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‘Made in America’ Gets Strong Backing from Voters

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Reposted from Industry Week


‘Made in America’ Gets Strong Backing from Voters

Steve Minter | July 16, 2012 | Industry Week

New poll shows Americans back manufacturing but don’t rate Washington efforts to support it very highly.

Listen up, Ralph Lauren. A survey of 1,200 Americans shows that 97% have a favorable view of goods manufactured in the United States. Moreover, there is a high level of support across the electorate for strong Buy America programs for public works.

Republicans (87%), Democrats (91%) and independents (87%) all favor Buy America policies, according to the survey released Monday by the Alliance of American Manufacturing.Even when presented with arguments from critics of Buy American about higher costs and increased taxes, voters supported Buy American policies by a wide margin.

The survey found that 53% of voters rate manufacturing as the industry “most important to the overall strength of the American economy.”

“It’s striking how clearly voters—Republican and Democrat alike—see strengthening manufacturing as the key to rebuilding the U.S. economy,” said Scott Paul, AAM’s executive director.

Voters put creating jobs, specifically in manufacturing, and strengthening manufacturing in the U.S., as top economic priorities, according to the poll and focus groups conducted by a bipartisan team of Republican and Democratic pollsters.

The AAM survey found that a 56% of voters no longer see the U.S. as having the world’s strongest economy. Of those polled, 38% rated the United States as having the strongest economy, while 31% put China at the top. Germany was named by 4% and Japan by 2%.

Despite this finding, 88% of voters said they believe it’s possible for America to have the strongest economy, and 92% believe it is important for the United States to regain that position.

Public Supports Tough Stance with China

When it comes to trade with China, two-thirds of those polled said they think China’s violations of international trade rules are costing the U.S. jobs. Some 62% of voters favor getting tough on China’s trade violations and 83% have an unfavorable view of companies that outsource jobs to China.

“These findings make clear that a strong majority of voters believe Washington should stand up to China’s unfair trade practices, and that there is overwhelming support for a national strategy to restore U.S. leadership in manufacturing,” Paul said.

AAM said overwhelming majorities of independent, Republican, and Democratic voters expressed strong support for “a national manufacturing strategy to make sure that economic, tax, education, and trade policies in this country work together to help support manufacturing in the United States.”

Those polled had a 97% favorable view of goods manufactured in the United States. Paul noted that a favorable impression of U.S. manufacturing has been increasing in the three years AAM has commissioned a national poll. As evidence of that, 57% of the respondents said the quality of cars produced by the U.S. auto industry has improved.

The survey also explored the Obama Administration’s decision to rescue the U.S. auto industry. When presented with arguments for and against saving the U.S. auto industry, a significant majority of those polled (61%) support the government’s action.  This support was found to be strong in all regions of the country, not just in the Midwest.

“This survey leaves little doubt that voters understand that U.S. manufacturing is the nation’s most powerful engine of job growth and that they want more urgent action taken to address trade violations and halt outsourcing that is sapping our global standing and future security,” said Paul.  “Voters across the political spectrum do not believe that any of our national leaders are doing a great deal to boost manufacturing or to stop outsourcing.  Candidates would be well advised to heed this message.”

The survey of 1,200 likely general election voters was conducted between June 28 and July 2 by the Mellman Group and North Star Opinion Research, firms that poll for Democratic and Republican candidates respectively.  The findings include results from six focus groups held in Columbus, Ohio, Orlando, Fla., and Phoenix, Ariz., as well as two dial tests in St. Louis, Mo. and Vienna, Va. of manufacturing messages frequently presented to voters by the national media.

23 Responses to “‘Made in America’ Gets Strong Backing from Voters”

  1. China Watcher says:

    Americans give a consistent message whenever polled. However, at the check-out counter, they all too often fail to exercise the power of the purse. Canadians demand goods made in Canada, and Wal-Mart gives that to them — or at least claims to do so. In America, consumers talk one way and sometimes act another, letting Wal-Mart off the hook. Real change begins with consumer behavior.

    • Tom T. says:

      I understand and agree with you, China Watcher, but the problem with this is the same as in the “Tragedy of the Commons”. It takes a bit more wisdom and leadership to overcome self interests to the point that the commons are saved. We need that leadership. I really don’t think that many people know how they are contributing to the tragedy of the commons and others have no real choice.

