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Volume 70, Issue 7, Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Opinion
 

Buying American isn't supporting America

Warren Domask
Opinion Columnist

Because of massive American unemployment and underemployment rates, the "Buy American" slogan is slowly returning to vogue. Die-hard patriots nationwide are finally reminding themselves that the only way Americans can buy their products is if they have jobs to pay for the products, and that only through buying the products Americans make can the job market truly remain stable. Nevertheless, this noble slogan which carried this nation through hard times has mutated into a corrupt and misguided ideal which benefits Americans only minimally.

It is tragic that the practice suggested by the "Buy American" motto seems restricted to high-priced goods purchased from some of the most unsavory corporations in America. The most glaring examples, of course, are the big three "American" automakers: Ford, General Motors and DaimlerChrysler. What Honda owner hasn't been told to "Buy American" by the owner of a Ford Excursion, or any one of the number of GM-made Suburban Assault Vehicles?

Disturbingly, a look at each of these corporations reveals a toxicity that has putrefied America and the rest of the world since their vile seeds took root a half-century ago. From the very beginning, both Ford and GM showed symptoms of pure evil. Henry Ford, father of the American auto industry, was an unremitting anti-Semite who supplied vehicles to aid the Nazi war effort (a service he refused to grant England). In 1938, Henry Ford proudly accepted the Grand Cross of the German Eagle, Germany's highest award given to foreigners. General Motors similarly had German subsidiaries. Ford and GM made up roughly 70 percent of the German auto market, which quickly altered its product lines (and was confiscated by the Nazis) to meet the needs of the Nazi war effort.

Ultimately, the goods made by GM and Ford were instrumental in the invasion of Poland and Russia. In the words of Brandon Snell, who has investigated the issue for over twenty years, "(General Motors) was an integral part of the German war effort. The Nazis could have invaded Poland and Russia without Switzerland. They could not have done so without GM."

A month after Ford received his award, GM executive James Mooney received a slightly less prestigious medal for his "distinguished services to the Reich."

Although it did operate in Germany and Japan during the thirties, it would be unfair to consider Chrysler as complicit as Ford and GM (although its new merger partner Daimler was very active in producing war materiel for the Nazis).

One would hope that the seeds of bigotry died with the likes of Ford and Mooney, but unfortunately it would seem they did not. Again, with Ford in the lead, the DaimlerChrysler and Ford corporations have been repeatedly rocked by allegations of racism. To be honest though, they really can't be that racist, considering all three corporations hire thousands of Mexican workers. All three corporations decided to capitalize on the Mexican legal system, which relieves corporations from the financial burden of paying a living wage. In fact, after NAFTA was signed into law in 1993, General Motors quickly grew to become Mexico's largest employer. Instead of dwelling on the awful state of the Mexican job market, it is preferable to ask if it is even fair to call a company that surrenders American jobs for individual profit an American business at all.

There is of course more to the "Buy American" story; there are countless other products that are made by the American manufacturing sector. These products are the basis for jobs that provide income for millions of Americans. Tragically, and hypocritically, many proponents of the "Buy American" motto rarely do so beyond their SUV.

Despite putting hundreds of thousands of American jobs in foreign countries unencumbered by labor protection, Wal-Mart remains the most popular and successful retailer in America. Despite the fact that there are many opportunities for consumers to buy their groceries, clothing, and toilet paper from American producers, a constantly growing number of American consumers favor the low prices of Wal-Mart over the best interests of the American labor force, not to mention the interests of the children that work in the sweatshops that allow such low prices.

There is no question about the quality of American goods. After all, it is no surprise that the trained American workforce produces far better quality than malnourished children in Honduran sweatshops. Why Americans are so content to ignore this quality is truly a conundrum. To be fair, the above auto companies do provide critical jobs to the American workforce, and the service industry employs many Americans selling the products of sweatshops. Regardless, it is still hypocritical and embarrassing that so many Americans are willing to endorse such unsavory products from "American" corporations like GM and Ford while eagerly robbing Americans and the third world of quality jobs and personal dignity, especially in the name of "low prices." Hopefully, one day Americans will realize that our purchasing habits could make or break our future, and people will start to truly Buy American.

Domask, a columnist for The Daily Cougar, 
can be reached at dccampus@mail.uh.edu

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