Weekly Roundup: 1994’s Gift That Will Never Stop Giving Edition

In 1985, this country encountered something new: a trade deficit with China. It was just six million dollars. In 1994, President Bill Clinton ignored criticism from his own party to renew China’s Most Favored Nation trade status, citing the eight billion dollars’ worth of export business this country did with China. He tactfully failed to mention the thirty-nine billion dollars’ worth of goods we imported, for a net deficit of thirty billion dollars. And then we were off to the races, as government policies under the Clinton, Bush, and Obama Administrations made it a no-brainer for American companies to outsource their manufacturing and technical operations overseas. That deficit doubled, then doubled again, within the first ten years after Clinton’s decision. It peaked in 2018 at a staggering $418 billion before dropping to $345 billion in 2019. We are currently on track for a 2020 trade deficit of $279 billion, the lowest figure since 2009.

Last year, I tried like hell to build a “dirt jumper” bike without Chinese parts. I spent nearly five thousand dollars sourcing a frame from Ann Arbor, rims from Grand Rapids, titanium crank components from Florida, brakes from Japan. In a few cases, notably tires and tubes, I had no choice other than Taiwanese-sourced items. Taiwan is Chinese but it’s not Chinese, I suppose. The front fork, made by Fox, was largely Taiwanese thanks to the company’s recent decision to move all production to that island. Having painstakingly researched my way out of mainland China, I then built the bike… only to see “Made In China” on a wheel bearing.

The American Giant hooded sweatshirt, pictured above in the Black Camo limited edition I was too slow to buy in 2018, is entirely sourced in the United States. Every single part. But it’s a sweatshirt. If you get any more complex than that, you will find that Chinese manufacturing, like the COVID-19 virus, is impossible to completely avoid. Bicycles are not complex machines by any modern standard, but you can’t build one without buying from China. This should have worried all of us, but with the exception of yahoos like your humble author it did not. Our media told us to accept globalization as an inevitable thing, even as they told us we could help the climate of the entire planet by buying “sustainable” clothing that just happened to be made in China.

The cracks in this Tower of Babel are starting to show. Ironically, bicycles are leading the way.

You can’t get a decent kid’s bike right now for love or money. Factory closures in China and Taiwan happened to coincide with an unprecedented interest in stay-at-home exercise for children. (I have a way around this state of affairs for well-heeled readers, who should contact me directly if necessary, but it’s a very small and expensive loophole.) It didn’t take all that much to just turn off the supply of bicycles here. Last year, the idiots at Foreign Affairs finally woke up to the consequences of Chinese manufacturing omnipresence after years of unselfconscious bleating in praise of it. Even the dimmest bulbs in the C-suites are starting to reevaluate the idea of having everything designed, engineered, created, and assembled on the other side of a border that can become quite nonporous at a moment’s notice. It doesn’t help, of course, that China appears to be an infinite source of horrifying health issues and has been for a very long time.

Our country is currently embroiled in a sort of willful insanity regarding various statistical misunderstandings, deliberate obfuscations, and outright lies — but once we get done tearing ourselves into pieces over these idiocies we will need to seriously consider the virtues of returning a majority of production to our own shores. This is as true for pharmaceuticals as it is for circuit boards. It took thirty-five years to get here; we probably don’t have thirty-five years to undo the damage. Ironically, much of the perceived need for “social justice” in The Current Year is a direct result of President Clinton’s 1994 decision. It was the decline of manufacturing that hollowed-out economic prospects from Detroit to West Virginia. It was the ruthless outsourcing-at-any-cost that gutted what was supposed to be a durable tech-based middle class in this country. The people rioting in our streets right now are from those two groups more often than they are not. It’s much easier to join Antifa when you aren’t leaving a $150,000 engineering or tech job to do so, and it’s much easier to indulge in looting when you have no factory job or single-family home to lose in the process. Our economic choices have created an army of restless young people without any expectation of career or personal success. Every time that has happened in history, you have problems. What separates the America of 2020 from the Weimar Republic? Nothing but a certain level of faith in our money printers.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking about this as a Democrat vs. Republican issue. Bill Clinton was a Democrat, yes — but his own party leadership begged him not to do what he did. Presidents Bush and Obama were essentially identical in their capital-friendly, manufacturing-hostile policies over the course of sixteen long and horrifying years. The worker’s-party aspect of America’s left wing was co-opted by the social-justice crowd a long time ago, leading to the bizarre modern spectacle of union members going door to door in support of the policies that will render them irrelevant. Meanwhile, Republicans have largely abandoned small businesses in favor of megacorporations. There’s no salvation over the hill from either party.