      Tom T.

    • Bruce Bishop says:

      China Watcher,

      Where do you shop that you are able to buy American made electronics, toys, housewares, appliances, stationery, bedding, lighting, bath fixtures and hardware?

      I have searched the “Buy American” web sites. Invariably, they turn out to be dead ends — false leads, links to refurbishment shops or to tiny T-shirt shops.

      Everything that can be manufactured can and will be manufactured in China at one-third to one-tenth the cost of what U.S. firms can produce it for. We cannot compete with fifty cent/hour labor and the total disregard for human rights, worker safety, product safety and the environment that gives Chinese manufacturers a huge cost advantage.

      For you to blame American consumers or Walmart suggests that you don’t really understand the problem.

      • Arthur Taylor says:

        To not acknowledge WalMart’s duplicity in offshoring and the rise of China shows a willingness to live in pure fantasy.

        You can get a great deal of Made In USA bedding at Bed Bath and Beyond. Viking makes all it’s appliances in the U.S. If you look in places besides WalMart, you can find a great deal of products that are made in the U.S.

        • Bruce Bishop says:

          Mr. Taylor,

          From 1985 to 1992, Walmart waged a “Buy American” campaign in which they promised to pay up to a 5% premium for U.S. made goods. They also worked directly with their suppliers to help them improve their cost, quality and delivery. While Walmart was trying to save U.S. jobs, ALL of their competitors (Sears, K-Mart, Target, JCPenney, etc.) were importing goods from China.

          Walmart’s choice was to join their competitors and start importing from China, or go out of business.

          In 2004, Walmart imported $18 billion, or 15.4% of U.S. imports of consumer goods from China.

          Walmart’s success has been largely the result of its adopting advanced technology. Walmart was an “early adopter” of barcode technology, POS inventory control and Radio Frequency Identification (RFI). This technology reduced Walmart’s cost and allowed it to grow. This growth has lowered its costs through economies of scale.

          Walmart’s strategy, since its inception, has been to offer the lowest price and to offer the products most commonly purchased by the poorer 85% of the population.

          Viking ranges, which cost between $5000 and %8000, are not within the budget of the poorer 85% of the population who regularly shop at Walmart. We poor folks typically pay between $500 and $800 for Whirlpool or Maytag ranges at Lowes or Home Depot. This proves my contention that China can make products at one-third to one-tenth the cost of similar products produced in the U.S.

          • Arthur Taylor says:

            I paid $2,300.00 for my Viking and I’ll bet we never buy another range.

            How can you possibly be poor given the great positions you’ve told us you held in corporate America? Is it perhaps that you are looking for the cheapest price…. country be dammed?

            On over $160 billion in sales, Walmart’s “Buy America” program accounted for just $5 billion in purchases. It was a sham and 20/20 proved it.

        • W. Edwards, most often credited for the Japanese economic miracle after WWII, taught “End the practice of awarding business on price tag alone.” Ironically, the Chinese economic miracle is based on purchases based 100% on price tag, with untold collateral damage besetting stakeholders that depended on a previous holistic world-view.

          Critics of value-added-taxes (VAT) among our ruling class bear primary responsibility for the U.S. being so unprepared for globalization. Over the last four decades VATs have become a global governing best-practice for encouraging production over consumption by their citizens and for facilitating an export-friendly economy.

          • Bruce Bishop says:

            Mr. Campbell,

            When W. Edwards Deming said “End the practice of awarding business on price tag alone,” he was speaking to manufacturing companies who often rewarded their purchasing departments for “saving money,” while risking product quality.

            Deming favored single-supplier sourcing. He felt that companies should make their suppliers “partners” in their success, rather than perpetuate the adversarial relationship that often existed between manufacturers and their suppliers.

            This is totally different from cash-strapped consumers choosing between a $500 cookstove made in China or a top-of-the-line model, made in USA, for $2,300. There is nothing comparable to the $500 product manufactured in the USA. No reasonable level of VAT or tariff is going to change the buying pattern. The most we could accomplish is to create a brisk market for refurbished discards. That is what some of the “Buy American” websites lead to.

