BY SHARON MARTIN
Recently, I brought home some frozen strawberries. I surely wish I’d read the label – Product of China. Why? I know for certain that strawberries grow in eastern Oklahoma and western Arkansas. It can’t possibly cost less to ship them across an ocean than it would cost to package them here.
Value added is a term bandied about in commercial circles. It means taking a raw product – crude oil, strawberries, iron ore – and turning it into a more usable product – gasoline, jam, steel rods. Real money from natural resources comes from adding value.
China and other U.S. trading partners know this. The United States seems to have forgotten it. Real wealth comes in producing goods and selling them at home and abroad. This may not have been exactly what Tip O’Neill meant when he said, “All politics is local.” But, it certainly applies.
The United States can become a stronger nation if citizens look at product labels and become local activists by buying products produced as close to home as possible. Let’s be the market for local goods.
There are some changes we, as citizen consumers, should insist on to make our economy stronger. Ask legislators to expand health care reform. Most foreign manufacturers don’t have to provide health insurance coverage for their employees. What if we remove this expense from the cost of manufactured goods here at home?
Insist on adequate funding for schools. Employers want an educated workforce. In turn, employers must pay workers an adequate wage so they can support their families and buy the goods U.S. manufacturers produce.
Consumers do their part by choosing locally produced and manufactured goods. Check the label. Local goods may cost a little more because our government is not subsidizing manufacturers in order to build a monopoly. Buy local anyway. We may have to pay what something is truly worth to turn this economic ship around.
Eat locally produced foods. Insist that the ranchers and farmers from whom you buy use sustainable farming methods. The next generation is depending on us to leave them a country that is economically viable and land that is capable of producing the food they need.
We don’t have to build a wall around ourselves, and we don’t have to do without those goods we can’t produce – Vietnamese cinnamon, Chinese silk, Central American bananas – but we can certainly keep most of our money circulating right here at home. Let’s start right now while we have a local economy and a middle class to save.
– Sharon Martin lives in Oilton, OK and is a regular contributor to The Oklahoma Observer