 percent.
Message: Posted by: George Ledo (Aug 29, 2015 08:18PM)
This is getting interesting now. Interesting as in learning stuff I didn't know or didn't think about.

One of these days I'm going to look online for something that tells me how much in manufactured products was sold in the U.S. over the past few years (i.e., how much people spent), and what percentage of that was imported. Just manufactured products, not raw materials. I have to believe that somebody out there, somewhere, is getting paid to keep track of this stuff.

Now, what I'm going to with the information? Haven't got a clue. :)
Message: Posted by: magicalaurie (Aug 29, 2015 09:35PM)
Didn't Americans used to buy American? Canadians, too? Or were all those brands I saw in elementary and high school always made in China? ;) And what ever happened to "made in Taiwan" ?
Message: Posted by: Starrpower (Aug 29, 2015 10:46PM)
When I was a kid all the cheap crap was made in Japan. That was so common that they made a joke about it in Back To the Future.
Message: Posted by: motown (Aug 30, 2015 12:25AM)
Yes, I would prefer to buy American made products where possible, even if they're more.
Message: Posted by: stoneunhinged (Aug 30, 2015 05:40AM)
I'm curious as to how much of stuff that is made in America is really made in America. If I buy, say, an American-made Fender guitar, is it truly 100% American-made? Every bolt, screw, wire, piece of wood, chemicals in the paint? Really? Maybe so, maybe not. But how much of a product--other than the brand--has to be American before it can be considered to be American-made?

It reminds me of the pre-war Gibson banjo I once saw for sale: the neck was not original, nor several of the nuts and bolts, nor the strings or head. Basically you would be buying a pot with an original tonering--the rest of the parts were modern replacement parts. They were asking over $100K--it being pre-war and all.

(For those of you who don't know how a banjo is made, an analogy would be to offer an original "Ferrari" consisting of an authentic chassis and engine, but with everything else being made in your local custom shop. It has the heart of a Ferrari, but the rest is a reproduction. Is it a Ferrari?)

So what does American-made even mean?
Message: Posted by: motown (Aug 30, 2015 08:33AM)
Here's an article I came across.

http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/magazine/2013/02/made-in-america/index.htm
Message: Posted by: Magnus Eisengrim (Aug 30, 2015 09:50AM)
[quote]On Aug 30, 2015, stoneunhinged wrote:
I'm curious as to how much of stuff that is made in America is really made in America. If I buy, say, an American-made Fender guitar, is it truly 100% American-made? Every bolt, screw, wire, piece of wood, chemicals in the paint? Really? Maybe so, maybe not. But how much of a product--other than the brand--has to be American before it can be considered to be American-made?

It reminds me of the pre-war Gibson banjo I once saw for sale: the neck was not original, nor several of the nuts and bolts, nor the strings or head. Basically you would be buying a pot with an original tonering--the rest of the parts were modern replacement parts. They were asking over $100K--it being pre-war and all.

(For those of you who don't know how a banjo is made, an analogy would be to offer an original "Ferrari" consisting of an authentic chassis and engine, but with everything else being made in your local custom shop. It has the heart of a Ferrari, but the rest is a reproduction. Is it a Ferrari?)

So what does American-made even mean? [/quote]

I asked Theseus, but he just sailed away.
Message: Posted by: imgic (Aug 30, 2015 12:20PM)
I did some work with medical device manufacturer not too long ago. They'd been outsourcing a lot of their parts from China. Recently they've been using more supplies in the U.S. One is quality. second is the Chinese labor force is demanding more wages as their middle class grows. They are losing their comparative advantage due to low wages.
Message: Posted by: magicalaurie (Aug 30, 2015 02:31PM)
Who remember this? :)

[img]http://tvland.mtvnimages.com/images/shows/threes_company/videos/season6/full_episode_threes_company_171.jpg[/img]
Message: Posted by: RogerTheShrubber (Aug 30, 2015 03:44PM)
[quote]On Aug 30, 2015, magicalaurie wrote:
Who remember this? :)

[img]http://tvland.mtvnimages.com/images/shows/threes_company/videos/season6/full_episode_threes_company_171.jpg[/img] [/quote]

The show, yes. The episode, no.
Message: Posted by: Wizard of Oz (Aug 30, 2015 04:42PM)
[quote]On Aug 30, 2015, stoneunhinged wrote:
I'm curious as to how much of stuff that is made in America is really made in America. If I buy, say, an American-made Fender guitar, is it truly 100% American-made? Every bolt, screw, wire, piece of wood, chemicals in the paint? Really? Maybe so, maybe not. But how much of a product--other than the brand--has to be American before it can be considered to be American-made?