          • Bruce Bishop says:

            Mr. Taylor,

            There was no “reply” button on your most recent post.

            You are indeed fortunate that you can afford to pay $2,300 for a cookstove. Most Americans have to shop for something more reasonable, like say $500 to $800 at Lowes, Sears or Home Depot.

            I was a victim of globalization. After spending ten years building a career as a manufacturing consultant, I discovered that our outsourcing of manufacturing jobs to China had left me with a very thin client base and had dumped a glut of new “manufacturing consultants” on the market. Suddenly, every engineer and mid-level manager, or higher, who had been dumped due to outsourcing, hung up a shingle and became a “consultant.”

            Because the “experts” were saying, “We no longer need manufacturing; we are going to be a service economy,” I decided to start over, in a service organization. I started at the bottom and moved up rapidly, but after three years and two promotions, I was still making a fraction of what I had been making in manufacturing.

            So, yes — I joined the ranks of the poorer 85% of Americans who shop at Walmart and who typically spend between $500 and $800 for a range. My education and my years of experience are of little value to the companies who remain here.

            I don’t know if you are clueless as the how the rest of us live, or if you are simply bragging that you can afford to spend $2,300 for a cookstove. Whichever it is, I suggest that you either get a clue or get a life.

            As to 20/20 proving anything, they only proved, once again, that they are anti-commerce, anti-Walmart and anti-American. As part of the leftist mainstream media, 20/20 specializes in gotcha journalism. Given that none of their peers are going to correct them, they can perform a hatchet job on whoever they don’t like and they will never be challenged in any significant way.

      • Jim Schollaert says:

        With his vigorous defense of Walmart, Bishop ignores the primary role that Walmart played, lobbying for Most Favored Nation (MFN) trade treatment for China, China WTO Membership, and every free trade bill that ever was pushed through Congress. To portray Walmart as a reluctant recruit to the business model of paying Chinese wages and charging U.S. prices, is laughable, Walmart’s 1990’s Made-in-the-USA marketing gig notwithstanding.

        • Bruce Bishop says:

          Mr. Schollaert,

          China has enjoyed MFN status since 1979 and joined the WTO in 2001. Would you please provide evidence that Walmart played “the primary role,” as you claim, in either occurrence.

          • Jim Schollaert says:

            Congress passed Permanent Most Favored Nation Treatment for China in 2000, renamed that year as PNTR (Permanent Normal Trade Relations for China). WalMart had it’s own prominent lobbying office in Washington working hard for passage of this legislation, and WalMart was the largest paying member of several lobbying associations in Washington that led the charge for China PNTR, such as the National Retail Federation and the Retail Industry Leaders Association. I worked for USTR and the Department of State during these years on international trade issues and was most familiar with their powerful lobbying clout in the Clinton Administration and on the Hill.

            How you could have any doubts about WalMart’s lobbying clout and their agenda of facilitating imports and eliminating tariffs, as the largest purveyors of foreign origin, especially Chinese made consumer goods, boggles the mind.

          • Bruce Bishop says:

            Mr. Schollaert,

            While I appreciate your sharing your recollections and your opinions, they do not constitute what I would consider “evidence.”

            Walmart hired its first lobbyiest in 1999. He (or she) must have been one fast-talking son-of-a-gun.

            When I saw my first Chinese products, it was 1985, and I was working for a manufacturing company. They were knock-offs of some of our most popular products. They were priced at one-third of our cost, including delivery. By 1995, that company had converted from manufacturing to importing, laying off most of the 2000 workers in three facilities. In fact, that entire industry switched from manufacturing to exporting, taking thousands more jobs to China. All of this happened before Walmart had hired a single lobbyiest.

            No doubt Walmart, and other retailers, feel they must defend their interests against sudden, radical moves by our government. Naturally, Walmart is going to be the “biggest” member of any organization it belongs to.

            If our government were to impose “balanced trade” with China, there would be a “phase-in” period, during which retailers would begin to work with new U.S. suppliers of certain products. Walmart would be inconvenienced, as would everyone else, but it wouldn’t prevent them from maintaining their status as the “low cost” provider of everything they sell.

