World War II was the start of our manufacturing power. Our two countries pumped out the majority of the arsenal needed to win that war and our two countries benefitted from that material and financial might.
And somewhere between 1939 and now, the U.S. and Canada gave up this manufacturing might by way of a slow, imperceptible trickle called job “outsourcing”.
We effectively exported our manufacturing power to the developing 3rd world countries all because we, being monstrous consumers, refused to pay the price for domestically made products.
Our per hour wages became so astronomically unrealistic that we ended up not being able to afford ourselves. We demanded the champagne pay but refused to pay the champagne prices for the objects we produced on our own soil. And with this trade off, we also relinquished the quality of our consumed goods. We are paying exactly for what we are receiving and our continent is nothing but one gigantic flea market of foreign made goods, the quality of which is as low as on would find in a Marrakesh market or a Bangladesh back street shop.
Back in the day, we could purchase a Canon or Martex towel, of some predictable pastel yellow, pink or blue colour or a banal stripped version in those years, that when bought for a reasonable amount, would last as long as you chose to keep it around. You may tire of the colour but the look and feel and quality of the American cotton never faded, never wore out, never, ever diminished.
The same could be said of American cars.
One could purchase a Buick Wildcat or a Pontiac Parisienne back then that would rust out before the engine would fail. Sure, they may have gone 0-60 in three days, guzzle gas like nobody’s business and have an interior anything but flashy but the damn steel was steel and in their refusal to die, have now become sought-after collector’s items.
But when I consider American or Canadian made products now, I end up talking in the past tense, of a time before we allowed foreigners to fill the jobs we filled for ourselves, before we let our factory might dissolve before our very eyes.
Now we export our raw materials, send them overseas to countries which employ people at slave labour wages and buy back the finished product crafted in a far inferior way than we would have made it for ourselves, all in the name of saving a few pennies on the dollar.
I’m exaggerating, of course, when I say that all we have left domestically manufactured in Canada is the Hudson’s Bay blanket in every shape and form imaginable and the cotton and car manufacturing in the States is a meagre shadow of its former self.
Nowadays, if you want to peruse and consume North American made products in one location, you’re more than likely relegated to websites, online boutiques of a sort, whose titles say it all, “Made In Canada” and “American Made Products”.
And while all the mills and factories in all the towns and cities of our two countries are closed or closing, those same dilapidated buildings are now a ghostly reminder of what we were after we won WWII.
I personally HATE shopping at what I call “China-Mart” but do we offer our citizens any other comparable option, (K-Mart pulled out of Canada years ago and Zellers is a joke) and if we did, would our insistence at achieving union-level wages make purchasing those products from those other retailers virtually impossible?
If we, the grand-children of the men and women who fought that war and gave birth to our manufacturing force, Mr. & Mrs. Middle America Consumer, spent more time looking at the manufacturing labels and less time counting pennies, maybe we’d have a few of those factories re-populated in towns that would then have a future. As it stands now, at least in the U.S., for every man, woman and child, the country is in debt to China for finished goods bought from them to the tune of $6,000.00 per person.
Will we ever be able to pay off this debt or will we become complete consumer puppets of a 3rd world work force?
It’s really up to each and every one of us and we will make that decision, one label and one purchase at a time.