Friday, January 23, 2009

Buy American, buy local

From the 26 January 2009 Greater Niagara Newspapers

By Bob Confer

The American Experience is defined by our unprecedented combination of brain and brawn. Our predecessors, dreaming dreams of Manifest Destiny, tamed a wild land, giving up blood, sweat, and even their lives to make a better world for their children and their children’s children. From those seeds of the American Dream, great metropolises sprung up like forests of concrete and steel, fitted with impressive architecture and ever-evolving factories that gave housing and goods to our burgeoning population. Those modern marvels and what they wrought have continued to develop over the years, and, without a doubt, they have made America the most powerful economic engine that the world has ever seen.

The path that got us to that level, one that took our nation from nothing to everything, was paved by ingenuity and work ethic that was without peer. The infrastructure, technology, science and products that provided the riches of the past and present were once but thoughts, fully developed and ultimately realized by some of the keenest minds ever, made real by some of the hardest-working hands and backs ever. America was made - and it is made - by Americans.

It is important that we never forget that. But, now, it must take on an even-greater meaning.

Our economy is in tatters with consumer confidence at record lows and the stock markets a daily roller coaster of misery. Millions of workers have lost their jobs in recent months. Many more live in fear that they, too, might become jobless this year or next.

How do we stave off this recessionary monster and the economic and mental depression that comes with it? How do we reignite the fire within our markets? How do we keep people employed and give them the confidence to buy?

Those questions have been asked time and time again for almost a half year now. Businessmen, civic leaders, and regular folk alike, all deeply affect by this tragedy, want answers, answers that will pan out in the end and put America on the fast-track to recovery. They’ve all thrown around ideas, imposing some while debating many, concepts from bailouts to rebates to nationalization to stimulus packages.

They’re all wrong. The economy doesn’t start with Uncle Sam. It begins at home. It’s we as consumers in a free marketplace who save, invest, and spend our money on products and services.

Realize, though, that it begins at home in more ways than one. The very best stimulus that our economy could ever have is from our consumers focusing on buying American and buying local. That is what made our country great and that’s what will bring us out of our supposed demise. It was Americans building and selling things to Americans that created our prosperity and the quality of life we have appreciated. History proves that.

We’ve lost sight of that importance. In days gone by we did not rely on foreign production as we do now. Historically, we never had trade deficits that were not in our favor. We did not toss away American workers and decent products for inferior, foreign-made goods to save a few dollars here and there. We did not buy our products in cold, multinational department stores. No, in the past, we as a people made what we bought, and we bought those goods in stores owned and run by our neighbors. We looked out for one another by basing our buying decisions on pride of workmanship, quality, and Country.

We need to get back to those roots. We must frequent the mom and pop stores, the locally-owned franchises and roadside stands, putting the global corporate conglomerates at a distant second. We must analyze the labels of everything we buy from them, from food to clothes to durables to cars, ensuring that they were made on America soil by American hands and American minds.

As buyers become tighter with their dollars and buy less of many yet more of quality they’ll find that American products will make the best investment of their spending dollar, not only in terms of a better-made product, but also to the bigger picture of investing in our national well-being. It is such a simple and effective stimulant: if we buy goods that are made in America we employ American workers, managers, designers and farmers all who extract American resources and turn them into the goods we need and want. So, please buy what they make, keep money in America and ensure that they - our friends, families, and fellow citizens – are all gainfully employed. The payback of buying patriotically is an economic, emotional, and national victory.

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