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Why Wal-Mart’s ‘buy American’ initiative could be significant

By: 6 June 2013 25 Comments

Wal-MartKATV-7 — the ABC affiliate in Little Rock — reported today that Bentonville-based Walmart Stores Inc. has pledged to buy $50 billion in goods made or grown in America over the next 10. Wal-Mart also plans to train and provide jobs to 100,000 recently-discharged veterans over the next five years.

Here’s the odd thing — Reuters reported Walmart made those announcements back in January. So, the question must be asked — is KATV just six months behind in its news coverage?

Absolutely not. In fact, one could argue that there can’t be too many stories about the Wal-Mart initiative to boost the U.S. economy by looking to buy and sell American-made products. The economy, after all, is still at 7.5 percent and that’s not great.

And, bear in mind that what has happened to the manufacturing industry is nothing less than horrifying. Manufacturing employment peaked in 1979 when that industry employed 19.5 million workers. Employment started to dwindle after 1979 and, 30 years later, fell to a low of 11.5 million jobs 30 years later — a net loss of 8 million jobs. Things have improved slightly since December 2009 — according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 12 million manufacturing jobs in April.

Where have the jobs gone? Anyone who has been paying attention over the past couple of decades knows that — a lot of American companies are headquartered here, but they’re shipping jobs overseas because they can save a lot on labor costs. For example, if you’re toting an Apple iPhone, iPad or iPod, it was made in China.

Now, let’s not just pick on Apple here as there are far worse offenders to bash than that particular company. Back in 2011, GE Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board Jeffrey R. Immelt announced that his company was moving its international X-ray headquarters from Waukesha, Wis., to Beijing, China. That move was part of GE’s broader plan to invest $2 billion in China.

Immelt, of course, was named by Barrack Obama in January 2011 to head up the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. So, Immelt was the go-to guy who was supposed to help find strategies to keep jobs in America rather than shipping them off to China. GE, by the way, got a lot of federal tax incentives from a government hoping that the company would refrain from jumping on the “me, too” bandwagon of sending jobs overseas.

madeinamericaGE wasn’t the only company to make the scoundrel move of taking the money and running. Whirlpool Corp., in 2009, announced it was taking $19.3 million in stimulus money to develop some environmentally friendly appliances. The rascals starting shutting down American plants and laying out U.S. workers shortly thereafter. One of those closures hit close to home — in Oct. 2011, the company announced it was shutting down a plant in Fort Smith and taking 1,000 manufacturing jobs with it. Some of those were to be added to a plant in Iowa while others would be shipped to to a facility in Mexico.

So, it’s a great thing, indeed, to see companies like Walmart who seem to understand that outsourcing is bad for the overall economy. So, good for Walmart. Good for companies like Motorola which announced last month that it will make the Moto X smartphone in Fort Worth and hire 2,000 workers to manufacture that device.

It is a supreme irony that companies like Subaru, Toyota and Volkswagen are providing American jobs while our own domestic companies are still caught up in outsourcing mania. Hopefully our own companies are figuring out that it’s terrible business to sell products here but not do their part to help provide jobs to Americans so they can buy those items. Time will only tell if Walmart’s “buy American” initiative is part of a new trend — one in which American companies provide manufacturing jobs in the country they call home.

About: Ethan C. Nobles:
Benton resident. Rogue journalist. Recovering attorney. Email = Ethan@FirstArkansasNews.net.

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