            Walmart is hated by the left because of its size, its success and the fact that it doesn’t go after “snob appeal.” The elites wouldn’t be caught dead in a Walmart and Walmart doesn’t care. Sam Walton built Walmart with the idea of providing better prices and greater variety to the poor and the working class. He didn’t give a rat’s rear-end about the elites.

          • Tom T. says:

            Bruce, you are right but so is Jim. This is a classical case of an economic concept known as the Tragedy of the Commons.


            We rely on our government to govern the commons, not allow it to be exploited by the most powerful at the expense of everyone else. Our trade policy in this regard has been an utter failure and puts our country at a huge strategic disadvantage as a world power. Jim blames the exploiters, and yes, without that exploitation there would be no problem, but the larger blame belongs to a government that will not govern in the public interest. We seem to have an ideological battle where republicans praise those who gain resources because of that exploitation and democrats are more or less silent. In the end, the “commons” lose.

            This Gordian Knot must be solved for the benefit of the nation and it is really no use tightening it based on blaming self interests of the powerful doing the exploitation. This has lead to our country’s economy being leveraged down and our standard of living reduced. It is the responsibility of the USTR and our government leadership to follow principles that make our country strong, not the principals who become strong because our government is too incompetent, corrupt or weak to do its job. This isn’t some new concept as it was enumerated by the 1st Century philosopher who knew the pie for society as a whole would be bigger if one did “unto others as you would have them do unto you”.

            I am so thankful that on this blog on this issue people from all sides come together to solve the Tragedy of the Commons instead of continuing the stalemate that has prevented it being solved.

            Our family does not support Walmart–at least as little as possible. Many people do not have that choice because their choices are limited. They must do as Walmart did and exploit their own resources even it if means patronizing those getting wealthy by exploiting the commons.

            In the larger sense, the “commons” are the rules and policies that everyone has to follow for the maximum benefit of the economy and society. It is the responsibility to “promote the general welfare” as noted in the preamble to the Constitution.

            It is unfortunate, in my opinion, that in our body politic today the public interest is for sale. The caliber of our political elite is so low that both parties will sell the commons for exploitation for their self interests and thus disqualify themselves in their worthiness to govern the commmons. We can continue to pull the Gordian Knot tighter and tighter or we can simply leave the old ideology of both major political parties aside to solve the Gordian puzzle. The rule of law, which is the essence of the solution, is too easily sold by the political elite to the highest bidder for their own self interests. There has been little accountability for this treason to the commons by our political elite. The pie is getting smaller because they are selling the filling out from under all of us. We are left with the crust. The cancer of self interest has been allowed to spread to the point that the body is at risk.

            I for one am glad that Bruce and Jim see the larger solution so easily. If only our political elite could do the same and act on it.

            Tom T.

  2. ClydeB says:

    Recent research (
    has debunked the idea that low wages in China or elsewhere makes a significant difference in the trade deficits we have with other countries.
    On a per-capita basis, Germany and Japan, for instance, with high wages, are worse trading partners than is China.

    Protection of their manufacturing jobs is their highest priority – the unemployment costs would be staggering were they to participate in balanced trade. They will manufacture and export everything they can for as long as we are willing to import it.

  3. Mr. Bishop,

    The vast majority of U.S. product alternatives are not 4.6 times the price of Chinese alternatives, so the benefits of a VAT will be applicable in many cases. Just because a policy won’t solve 100% of a problems, i.e., be a silver bullet, what is the merit of knowing something has a causal relationship and doing nothing to mitigate the adverse consequences?

    Total cost include the price (first costs) and subsequent costs; be the transaction, business governmental or consumer. Value is the intersection of price and quality. A holistic view of quality, including overall standard of living and quality of life, would be a non-starter for the purchase of many produces from China.

  4. Bruce Bishop says:

    Mr. Campbell,

    I will ask you the same question I asked China Watcher: “Where do you shop that you are able to buy American made electronics, toys, housewares, appliances, stationery, bedding, lighting, bath fixtures and hardware?”

    As for your sermonette on the holistic view of quality, you can save that for Mr. Taylor and any other elitists who might visit this site.

