President Obama has used the phrase “economic patriotism” in campaign ads but has not defined it. Economic patriotism to me is helping your country by buying American, by keeping jobs here and by paying a fair share of taxes. Government, manufacturers, consumers and all taxpayers can be economic patriots.
Warren Buffett is an economic patriot because he advocates increasing his own income taxes to help the US government balance the budget. New Balance Shoe Company is an economic patriot because it manufactures athletic shoes in the US even though it could make all of its shoes in China for less money. Consumers who pay a premium for American-made products are economic patriots.
The government should lead the way, and be the economic patriot in chief, but sadly, it is not. Few people realize that the US military, through the Army and Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES), is one of the largest retailers in the world. AAFES, an agency of the Department of Defense, operates 1,423 retail stores on US military bases around the world, employing 50,000 people and serving 10 million customers. AAFES has annual sales $9 billion. The Navy also operates 460 PXs, known as Nexcom, with $2.5 billion in annual sales.
The shocking fact is that these US government-owned stores look like Walmarts, with most of their products imported from China and other countries. The clothing, including AAFES in-house brands Royal Manor, Ponytails and Passports, are all imported from sweatshops in China, Bangladesh and Central America. Workers are paid as little as 19 cents an hour to toil 60 plus hours a week.
With the stroke of a pen, by executive order, the president can order the Army, Air Force and Naval exchanges to buy only American-made goods. This act would improve the US balance of payments by $5 billion at a minimum, and create more than 100,000 new jobs. President Obama could then become the economic patriot in chief.
Most T-shirts, sweatshirts, mugs and souvenirs sold at US national parks are imported. As the owner of these stores, the National Parks Service can require that these vendors sell only products that are made in the USA. Who wants a Yosemite sweatshirt that is made in Pakistan? The president can direct the National Parks to buy American-made products for sale at stores on US property.
Cities and states can also become economic patriots. For example, Beverly Hills, Calif., buys German-made BMW motorcycles for its police force. Beverly Hills could stop buying German motorcycles and switch to American-made motorcycles from Harley Davidson or Zero Motorcycles. Zero Motorcycles, an electric, high-performance bike, surpasses BMW in acceleration and does not use gasoline.
Many US-based companies outsource manufacturing to China and other cheap- labor countries. Nike has led the outsourcing charge and manufactures virtually nothing in the US. Similarly, Accenture, the consulting company formerly known as Arthur Anderson, prides itself on outsourcing. Accenture not only helps American companies outsource overseas, it has outsourced itself. In order to avoid paying US income taxes, Accenture is headquartered in a mailbox in Bermuda. Nike and Accenture are so far from being economic patriots that they can be rightfully called economic traitors.
Bain Capital, founded by Mitt Romney, took control of Sensata Technologies in 2006. Sensata, a manufacturer of automotive sensors, is very profitable. Bain announced earlier this year that it would close the Sensata plant in Freeport, Illinois, layoff 165 workers and move production to China. This is an example of economic treason.
Accenture’s Bermuda “headquarters” location was chosen to avoid paying US taxes. General Electric doesn’t pay any US taxes either, through a variety of federal tax loopholes. And presidential candidate Mitt Romney has invested in Bermuda, the Grand Caymans and Swiss companies in order to keep his income tax rate low. If Gov. Romney would release all of his income tax documents, it would likely reveal a complete picture about how he avoided paying his fair share of federal income taxes.
I call upon both presidential candidates to become true economic patriots. President Obama has the power to put more than 100,000 Americans to work by ordering the Department of Defense and the National Park Service to buy American-made products for their retail stores. Gov. Romney can withdraw his investments from overseas and put his dollars to work investing in the US. He can also pressure Bain to stop outsourcing to China.
Lead by example! Both presidential candidate need to show the American people how they are economic patriots and how they will create jobs in the United States.
Joel Joseph is chairman of the Made in the USA Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting American-made products. Email firstname.lastname@example.org. Phone 310 MADE-USA.
From The Progressive Populist, November 15, 2012
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