Chan Lowe: Outsourcing jobs

U.S. Olympic Team

When we discuss the issue of outsourcing, there's the romanticized way of looking at it and the cold, hard realistic way. The first is the one that moved congressmen and senators of both parties to jump on a soapbox last week and harrumph about what an outrage it was that the United States Olympic Team’s uniforms were fabricated in China.

 

The second, realistic way is to acknowledge that American consumers have been making purchasing decisions based on financial, rather than patriotic, considerations for decades. So while it is theoretically possible to find someone to provide American-made uniforms (where’s Betsy Ross when you need her?) the cost would be both staggering and impractical considering that only national sentiment would be served by such a move.

 

Gone are the days when America was essentially a closed market, where the selection of articles available for sale to Americans was almost always American-made. All it took was the development of containerized international cargo, and some genius to figure out that it was actually cheaper to make stuff overseas in some sweatshop and ship it here than it was to pay U.S. labor to produce it at home. There followed a mad dash to the bottom, aided and abetted by consumers who bought suddenly cheaper shirts, shoes and junk, oblivious to or uncaring of the fact that they were shooting themselves and their working-stiff neighbors in the foot while doing so.

 

So the next time we feel like blaming the plutocrats for sending our jobs overseas (and yes, it’s fun to do), let’s remember that they’re in business to sell stuff—and we’re the ones who went on the shopping spree. There's lots of blame to spread around.

 

One other note about the Olympics: Because our team is an exception in that it’s one of the few (or maybe the only) national squads not subsidized by its government, it’s unseemly for those who wash their hands of it to grouse about where the USOC shops for clothing. Pony up something, and maybe they’ll buy American next time, if it’s even possible.

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