11
Jun
12

Rebuttal to John Stossel’s The Stupidity of “Buy American”

Mainpoint: Listening to John Stossel is true stupidity.

Last month, I read a repost done by All American Clothing.com that published John Stossel’s article from November 3, 2011, called “The Stupidity of ‘Buy American'”. That article just got under my skin. It just outraged me. John Stossel’s manner is so annoying, it is just like when an poorly behaved sibling is kicking your chair repeatedly and, at the same time, manages to push all the wrong buttons. His illogical conclusions and glib observations have enraged me to such a high level of which I have not reached in an extremely long time. Maybe it’s because I have been working on this Blog for a year or maybe it is just because Mr. Stossel’s article is so “stupid”. So, instead of just giving a short tweet about Mr. Stossel’s misinformed conclusions, I am instead going to write down his entire horrendous and vacuous article and will comment on each of his points  with parenthetical inclusions in bold type.

The Stupidity of “Buy American” by John Stossel, November 3, 2011.

“One sign of economic ignorance is the faith that “Buy America” is the path to prosperity. (He doesn’t pull any punches right at the start.) My former employee, ABC News, did a week’s worth of stories claiming that “Buy American” would put Americans back to work. I’m very glad I don’t work there anymore. (Nothing like denigrating your old employer – very mature. But then you are working for Fox News who tells you what to say).

“Buy American” is a dumb idea. (Don’t sugar coat it.) It would not only not create prosperity, it would cost jobs and makes us all poorer. (Did somebody not proofread their own stuff?) David R. Henderson, an economist at the Hoover Institution (The Hoover Institution is a conservative think tank at Stanford University, one of its mission statements was to preserve peace, but, in practice, has dropped this part of their mission with editorials that recommend we should go to war with Iran), explained why. (You can find all right wing ideology defended by the Hoover Institute, even racism is defended, but not too often anymore, at least publicly.)

“Almost all economist say it’s nonsense,” he said. “And the reason is we should buy things where they’re the cheapest. (Wow, that is so simple, no wonder you are an economist. Hold it.  So, you’re telling Mitt Romney to buy his pants at Walmart? And when you mean “we”, you are talking about the middle class, because your 1% buddies aren’t going to buy the cheapest – not with private jets, vacation homes and $30,000 suits. I see what you are really saying: Let the middle class buy up the junk, but only the 1% should buy things of any quality.) That frees up more of the resources (still talking about the middle class only?) to buy other things, and other American get jobs producing those things.” (Just a cotton pickin’ minute, Mr. Henderson, I think you have forgotten about what you were talking about. Remember: We Don’t Make Anything!! What are we going to produce? Service?)

This is what people always forget. (Tell us Mr. Stossel, what do we forget? Like that we don’t make anything?) Anytime we can use fewer resources and less labor to produce one thing, that leaves more for other things we can’t afford. (What?!! That sentence makes no sense no matter how many times I read it, and it’s not a misprint.)  If we save money buying abroad (okay), we can make and buy other products. (Wait! Remember we don’t make anything, well, let’s skip that part and just say we would just buy other stuff made in China. So, how does that help us again?)

The nonsense of “Buy American” can be seen if you trace out the logic. (You haven’t done a very good job so far.) “If it’s good to Buy American,” Henderson said, “why isn’t it good to Buy Alabaman, why isn’t it good to have Buy Montgomery, Ala? (Still not with you). And if it’s good to have Buy Montgomery, Ala…” (Isn’t Alabama part of the U.S.? It’s an American job right, we all live in the same country and live under the same Constitution we are not independent city-states, we are all interconnected.)

You get the idea. (Obviously, I don’t, not with that logic.) You wouldn’t get very good stuff if everything you bought came from Montgomery, Ala. (China’s stuff is better? Why wouldn’t you get good stuff from Montgomery, Alabama? Do you have a problem with Alabama? Maybe their climate might not be great for potatoes and pineapples but anything manufactured they could be as good as anywhere.) ” A huge part of the history of mankind is an increase in the division of labor. (Yes, we know that about feudal societies, indentured servitude as well as masters/slaves.) And that division of labor goes across national boundaries.” (So, you are saying that the Chinese are the slaves and we are the owners. But, we are not the owners, we are only the consumers who do not own the companies that make the profits, that own the slaves. Sometimes, Mr. Henderson, you forget that you are not talking to the 1% that you are used to speaking to.)