    • Mr. Bishop,

      Any inability on the part of Americans to buy American made electronics, toys, housewares, appliances, stationery, bedding, lighting, bath fixtures and hardware is the result of deregulation, which nether the American consumers nor American workers requested. Deregulation was lobbied for by the financial elite.

      In one of your previous posts you mentioned THE cash-strapped consumers, who will be more cash-strapped with the undermining government-sponsored post-retirement benefits, as described below:

      How the Ruling Class Engineered the Dismantling of Pensions

      The U.S. financial elite had its best 25 years ever from 1982 to 2007, while the majority of American voters tolerated the unresponsiveness of their government leaders because they felt like they were also getting ahead. The excerpt, “Without a Pension’s Security,” from the book The Betrayal of the American Dream, by Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele, tells how the ruling class has engineered the dismantling of pension security provided directly by employers.

      The truth that most American voters were not getting ahead was masked by underpriced imports subsidized by foreign governments to gain market share at the expense of American workers and by artificially low U.S. interest rates, while the underfunding of Social Security and Medicare was being kicked down the road.
      Now major adjustments in benefits are being proposed instead of adequate funding.

      The Romney-Ryan plan to put our fiscal house in order will result, at best, in a lost generation for the American majority, because its execution is on the backs of the middle class. In all likelihood, only after this occurs will most Americans realize they were fooled.

      • Bruce Bishop says:

        Mr. Campbell,

        I don’t disagree with anything you say past your first paragraph. However, the reason why Americans can’t buy American products is because there aren’t any American products in the price range that the poorest 85% of the population can afford to buy.

        The slogan “Buy American” is as useless for all but the wealthy elites as the slogan “Have a Nice Day,” is for people who suffer from clinical depression. Worse still, the “Buy American” campaign gives people the false hope that we consumers have the power to fix this problem. This only delays the day when a majority will demand that the government do something to restrict imports from China.

        To preach “Buy American” to the “least wealthy” 85% of the population is nothing more than blaming the victims.

        Our government drove manufacturing out of this country by raising taxes and piling on regulations. Our government drove manufacturing out through the “back door” they opened with NAFTA and the WTO.

        Our government is the cause of ALL of our problems. Our government has grown far past the point of diminishing returns. Our government is like a fire that is burning out of control. Our government continues to grow and to take more from the private sector, even though it is destroying the private sector.

        • Tom T. says:

          Bruce, it is becoming a common theme on one side of the political spectrum to speak out against regulations and you have picked up this theme. I guess I want to know what you are talking about with perhaps, specific examples.

          I can add that I have seen specific examples of this in a particular industry that allowed the largest most politically entrenched company to lessen its competition with regulations but I would like to see how regulations have affected the businesses you have experience with.

          In my small experience, regulations can be good or they can be bad. Saying that regulations are a problem is about like saying that you are an American when it comes to voting for one of the choices you have as political leadership. It is pretty useless.

          In the past, I have talked about how poor the products have been that have come from China, namely screws. They can be real cheap but pretty useless if they are not made with the proper metal. Regulations may not solve that problem but a set of standards can. Unsuspecting consumers are forced to find out the difference with experience after they buy a substandard product that mimics the real thing. Standards or regulations in this regard, as well as in the financial industry or rules that businesses have to play by, are important.

          I would agree with your last paragraph that we are having a real problem with our government growing beyond the private economy. It is a real problem in our economy. One exists because the other funds it and so it can not become greater than its source. I would say that from an economic perspective, the recent contraction in the economy gave rise to a legitimate increase in the government side in the form of spending. It was unfortunate that so much of the benefit traveled the Pacific to benefit countries that produced many of the goods and so benefited them instead of stimulating this economy. That is one of the structural problems in the economy.

          Tom T.

          • Bruce Bishop says:


            To give you the rundown of my personal experiences with federal regulations and manufacturing would take several pages. I will give you a couple of brief examples and some general information.