Therefore, I will continue to ask my readers to make every possible effort to source and purchase American-made goods and services. Even if they are more expensive, even if they are more hassle, and even if they just plain are not as good. There’s more at stake here than whether or not you overpay for a plastic hamper or set of dress shoes. If enough consumers demonstrate a conscious interest in buying American, eventually there will be a compelling case to return more manufacturing to the United States. At which point, we can party like it’s 1984. Thanks for reading.

* * *

For Hagerty, I discussed the new F-PACE, bemoaned my son’s disinterest in cars, and discovered an improbable truck from an alternate universe.

67 Replies to “Weekly Roundup: 1994’s Gift That Will Never Stop Giving Edition”

  1. Avatarstingray65

    It goes much deeper and longer than you outline Jack. Since WW2 the US has been propping up allies and anti-Communists with free defense and trade deals and regulatory and tax policies that put American companies and workers at a disadvantage. Japan and Europe got free and unfettered access to the largest car market in the world, while they enacted tariffs, taxes, and regulations specifically designed to keep US built cars out of their markets, and the US government allowed it because it kept them from going Communist. Anti-Communist Nixon opened relations with the USSR and Communist China as a way of reducing the risk of nuclear war and with the hope that trade might eventually bring them around to Democracy and Capitalism.

    But of course the problem with using trade as a relationship and nation building tool is that the countries that are getting all the free defense and favorable trade terms are very reluctant to ever give them up once parity or near parity is achieved. For example, Europe has a generous welfare state built on their not spending much on defense because of US security guarantees, and huge sales (VAT) taxes and fuel taxes that typically put American products at a big disadvantage. China has made tremendous economic progress by adopting tenants of Capitalism while retaining a one-party dictatorship, and their state controlled industry wants to continue to legally steal Western technology and keep all the favorable trade deals that give them major cost advantages, and who can blame them when no US president before Trump ever pushed them for any concessions.

    In fact, the best explanation for the hugely irrational Trump Derangement Syndrome that I have seen is outlined in the link below, which explains how so much of the US political class (both parties) and corporate class, not to mention the mainstream media and NBA are getting their main paychecks from China, and are terrified that Trump’s “get tough” trade policies will stop their personal gravy trains.

    https://www.tabletmag.com/sections/news/articles/americas-china-class-fights-trump

    Reply
    • AvatarJohn C.

      Would you have been in favor of slapping enough of a tariff on imports to protect the domestic auto industry in say 1970? After all they were having to deal with new complicated and not very clear safety and smog regulations to also have to respond to an import onslaught from our dear allies. From what you say above you imply you would have been.

      It seems strange though, as I recall so much around here with the long unemployed Detroit workers were bums and commies and management manages only to be the deserved object of class and racial scorn. Surely they deserved what they got. What a dichotomy. Kind of like those union election foot soldiers Jack mentioned above working for Clinton, Bush, and Obama only to be forgotten and scorned.

      Reply
      • Avatarstingray65

        I don’t like tariffs except as a negotiating tool, but the US might have been more creative in leveling the playing field by putting the same tax and regulatory system in place on imports as US cars faced in the respective home market. For example, if a car producing nation wanting to export to the US had displacement taxes and a high VAT, cars from that nation imported to the US would have the same taxes applied in the US. Similarly, if a car producing nation wanting to export to the US had dealer franchise laws that prevented dueling (i.e. a VW dealer could not legally also sell Fords), then cars from that nation would be prevented from dueling with other brands in the US and need to establish their own independent dealer network.