It reminds me of the pre-war Gibson banjo I once saw for sale: the neck was not original, nor several of the nuts and bolts, nor the strings or head. Basically you would be buying a pot with an original tonering--the rest of the parts were modern replacement parts. They were asking over $100K--it being pre-war and all.

(For those of you who don't know how a banjo is made, an analogy would be to offer an original "Ferrari" consisting of an authentic chassis and engine, but with everything else being made in your local custom shop. It has the heart of a Ferrari, but the rest is a reproduction. Is it a Ferrari?)

So what does American-made even mean? [/quote]

This question has been asked many times, and it's always a good question, even when it's been answered repeatedly. I've heard "Made in America" meaning everything from the majority of parts in the item being manufactured in America to simply being assembled in America. Ideally I would think, a product would include all American-made components and assembled in America. But...do we go even deeper and wonder where the steel came from?

I care ultimately about quality and value. If I can get equal quality and value on an American item vs. foreign, I'll pick American every time. But there is a caveat. I also care about how products are engineered, and how they look. As a designer, I care about that a great deal. I've seen some well-made American products that just look horrible. But I've seen some great looking, inexpensive, foreign items that I know won't last as long as their American counterparts. Quality and value ultimately win.

Lately, I've seen some awesome American clothiers becoming more popular, shoe manufacturers, recreational products, and more obscure...as I collect knives...some of the best knives in the world made in the good old USA. You can buy several Chinese knock-off assisted-opening knives for the price of one American blade, and they break proportionately as quick as the money you save.
Message: Posted by: rockwall (Aug 30, 2015 05:18PM)
[quote]On Aug 29, 2015, balducci wrote:
FWIW, the United States has one of the most self-contained economies in the world. Only about 15% of its GDP is tied to the import of goods and services. Among developed nations, that figure is (or is about) the lowest. For many nations the corresponding figure is 40 to 80 percent. [/quote]

I find this comment very interesting. Could you elaborate? Are you saying that 85% of everything spent in America is on something American made? If that's what you mean I'm astounded.
Message: Posted by: rockwall (Aug 30, 2015 05:49PM)
Mike Rowe from Dirty Jobs has a Bobblehead that is made in China. He wrote a long blog explaining why it's not made in America that is pretty fascinating. Without having to read the entire blog it basically boils down to this:

“To make the venture worthwhile,” he said, “a Bobblehead manufactured to your specifications entirely in this country would need to retail for at least $250.00. Probably more.”

http://profoundlydisconnected.com/foundation/bobblehead-mike/
Message: Posted by: balducci (Aug 30, 2015 06:56PM)
[quote]On Aug 30, 2015, rockwall wrote:
[quote]On Aug 29, 2015, balducci wrote:
FWIW, the United States has one of the most self-contained economies in the world. Only about 15% of its GDP is tied to the import of goods and services. Among developed nations, that figure is (or is about) the lowest. For many nations the corresponding figure is 40 to 80 percent. [/quote]

I find this comment very interesting. Could you elaborate? Are you saying that 85% of everything spent in America is on something American made? If that's what you mean I'm astounded. [/quote]
Well, I was reading some article in the financial press this past week and it mentioned the bit about the U.S. having one of the most self-contained economies in the world. Particularly when measured in terms of its percent of imports of goods and services as a portion of overall GDP.

The data is not hard to find. Here are a couple of links.

http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NE.IMP.GNFS.ZS

https://www.quandl.com/collections/economics/imports-as-share-of-gdp-by-country

Obviously the precise percentage will vary by year.

Among G-20 nations, the U.S. has just about the lowest percentage.

And outside of G-20 nations, the percentage is often several times what it is in the U.S.

