Rumination X – Made in ‘Merica (America)

I’m a man who loves his power tools, and I’ve got a lot of them. But this one is my favorite. (OK, so actually it’s my favorite gasoline-powered implement. My favorite electric tool is my Ryobi One impact driver. Man, will it drive screws!)

This beauty (photo below) is an ancient rototiller that my Mother bought from TG&Y in the late ’70s, when the store in Pine Bluff, Arkansas went out of business. (Yes, my Mother loved power tools, as well.) She got it for a steal and definitely got her money’s worth.

It’s been through it all. It’s tilled up gardens in South Arkansas, where the soil is actually made of dirt, and it’s tilled up flower beds in Central Arkansas, where a tiny bit of clay is mixed into the layers of shale and granite to hold them together.

I spent about four hours behind this baby recently and it nearly beat me to death. And it beat the flower bed and associated monkey grass to death, as well. But it never quit. (OK, it quit once when it ran out of gas … and another time when a giant rock got lodged in the tines.) It just kept going, and going, and going, and … you get the picture.

It threw rocks out of the flower bed and nearly dragged me away several times. It belches blue smoke, slings oil in every direction, and stinks to the heavens, but it gets the job done – time and time again.

While it was dragging me around and shaking my cerebral cortex in unnatural ways, I was thinking about what that old rototiller stands for.

It was built in a time when things were Made in America. ‘Mercian made, they were. Just like the pioneers of old, it’s made of steel, and it just won’t quit. It’s met many an obstacle and rolled right over it (thankfully, none of those obstacles were attached to my body). It’s crashed into innumerable objects over the years, and spent far too many nights uncovered, out in the rain. “Rode hard and put up wet”, you might say. But it’s always ready to go at the next outing.

While this thing is just a rusty old orange rototiller, it’s actually come to represent much more to me. It reminds me of a time when you bought something and expected it to operate for a lifetime. You expected it to “take a licking and keep on ticking” as John Cameron Swayze used to say about Timex watches.

Yet, the days of Made in America seem to be over. Everywhere I look, things are made in China, or Vietnam, or Mexico, or Myanmar … or someplace I’ve ever heard of. The “Made in the USA” logo seems to get harder to find by the day. There are notable exceptions, but that’s what they are: exceptions.

And why is that? Why aren’t things Made in ‘Merica anymore? Did we just decide one day not to make anything here in the Good Ol’ USA? No, we didn’t. We let it slip away little by little.

We got fat and lazy … and we wanted cheap stuff, and we wanted it now. Instant gratification and an addiction to cheap led us to foreign goods, made by people who work for pennies a day – or perhaps even as slaves.

Greed drove the process. Individuals’ greed to get more and more stuff, and pay less and less for it. Unions’ greed to work fewer hours for more pay. Manufacturers’ greed to make more for their investors, regardless of the societal cost. Government’s greed to control every part of our lives.

And first thing you know, nothin’s Made in ‘Merica anymore.

Thousands of American workers have lost jobs as a result.

The taxes that those workers paid are now gone, straining the ability of the Treasury to pay its bills.

The profits that used to go to American investors go to foreign investors.

The capital investment that used to get planted at home and strengthen the US Economy, is now hurrying overseas, where it builds foreign economies, often in countries that don’t like ‘Merica very much.

What’s the solution? Well, it’s a tough call and it’ll take major change on the part of all of us.

First off, us ‘Mericans are going to have to start demanding ‘Merican-made goods. We’ve got to vote with our pocketbooks and buy stuff that’s Made in ‘Merica, and be willing to spend more for it. For me personally, that’ll mean a return to Craftsman Tools, instead of those Chinese-made bargains I’ve been buying at Harbor Freight Tools.

For unions and employees, it’ll mean not holding employers hostage for unreasonable wages and/or conditions, that just tempt them to go overseas, where folks will work for little or nothing.

For employers, it’ll mean treating your employees fairly and so they don’t have to strike or slow down to make a point. It’ll mean providing proper incentives to encourage employees to do their very best everyday.

For corporations, it’ll mean a commitment to stay here in ‘Merica and do the right thing. Plant capital here and watch ‘Merica grow.

For government, it’ll mean getting out of business’ way and letting them prosper. Get rid of burdensome regulations that stifle productivity and, again, incent businesses to go elsewhere.

It won’t be easy, but ‘Merica has never met a challenge she couldn’t handle. Let’s work together to make her great again.

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