Which creates wealth (for the 1%, not the 99%) – and jobs (Chinese jobs. So, what you are, in essence, saying, Mr. Stossel, is that we should forget about being loyal to our country because the multi-national corporations have told us that, and that is because the multi-nationals have absolutely no loyalty to the United States of America. The USA, to them, is just another bank account, but, the multi-nationals would rather have you put your money into their Chinese bank account because the Chinese Yuan is under-valued, and therefore, the corporations make even more money). In a similar vein, consider “fair trade” coffee. (Now you are taking on ethical consumption which has been around since the 1890’s, also known as voting with your dollars.) It costs more money, but we’re told that if we buy it, we should have a warm feeling inside (Obviously, something you’ve lacked since birth, Mr. Stossel) because  somebody will supposedly get paid more. (Such a simple idea from a simple mind, like slave labor means only they don’t get paid well. Heaven forbid we should want anybody to work in decent working conditions: ventilation;  safety precautions; lunch breaks; working less than 80 hours per week.)

“But a huge part of that premium is taken by the bureaucracy (just like the USA, with CEO salaries and executive bonuses) that organizes this. Most of this doesn’t go to the farmer (just like the USA). And a better way to help those farmers (Oh, tell me, Mr. Henderson, you have never steered me wrong before) is just buy what you would have bought anyway (Ah, yes, great strategy, forget what you know, bury your head in the ground,  and condone slave labor, right?), take the premium you would have spent and give it to those people.” (which people exactly? You mean the Columbian farmer? Do you have his address? Such a brilliant idea! That is exactly why you are where you are now – Idiot City!)

And here’s something else: if you pay more for coffee, you’ll have to buy less, or less of something else (unless you are a 1%er). That hurts other workers. (just because there is more product on the shelves? If you bought the more expensive coffee, the grocer would be happy, the farmer would be happy, you would be happy. More products on the shelves? Hmmm…  if a new coffee business started, that would also leave other products on the shelves as well. If a new business started, it, unless it was rarely unique, would, also, take way from other existing businesses. I think I am getting your message: Money is all finite, there is only so much that goes around. It sure goes against “a rising tide (of money) floats all boats” theory. We all knew that theory was full of baloney. Over the past thirty years, it has floated a few Chinese cities and, in the meantime, has turned the American economy and manufacturing from a raging river into a nearly dry creek bed. ) We all should heed Henry Hazlitt’s (Hanzlitt is a deceased, right wing economist) famous economic lesson (we should, should we?): Look beyond the immediate effects and beneficiaries. (Yes, I do that with everything I do, right down to brushing my teeth – yes, I imagine the unused water going down the drain, eventually going out to the Bay and to the Pacific Ocean, picking up little pieces of plastic on its journey to the Midway Islands to become part of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch). You may be accomplishing the opposite of what you intend. (Like this lame article of yours that infuriates the populace to the point that evokes sheer devotion to the buying of  Made in USA products).

The same applies to so-called sweatshop-free products. I’m for free trade (obviously), but trade means you get the lowest price (not always, especially with monopolies and fixed pricing – also, apart of free trade practices), and that might mean you buy something from what some people call a sweatshop. The name itself conveys abuse (and for a reason – maybe House of Horrors is better). Henderson says that’s wrong. The workers are not abused. (I am so sure you would know Mr. Henderson. Did you disguise yourself as a 16 year old Chinese person and work inside the factories to see what was really going on? No, instead, you are writing from the Ivory Tower at Stanford and have never even walked outside those Ivory Gates to talk to any workers foreign or domestic. You write from upon high where reality never interferes with your lofty ideas.)

                                                                                         Children working the coal mines 1880

“In fact, they’re better off taking those jobs (I love people defending sweatshops, it’s like you should become slaves, at least you’ll get food and housing, if you don’t mind a few lashes here and there)…the mistake Americans make is they think they would never work in a sweatshop and therefore they say these people shouldn’t. (Those damn Americans with their consciousness.) Well, no one’s offering those people green cards. (Because sweatshops are illegal in the U.S., duh? At least for the time being.) Those people are stuck in those countries. (And we are “stuck” in ours.) Their choosing their best of a bunch of bad options (like the Republican Primaries). And when you take away someone’s best of a bad option (you’re taking about the sweatshops/House of Horrors?), they’re worse off.”

