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Tuesday, July 5, 2011

How to fix America's dependency on foreign goods

First, one has to admit there a dependency and that such a dependency has some problems.
I admit there is, and I do think there are problems when we rely on China and Vietnam and Thailand etc. for many of our goods.   Largest amongst these is the environmental issues that arise from shipping relatively cheap goods across oceans and all the non-monetized costs that the Earth ends up sucking up.

Recently Indy Star Op Ed columnist Matthew Tully wrote: "each beer mug or towel made elsewhere is a job that doesn't exist here..."  
That's the kind of rhetoric you hear from populists and expect from uninformed columnist (like this).  Of course we know that is not true.  Buying cheap goods from others affords us make and sell other kinds of goods through specialization - and that requires and utilizes a whole other kind of labor pool.   Arguably, it affords us a more advanced labor pool.  So Tully goes overboard and over-sells the argument and offers no good solutions.   Only that he wishes someone would "start a dialog."  YOU ARE A REPORTER with a 'major' newspaper - why don't YOU start a real dialog talking about solutions....  But since you didn't here's some of my ideas:

With the exception of perhaps China, our over-reliance on (cheap) foreign goods is NOT their problem - it's solely our problem.  Also, our problem is not mainly the buying of foreign goods, it is the unnecessary/irrational buying of goods, period.  So, first, we (the US) need to get off our high horse and recognize our addiction.

How do we do that?  Well, we need to educate, re-educate, and shift people's priorities.   First, we need to mandate business and finance courses as much if not more than we mandate science and English - in all levels of education.  We need to teach students the value of savings, prudent investment, worthy spending, entrepreneurship, environmental concerns, retirement, etc. WAY earlier than we presently do.  Stop making money an adult issue.  It's not.

I know....now you are thinking.  "Hippie!  How are we gonna pay for all those new programs."  Well, simmer down son and let me tell ya.  I actually have two ideas.  First, we could replace out-dated / unnecessary education programs.  Spelling comes to mind, as does shop...but there may be others.  Second, and this has to do with the "re" part of "re-education," we need to eliminate or scale-back some of our entitlement programs.

OK OK sit down and stop gasping.  Yes, we need to.  I didn't used to think that.  I used to be as much of a liberal as the next guy wearing a tweed jacket, but not anymore.  I've learned via working in government, and observing activity in the economy that people EXPECT things to be GIVEN to them.   Students think As are deserved even if they miss 1/4 of the classes (happens all the time to me - I'm not joking), old or poor people expect hundreds of thousands of dollars in medicare and medicaid and social security, rich people expect big tax breaks from Republicans and the ability to cheat on their wives undisturbed, Chrysler expects to be bailed out when they go bankrupt again in 20 years.... All this means we need to own up to the fact that we have trained the average citizen to expect  that they can buy a house on credit that is way out of their means, that they can run a ponzi scheme unfettered, that they can buy a $400 watch from Wal-Mart meanwhile collecting unemployment benefits.   The problem, my fellow Americans, is that we buy shit we don't need, with money we don't have, from often-times shady States that have no problem feeding our addictions.   One way to reduce the addiction is to reduce the expected high - and the best way to do that is to cut some of it off, and re-educate.

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