Article byPosted Featured AuthorJune 2023
When I was a child, I remember shopping with my Aunt Eileen, a feisty woman whose behavior ranged from borderline neurotic to full blown psychotic, and watching her turn every product over to see where it was made. If the sticker said “Japan,” she vehemently slammed it back on the counter.
Of course, I grew up in the 50’s and 60’s, a time my son refers to as the Dark Times. World War II, for us, was not some distant event on The History Channel, but was a living memory for our parents, many of whom served, and Japan was still the enemy to them. China, on the other hand, was our friend and ally. In fact, following the Doolittle Raider’s bombing of Tokyo, most of the B-25 crews landed in China. The landings were possible because Chiang Kai-shek agreed to the landing sites in China, despite the very real possibility of Japanese reprisals. Those reprisals came later, when the Japanese laid waste to much of the eastern shoreline and killed thousands of people.
Fast forward 60 plus years, and Japan is our friend and great ally, while China buzzes our airplanes, plays chicken with our warships, sends spy balloons over our borders, and relentlessly launches cyberattacks on our IT networks. Where do the Chinese get the money to pay for this? From us and our never-ending desire for lots of cheap stuff at cheap prices. If there is such a thing as a July 4 resolution, maybe it could be to free ourselves from this economic tyranny.
This article is not intended in any way to cast aspersions on the Chinese people or their culture. It’s their Government that’s the problem. Statistics show that, in 2020, corporate taxation sent almost $400 billion to the Government, which accounted for about 27% of Chinese tax revenues. That’s a lot of money for armament, and we’re paying for it. There are other foreign vendors, of course; I’m picking on China since they seemingly want to kill (or at least bully) us with their expensive toys. (Russia may feel the same way, but, unless you’re buying Matryoshka dolls or vodka, it shouldn’t be much of a problem.)
Other than the militarization of our shopping dollars, is there any other problem in buying Chinese goods? You betcha. Jobs. It was obvious from the early days of our educational careers that everybody wasn’t headed for college, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Maybe Darleen didn’t like to read, or maybe she was just inspired by Lucy to make candy. Maybe Bubba had trouble with chemistry, or maybe he just-by golly-wanted to be a welder.
Those jobs used to be easy to find, and they paid decent salaries. Wayne Earl probably wasn’t investing in stocks and bonds, but he could buy a house in a decent neighborhood and get Momma a new car every seven or eight years. The job offered him health insurance and a pension, and he could send his children (as long as there weren’t too many) to college. Okay, college was a lot cheaper then.
What’s Bubba doing now? Well, when he steps away from his fentanyl addiction, he’s not doing much of anything, which is why he has a fentanyl addiction. When he can get his act together enough to find bus fare, he works as a dishwasher downtown. He lives in an old house with five other similarly under-employed guys, and they are all working on their Social Security disability applications. After all, Aunt Juanita got disability, and she supports all five of the family members who immediately moved into her trailer.
So, okay, buying Chinese products is bad, but avoiding them is not so easy, especially if you shop online. Amazon is particularly nefarious; even when you search for products “made in America,” you’ll get a lot of results for products that simply are not. Sometimes, they try to avoid admitting that the product came from China, and it will simply say “Imported.” If you look at the tag in a garment, though, it will admit that the garment was made in China. Or you may receive the package, and there are Chinese characters on the shipping label. My personal pet peeve is when you look at the instructions, and they are written in pidgin English. “Assemble painted surface to show outside.”
On ebay, foreign suppliers have permeated a platform that people used to use to sell a hat found in Grandpa’s closet after the funeral. Now, a search for men’s hats turns up hit after hit showing multiple hats — different colors, different sizes — that are obviously not being sold out of anyone’s closet. Some sellers admit straight out that their product is mass-produced in China. Some cleverly omit “Country of origin” from their descriptions. But the most outrageous ones claim that their product “ships from United States”. One of those sellers even put an American flag on their page, but, if you scroll patiently down the description, admits that it is made in China.
How can you avoid buying Chinese products on ebay? You’re in risky territory when your search turns up items that are shown in multiples. If you’re willing to scroll through all of the search results, immediately eliminate any that show an impossibly endowed blonde wearing the product. If you don’t want to scroll through the minefield, limiting the condition to “used” also works, but only if you are willing to buy a used product. You can specify that the item be located in the United States, but that just means that there’s an American distributor of Chinese products somewhere on the West Coast. I specify that the product be within 500 miles or so. At least at this point, there doesn’t seem to be a distributor in the deep south.
How else can we tell? When you shop in retail stores, you can always tip the product over, or look in the dress’s seam, for the tag that squeals “Made in China.” Before you shop online, you can search for products or companies that manufacture their products here. Although I’d love to take credit for this line of thought, many others came up with it before. Among the websites you can search for American-made products are: madeintheusamatters.com, americansworking.com, and usalovelist.com. Of course, buying American may mean higher costs, but c’mon. Lawyers can afford that. In any event, higher costs mean less stuff, and, in my (closet’s) case, that’s altogether a good thing.
This is not likely a sentiment welcomed by either of our countries, as they continue to search for common ground on which to base peaceful accord. And I’m told that the actual interplay of our economic systems is too complex for mere mortals like me to understand. Perhaps. But, as a consumer, I think I’m entitled to say, “Not on my nickel.” Benjamin Franklin once wrote, “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” The same goes for purchasing cheap t-shirts. Be vigilant. Assert your independence.
Finally, since we’ve mentioned the Fourth of July and its theme of patriotism, let’s go over some of the rules regarding the display of the American flag:
In other words, y’all, the flag is neither a cape, nor a tablecloth, nor any part of a shirt. Just sayin’.
*By Terryl Massey, who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Unless you’re from the Marshals’ Service, in which case I’ve moved to Australia.