“Made in USA: The 30 Day Journey,” Josh Miller’s new documentary is an inspirational reminder that the words “Made in USA” still matter. While Americans from Main Street to the halls of Congress struggle to cope with our sputtering economy, Miller reminds us that the answer to reclaiming a prosperous future may lie in the long-forgotten rallying cry to “Buy American.”
As Miller demonstrates in his month-long trek across the United States, a sure-fire way to create American jobs is to stimulate demand for American-made products. While conventional wisdom once told us the jobs that left our shores would never return, as is so often the case, that conventional wisdom is now being turned on its head.
The film shows that in many industries, companies that stuck to their American-made roots are now thriving, while firms that made the decision to off-shore are realizing the advantages of sourcing from low-wage countries like China are being eaten up by rapidly increasing wages in those countries. Once you consider the other disadvantages of off-shoring, such as increased shipping costs, higher inventory costs, and extended time to get products to market, in many industries the benefits of overseas production are now being outweighed by the costs. As a consequence, America may be primed for a serious jobs recovery.
In the film, Michael Araten, CEO of the toy company K’Nex, whom Miller interviews, makes the most compelling case that the U.S. is poised for job creation in the manufacturing sector and that the Buy American Movement can help facilitate it. “What I see happening is that consumers care more and more where stuff is made; businesses react to consumers,” explains Araten. “As demand picks up for [American-made products], then [businesses] will find more ways to [fill that demand].”
The economics of it are truly very simple – consumers demand American products, and companies hire American workers to produce those products. While few would question that basic premise, many would question whether promoting the concept of “Made in USA” is worthwhile. Jobs, after all, will come back when the economics demand it, not likely before then. But in the film, Miller makes a compelling case that buying American is effective enough to be worthwhile and is the patriotic thing to do by interviewing those that have been laid off due to factory closings. We are reminded that every time a factory is shuttered, it is real American families that suffer, and Miller lets us hear from these folks. But the film doesn’t just highlight this problem; it also gives us a solution – we can reverse this disturbing outsourcing trend by using our collective purchasing power to create jobs here in U.S. The film makes it clear that America needs to get serious about buying American right now, before another factory closes and another small town, like the one Miller grew up in, is devastated.
One aspect of the film worthy of applause is the non-partisan approach to the topic that Miller maintains. The importance of buying American resonates with people from all kinds of political backgrounds. As divisive as politics can be, Miller was smart to steer clear of any overtly political messages. It would have been very easy for Miller to let some of his personal political views creep into the film. In my view, that would have only been a diversion from the true message of the film: Our economic future is in our own hands, and we can have a better future by buying American.
I also love the way the film ends (I’m not giving anything away here) – with unique question that Miller poses to the audience. His question strikes right at heart of the problem the Buy American Movement has struggled with for years. The American people are as patriotic as they have ever been, but even the most patriotic people often don’t make an attempt to buy American, even though it will help our country to do so. When it comes to patriotism and consumer behavior, the rhetoric and the actions are simply not aligned.
Here is Miller’s question: We’re willing to die for our country, but are we willing to buy for it?
If more people would ponder Miller’s question seriously, I think we would see the Buy American Movement really take off in this country, and that could lead to the economic recovery in America that we have all been anticipating, but have yet to experience.
Made in USA: The 30 Day Journey is a must-see film. You can get a DVD for $19.99 by going to the website for the film: http://www.usa30days.com/
Get your copy today.