Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Buying and Selling American

We recently bought a new van, a replacement for our trusty but rusty old van.  It's used, of course.

It's a 2012 Honda Odyssey, and I'm proud to own another American car.

What?  Honda?  An American car?  

Sure it is.

The Odyssey is made in America, by American workers.  It's right there on the label.  Our "new" van was manufactured in the United States of America, in a factory in Alabama.  It provides jobs to Americans.  Not American CEOs.  Not Madison Avenue marketers.  But the American workers who build it in the heartland of the United States, and the American folks who truck it from the factory to the showroom, and the American folks who sell it and maintain it.

Not only that, the Odyssey is made from parts that are made in America.  At 75% of total parts content domestically sourced, it's as materially American as a Corvette.

But that's not the only thing that makes it American, not in the way that matters to me.

At the height of American greatness, what buying an American product meant was that the transaction supported others who were living as you lived.  That car was made by workers who were your peers.  You may, in fact, have made it yourself.  The wealth of American industry supported the culture from which it came, as egalitarian as the principles that founded the nation.

That is no longer the case.  So much "American" product relies on the labor of those who cannot live an American life.  They aren't at liberty to pursue happiness, unless by "happiness" you mean endless, hopeless labor.  Their fundamental, Creator-given rights have been conveniently, profitably alienated by the new globalized aristocracy.

Products that violate our national principles cannot be considered American.

So in this age of globalization, buying American requires some forethought.  General Motors is a global concern.  Ford is a global concern.  Chrysler is Fiat-Chrysler.

If I buy a Chevy Spark that was manufactured in Korea, is that "buying American?"  If I buy a Ford Fiesta that was assembled in Germany, is that "buying American?"  If I buy a Jeep Renegade that was designed and built in Italy, is that "buying American?"  I don't think so.

Ultimately, buying into that American principle is not just about place.

In buying our Honda, I'm supporting a company that puts money primarily into an excellent product, and into their workers.  I am not pouring money into their C-suite.

The CEO of Honda made $1.5 million a year the year our new van was manufactured.  That's a lot, a fortune.

The CEO of Fiat-Chrysler in the same year pulled in $16 million.  The CEO of Ford, $23.9 million.  The CEO of General Motors?  A paltry $9 million, which was still six times as much as the Honda exec.  And sure, Honda's a smaller company than those global titans.

But it makes a quality product, well designed and executed, and somehow manages to do all of this whilst not feeding the beast of oligarchic/aristocratic CEO culture.  What makes for a good product has dang-all to do with CEO salaries.  It has to do with competent and honest engineers, a product-first mindset, and fairly paid workers.

Because America at her heart is not, and has never been, about serving the needs of the powerful.