By Chico Brisbane -
Since the 1980's, Washington D.C. has gambled away American manufacturing through trade negotiations that cannot be described any better then comparing them to roulette or a 3-card monty. The phrase "Made in America" for all intents and purposes, no longer applies to consumer goods. Yes! - There are still many Americans that will go out of their way to by domestic products, but even that has become very difficult and often misleading.
Many Americans would be surprised to learn that a few of those cold bottles of Bud they've tossed back might have actually been brewed in Japan, China, or Germany. When was the last time that you played Monopoly? - This game is the symbol of American Capitalism, but it's "manufacturer" Hasbro, Inc. is just a wholesaler. The game itself is actually maufactured in Warterford, Ireland, not in the U.S. - How many American cowboys are running around feeling patriotic in their skin tight Wrangler Jeans? - How many would still feel that way if they knew that Wrangler Jeans for the U.S. market are manufactured in Central America and Mexico.
My own personal wake-up call to this trickery came when I stumbled across a bin of Confederate flags at a large supply outlet in Spartenberg, South Carolina. It was the first time that I ever held one in my hand, but I damn near pissed my pants from laughing when I saw "Made In China" on a tiny tag on the corner of the flag. In all fairness, this store did a good job promoting domestic goods by placing "Made In USA" stickers on everything that was American made.
That brings us to Wal-Mart. Regardless of how iconic the founding of this company is in American history, it is no longer what it's founder Sam Walton invisioned. Some argue that Walton himself was well aware of the growing negative perception of Wal-Marts treatment towards it's employees and vendors. Whatever the case my be, anything that was ever good about Wal-Mart died along with Sam Walton on that Sunday back in April of 1992.
Fast forward 17 years and Wal-Mart has gone from being a retail giant to being the first private, for-profit company in history to have the economic scope and impact on the American economy that Wal-Mart has. It is the largest private employer in the U.S. and for nearly 2/3 of all 50 States, Wal-Mart is the largest single employer in those states.
Nobody will argue the fact that most companies have been successful be changing the way that they do business with their customers, but you cannot allow companies to become so big that they begin to define the way that we do business as a country. We've already dodged this bulliet by breaking up the regional Bell Telehpone Companies. It was done again when AT&T underwent a divestature to spin off Bell Labs into Lucent Technology who know where NCR went?
Wal-Mart has changed the landscape of the local shopping center, but not in the spirit of compatition. It's mega super stores are designed to stilfe compatition entirely and in many communities, Wal-Mart has become the only option for local consumers. Add all of this with the fact that Wal-Mart has also become the largest single outlet for imported goods in the United States. No vendor or supplier can negotiate with Walmart on an equal footing.
We've all heard the term "To big to fail" in the recent bail-out of our financial markets and particularly AIG. But apply the same scenario to the retail sector and a global giant like Wal-Mart. There are now too many companies that find themselves in the position of Wal-Mart being the majority percentage of their business or in some cases, an exclusive supplier to thier master.
Instead of worring about companies becoming to big to fail, there needs to be regulations to ensure that companies never become too big to exist. In my younger years I worked for Wal-Mart for about a year and then Target for just over 3 years. For a small vendor, doing business with Target might seem like doing business with David and Golieth. But with Wal-Mart, it's more like David, Golieth, and Golieth's whole god damn family. It's as scary as it is unceessary. I am offically changing the term "Buy American" to "Buy American When Available."
Now I know why paper it the biggest U.S. export to China. They need it to make boxes to ship all of their crap back to the United States. It's sad when you look at it in the abstract.
Televisions - Invented in America. Now made in elsewhere.
Personal Computer - Invented in America. Now made elsewhere.
Just about every modern kitchen applience - Invented in America. Now made elsewhere.
Here are just a few of small number of American manufactures who refuse to give up against a titlewave of Chinese crap that is flooding our docks.
Red Wing Shoes (Red Wing, MN)
Appliances: KitchenAid Appliances (Benton, MI)
Outdoor Gear: Cabela's, Inc. (NYSE: CAB) (Sydney, Nebraska)
Bicycles: Aegis Bicycles (Camden, ME)
Kitchen cabinets: Merillat Industries (Adrian, MI) (Mfg. in 11 U.S. plants)