Is American culture creating an atmosphere conducive to offshoring?
"In this new race to the bottom, we are trading satisfying, higher-paying, higher-skilled jobs in manufacturing and industry for low paying, low-impact jobs stacking shelves at endless superstores packed with low-grade imports from other countries. Salaries get depressed, unemployment rises, and people can soon afford only the cheapest, usually imported, goods, accelerating the cycle and digging a deeper hole for all of us. Those cheap imports aren't so cheap any more. The exchange became: good jobs sent abroad for which we received low-quality items and low paying jobs."
Writing for Huffington Post last week, this is how author Alan Uke ('Buying America Back: A Real-Deal Blueprint for Restoring American Prosperity’) encompassed the typical American approach to manufacturing.
Uke provided a brief history of American outsourcing, starting with the Marshall plan, intended to help rebuild European economies after World War II. Uke seems to believe that America's efforts to help other countries rebuild their economies and to break down trade barriers ultimately doomed American manufacturing and the U.S. economy, creating a culture void of respect for home-made goods.
He discusses the difference in cultural outlook on domestically produced materials in other countries:
South Korea created a national manufacturing policy that today has them at the top of the world in manufacturing and industry. Until recently, it was strictly taboo for South Koreans to be caught handling or buying foreign-made goods. South Korea's sense of consumer nationalism has survived to this day, long after a time when it was "necessary" for them to uphold it. This kind of "us-first" thinking lifted these countries and their largest corporations to a stature previously unfathomable. It is easy to see why companies like Hyundai have reached international success when you consider that 99% of the cars on the roads of Korea are Korean-made. This is true for Japan and many other countries, too. Their consumers's domestic buying preferences are a crucial benefit for their private manufacturers. Similar preferences and cultural attitudes have prevailed in Germany, now economically the strongest country in Europe.
Uke believes that unemployment in the United States is not just indicative of economic problems, but also cultural ones. It is our comfort with outsourcing, and purchasing foreign goods, that perpetuates unemployment.
The Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM) released a poll last month that indicated 97% of voters have a favorable view of American-made products. However, having favorable opinions doesn't necessarily translate into a cultural shift.
The discussion, ultimately, becomes a chicken/egg style economic debate – what comes first – the ‘demand’ by consumers in the U.S. for American-made goods or the decision by companies to manufacture their ‘supplies’ in the United States?
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