            In late 2000, I was working with a small defense contractor who told me that the Clinton Administration’s new standards for arsenic would effectively put them out of business. From 1942 until three days before Clinton left office, the standard for arsenic in drinking water had been 50 PPB. The new Clinton standard was 10 PPB. This company had managed, at great expense, to meet the old standard for their waste water. The new standard would have been cost prohibitive. Fortunately, Bush reversed the new standard because there was not enough evidence to support the additional cost to municipalities. Of course, the mainstream media had a field day, screaming “Bush Increases Arsenic Levels in Drinking Water.”

            In 1984, the EPA issued a mandate that would have shut down my employer’s facility, which had been in operation for 35 years, because it was in violation of new regulations limiting volatile organic compounds in painting operations. This would have put 1400 people out of work. Fortunately, the enforcement was left to the local municipal Air Management Board, which served at the pleasure of the Mayor. The Mayor didn’t have the guts to face the voters after killing 1400 jobs, so he let it drag on until we were able to transfer most of the painting out of the state and ultimately, out of the country.

            In 1970, there were 54,934 pages of federal regulations. In 1998, there were 134,723 pages in 201 volumes, taking up 19 feet of shelf space. By 2009, the federal regulations had grown to 163,333 pages in 226 volumes. It is up to each individual company to determine which of these regulations apply to their business. A surprise visit by any of dozens of federal, state or local regulators can result in huge fines or mandatory shutdown pending compliance.

            In “Democracy in America,” Alexis de Tocqueville describes this steady encroachment of an out-of-control government: “It covers the surface of society with a network of small complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd. The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent and guided; men are seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting. Such a power does not destroy, but prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupifies a people, till each nation is reduced to nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd.”

          • Tom T. says:

            Bruce, I can appreciate both examples you gave. From the standpoint of this group and this discussion I will have to say that not requiring the same standards on foreign goods ends up cutting the legs out of domestic producers.

            I believe there was a bit of media on the natural occurrence of arsenic in certain areas of the country—at least what I read. I have also read of the heavy pollution that caused rivers to die and the environment to be harmed in the start of industrialization. Pollution was an externality mostly not thought of by the early manufacturers. We had a particular case in our state where lead batteries were leaking into the waterways and of course the TVA ash spill. Both of these incidents could have been handled through regulations before the damage rather than after and it would have been much cheaper.

            In any business process the costs of pollution should be factored into the product and its price. It can not happen when some businesses are able to not follow the regs and others do their diligence to the larger society. It just simply costs more to factor in these costs. As long as everyone has to follow these rules and are given time, the playing field for competition will be level and no competitors will gain advantage by producing higher cost products because the externality of pollution was counted in all the products available in the market.

            The US Trade Representative is responsible for making sure that these costs are counted when it comes to foreign goods or he/she puts U.S. goods at a disadvantage in the market place. They simply are not and have not been in our trade agreements.

            I can tell you from personal experience, that those companies who have bought off the politicians and captured many of the regulatory agencies are given way too much leeway while companies or people that don’t do this get a definite disadvantage when it comes to enforcement.

            All regulations should measure the marginal costs compared to the marginal benefits as well as the competitive effects of policy changes. A “gotcha” policy that is enforced on smaller companies or corporations not engaged in the political influence peddling while the larger ones are spared is counter productive to economy as a whole and is an example of crony capitalism at its worst. Not taking U.S. producer’s rules compared to the production of foreign goods is just as bad.

            Tom T.

  5. Tom T. says:

    I think this was one of the issues in the GE case. The financial system and management were allowed (probably forced a bit by market forces) to allow pension benefits to ride on the company. The financiers went ahead and leveraged the company thinking they had the first claims on assets (which by law they do), and were able to get paid back in a bankruptcy first. The Obama administration, seeing the game was rigged against pensioners, stepped in under their unprecedented actions in the markets. This was necessary to prevent the financial scam from happening to the vast majority of workers whose pensions were riding on the company’s economic outcome instead of being diversified in the market. Politicians have similarly undermined SS benefits by exempting so much of the elite’s income from SS taxes.

    The Ryan plan of privatization is probably scored better than it deserves. When people under 55 are allowed the private plan, it will fundamentally undercut the benefits being paid to those currently on SS because SS is a pay as you go system much like auto maker’s pension plan. I am only speculating this is the case because I don’t know for sure but this is the type of accounting our political elite has been guilty of using in the recent past.

    Tom T.


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