Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, apparently in all seriousness, is calling for the 2012 U.S. Olympic team uniforms to be put in a pile and burned. The reason: they’re made in China. The 2008 U.S. uniforms were also manufactured in China, but since the Olympics were in Beijing that year, that seemed like a noble act of international solidarity rather than a national disgrace.
It does raise the question of where we draw the line. It’s no secret that most American manufactured goods are made in China, but most Americans are unaware of just how deeply our economy, even our money, depends on China. China owns nearly a trillion dollars of U.S. debt, and much of China’s national savings (in trillions) is in U.S. dollars. If China were to call in our debts or liquidate its holdings in dollars (which it has threatened to do), it could precipitate a hyper-inflation of the U.S. dollar and a likely collapse of the American economy.
Why doesn’t China do this? One reason: they depend on us to buy their cheap goods. In 2005, Wal-Mart by itself was the sixth largest buyer of Chinese goods (just behind Germany). China depends on the American consumer to continue generating wealth (wealth that it then lends back to America so we can continue to spend more than we can afford). But a time is coming, and perhaps already has come, when American credit will fold. Already, China is attempting to capture the Japanese and especially the African markets. If it can transfer enough of its exports to countries other than the United States, there is no doubt it will have no reason to prop up the American dollar or the American economy anymore.
It is unfortunate that such a trivial thing as sports should bring our national attention to just how far we have fallen from our once strong and self-subsistent days. In the year 1945, the United States by itself produced more tonnage of steel than all the other world powers, Axis and Allied, combined. Now, in contrast, a whopping 86 percent of the American workforce is employed in service jobs.
Harry Reid can complain about the Olympic team uniforms, but this is merely a superficial symptom of a much deeper problem. And we’ll have to get more than riled up to fix it. Irresponsible labor unions, frivolous lawsuits, burdensome business taxes, crony capitalism, and a general departure from hard work and thrifty living have created this problem. And a boycott on China isn’t the answer. They are providing what we want for cheaper than we’re willing to make it ourselves. The solution isn’t burning uniforms. That legislation was probably written up on a computer made in China. That’s like Al Gore championing the environment while touring the country in his fuel-hogging jet. Or the abolitionist on his soapbox wearing a Southern cotton suit (that one is a bit obscure, I admit). The point is, until we’re willing to make short-term sacrifices for long-term gains (like our forefathers were), uniform-burning’s no better than flag-burning or bra-burning or whatever. It’s just a desperate outward sign of frustration that belies an unwillingness to work steadily for real change. I guess we better learn how to say “Buy American” in Chinese.