That happened after Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa (Harkin is a leading proponent of combating the worst forms of child labor) complained about sweatshops in Bangladesh. Some shops closed. Then Oxfam (an organization that helps the conditions of the poor) discovered that kids who were laid off often turned to prostitution to support themselves. (This is the worst justification of child labor in sweatshops ever – maybe we should open up more sweatshops in very poor countries just to keep the kids out of prostitution. I’m sorry, I can not get behind your movement. It’s hard for me to go that far back in history, child labor was outlawed in 1881, only 16 years before that,  slavery was abolished.) “The person who tries to get you fired is not your friend,” Henderson said. (That was the first statement of yours that I agreed with.)

                                                                                                               Bangladesh worker, age 13

The conglomerates (the ones that go to rural parts of the country, pick up potential employees, jam them into  crowded trucks and portage them to the factories) that hire people in poor countries usually pay more than local employers do. In Honduras, many sweatshops pay $3.10 an hour. (Why pick Honduras? How about Bangladesh, like you were talking about before? They make $0.20 per hour.) That’s low to us. (It sure is, especially the Bangladesh one), but most Hondurans earn less than two dollars per hour. (Is that the standard non-sweatshop rate?) Since third world countries do not pursue free-market policies (you must be kidding me, most of them pursue them or the sweatshops wouldn’t exist.), worker opportunities are often foreclosed by self-serving politicians. (Lucky for us the top 1% of the population does this for us.) So, multinational sweatshops are usually people’s best alternative. (Let me follow your logic – local sweatshops “foreclosed” on by politicians – like what % are hit upon and what % do they pay. I think your blanket statement is probably totally false, but let us give you the benefit of the doubt, maybe 10% of companies effected, however, the multinational “sweatshops”, that is your word, are not influenced by politicians? I am sure that you are mistaken and – I am certain that there is lots of cash going back and forth between the corporations and the politicians. Still, it is not the best opportunity, more like the penultimate choice.)

Humanitarians (obviously not you, Mr. Stossel) should target the politicians (which ones? The ones in other countries whom we do not know or our own U.S. politicians who could pass a national manufacturing policy and stop the outsourcing of jobs?) not the factories that provide some hope (because factories are people, too? And we can’t forget the great white hype, I mean hope). Interfering with peaceful exchange is never a good idea (in other words – turn your back on child labor and the chamber of horrors). The great 19th Century liberal Richard Cobdan (This is a favorite right wing trick – what Americans now call conservatism, the rest of the world calls liberalism. Cobdan was an Englishman, which was purposely omitted making you think he was an American liberal when in fact he was very Laissez Faire, a manufacturer, and a free trade advocate from the 1800’s) was right (says who?) when he praised free trade for “drawing men together, thrusting aside the antagonism of race, and creed, and language, and uniting us in the bonds of eternal peace.” (Rebuttal quotes: “Advocates of capitalism are very apt to appeal to the sacred principles of liberty, which are embodied in one maxim: The fortunate must not be restrained in the exercise of tyranny over the unfortunate.” -Bertrand Russell. “Capitalism attacks and destroys all the finer sentiments of the human heart; it ruthlessly sweeps away old traditions and ideas opposed to its progress, and it exploits and corrupts those things once held sacred.” -Daniel De Leon) -by John Stossel. (parenthetical quotes by Jack A.)

I know it is a rare soul that reads my comments about economics and politics, but, at least, I feel better after doing this. -Jack A.

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2 Responses to “Rebuttal to John Stossel’s The Stupidity of “Buy American””


  1. 1 Roger Lignugaris
    June 17, 2014 at 9:21 pm

    Sweatshop workers work in sweatshops because it’s the lowest opportunity cost option they have. We may not like sweatshops, but to the worker, it’s the best use of his time and labor.

    Until we have an alternative to offer (green cards for everyone?), then we can’t criticize people from choosing the least bad of an array of bad options.

    Boycott sweatshops? Sure, put them all out of work altogether. I don’t think they’re going to like that option a whole lot.

    • June 20, 2014 at 12:18 am

      It is nice to see somebody actually supporting sweatshops. You do know that it is the million dollar corporations that go to this destitute part of the world so they can exploit the labor force for wage that is comparable to 1914, plus they don’t care if it is children working with them. Remember the average corporate CEO make $10.5 million a year. The CEO’s are not running a program so their workers can make a living, they could care less, and if they could pay them less they would, the CEO’s are thinking of only lining their own pockets with cash. So, that is why I say we should boycott sweatshops, it would stop the further exploitation of workers. -Jack A


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