Having said this, it is also true that the U.S. is one of (and perhaps THE) largest importer if you look at absolute dollars instead of percentages.
Message: Posted by: rockwall (Aug 30, 2015 07:07PM)
Fascinating. Although I have to wonder if the numbers are somewhat deceptive. For example, a lot of foreign cars are built here in the US. So, if I buy a Toyota, am I buying a foreign car or a US made car? It's not an import so I'm assuming that it doesn't show up as an imported good. I don't know if that example applies to anything other than cars but there may be other things that make the numbers look better than they really are.
Message: Posted by: lynnef (Aug 30, 2015 09:16PM)
If I have x amount of dollars in my pocket, would I pay more for a product made in the USA than made elsewhere (if it were indeed the same product)? No! Phrased another way, would you pay more to help an American worker than someone in a 3rd world country who may be more desparate? Well, that assumes a lot of things... do you really have the choice as a consumer to dictate how workers will be treated whether in the US or China? No, again! Our consumption figures into wages, but does not determine them! In spite of certain US businesses folding, others are thriving (eg tech industries, yes even American companies which make a great deal of wealth from foreign labor). Capitalism is all about competition. Where is the compulsion to buy a less competitive product? My Japanese made car just hit 215,000 mi. I also had a Honda that I sold with over 300,000! My American cars, as nostalgic as I might be for my old '49 Ford, never came close. Lynn
Message: Posted by: S2000magician (Aug 30, 2015 10:02PM)
[quote]On Aug 30, 2015, imgic wrote:
I did some work with medical device manufacturer not too long ago. They'd been outsourcing a lot of their parts from China. Recently they've been using more supplies in the U.S. One is quality. second is the Chinese labor force is demanding more wages as their middle class grows. They are losing their comparative advantage due to low wages.[/quote]
They're probably losing their [b][i]absolute[/i][/b] advantage; whether they're losing their [i]comparative[/i] advantage is a lot harder to demonstrate.
Message: Posted by: Gregor Von G. (Aug 31, 2015 01:32AM)
I'm not living in USA but in Italy but I hink that the core of the argoument remains the same.
When I can I buy made in Italy products (only if well crafted, of course)and food but I think it's impossible to have the total control on what you buy.
It depends on the products, of course, you can actually be sure of the provenance of a tomato or a pair of leather shoes but it's more difficult with more complex products like electronics etc (Stoneunhinged's Fender example fits well)

Here in Italy a lot of companies, good craftmens and local small food stores closed because of a sort of invasion of shops runs by Chinese folks where they sell all kind of stuff at the half of the price.
Obviously people preferred to pay the half of the price for what they thought it was the same products.
And luckily for us in the last years people realized how low the quality was and now it seems that a vast number of people start to buy Italian again. And small business start to do well again
Same thing for the industrial suppliers. Some years ago there was a huge clamor about this low priced steel from China so lots and lots of factories bought it. But at the end they realized that it was a dangerously low quality product.
So they started to buy European or American steel again.
I am a designer (manuals, brochures, publicity, marketing etc...) for a large group who produces oil and gas and water drilling rigs
We were fortunate because the company for which I work never made this mistake. If a drilling rig is made of poor quality components, may cause serious incidents, can also cause deathly incidents....
Message: Posted by: imgic (Aug 31, 2015 03:25PM)
The medical device company I worked for had a plant in Italy. They wanted to close it as the product line they produced was being undercut from plants in Asia. They couldn't cut costs any further, so began to loss on every item produced. The issue was the Italian government had mandates in place that governed plant closing...severance pay equal to annual salary times years employed. Needless to say is was cost prohibitive to shut the plant down...so they continue operating at a loss...
Message: Posted by: Gregor Von G. (Sep 1, 2015 01:27AM)
If I understand well, you are talking about the "TFR",
In Italy when a employee stop working with a company, he have the right to receive what is called "Trattamento di fine rapporto" - severance indemnities - that is equal to a monthly salary a year. Example, I worked ten year for 1.000 eur monthly, at the end I'll receive 10.000 eur.
But it's not on company's shoulder.
Every month the company collect the part of your severance indemnities from your salary, as a tax.
There are many cases where a company, instead of collecting and keeping safe your money, they spend it, so, when it's time to close they haven't money enough to pay the "TFR" to the employee.

There are particular cases in which you can ask it before the end of the employment relationship but only after eight years you worked for the company. The cases are if you have large medical expenses or if you have to buy or built your first house.

Substantially, It's your money, taken from your salary and given back to you at the end of the employment relationship.