        Although CAFE itself was and is a poorly conceived piece of legislation that I never liked, it would have been less damaging to Detroit if US brands had been allowed to import small cars and count them in their CAFE fleet averages. It would also have been helpful if GM hadn’t been under anti-trust threat for 30 years, and the US government had either broken them up or let them be as is, because the threat made GM management lazy, non-competitive, and allowed the beancounters to take over, and the lack of GM threat made Ford and Chrysler management similarly lazy and beancounter focused. Nationwide Right to Work laws and ending the ability of unions to withhold dues might have also have made the UAW less adversarial and more concerned about serving the needs of their members and the firms that employ them, and allowed US automakers to be at less of a disadvantage in terms of wages and productivity killing work rules. Thus in general, government efforts to make employing Americans and building things in America more competitive and financially attractive are things that I always support.

        Reply
        • AvatarJohn C.

          Matching how Japan taxed an American car is a cop out and I bet you know it. Japanese people were not going to buy American, They were barely buying anything including their own stuff. They were still poor in 1970. American workers and their managers are left just as screwed.

          Reply
          • Avatarstingray65

            No it wouldn’t have put many US cars into Japanese or European driveways, but it would have made it much more difficult and expensive for Japanese and European cars to get into American driveways. It would have also made it nearly economically impossible for foreigners to develop upscale/larger models made primarily for the profitable US market, because the same taxes and regulations that make a big V-8 or large sedan/SUV expensive to buy in Europe or Japan would be tacked on the US versions and greatly reduce their volume and profitability.

          • AvatarJohn C.

            I think you misunderstand, perhaps purposely as your original comment is obviously something you don’t believe. Japan would have happily matched USA rules knowing no cars would come in to Japan anyway and the American worker and manager remained screwed.

          • Avatarstingray65

            You really think Japan would have given up their Kei car tax system and other protective car tariffs/taxes and regulations to get access to the US market? I highly doubt it, because given US economy of scale advantages in “tax free” larger cars I think a fair number of Japanese with enough money to afford a car would have bought US cars – assuming US management wasn’t too lazy to make right hand drive versions of a Malibu or Nova or Corvette with a nice running 6 or V-8, A/C, and automatic to compete with a miniscule barebones late 60s era Toyota or Subaru. On the other hand, if Japan kept many of their protective taxes and regulations, I highly doubt many Americans would want a taxed/regulated Subaru 360 that cost as much as a loaded Nova.

          • AvatarJohn C.

            Ah yes, now a 2.5 percent tariff and import type certification on emissions and safety requires Japan getting rid of Kei cars for their own workers. Please….. Why don’t you just admit you don’t believe what you said above about the USA doing more to keep out foreign car competition. We all have been reading you here for years and we know that every car transport arriving at a US port is greeted by you and your fellow travelers with the halleluiah choir. Joining you in that choir was Clinton, Bush, Obama, Coronel Vindman and Biden. People who tell you they are on one side but are really on the other.

      • AvatarTrucky McTruckface

        Once again, Chinese Volvo Man twists the narrative into an indictment of Japan and completely misses the forest for the trees.

        Yeah, if only we could have kept the Japanese out, the Big Three could have continued their slothful ways and we’d be living in a WASP paradise filled with big lazy Broughams.

        Please explain how in your fantasyland how Detroit executives wouldn’t have still ultimately sold out their workers for NAFTA and dreams of easy money in China. Just like every other American industry has.

        It’s always a laugh to see you waste so much space here arguing with a bunch of MAGA conservatives that probably share much of your worldview just because they don’t see ’70s Detroit through rose colored glasses. Then again, your head is far enough up your own ass that it wouldn’t surprise me if you’re voting for China Joe in November…

        Reply
        • AvatarJohn C.

          “Explain to me your fantasyland…” whatever. Easy

          Faced with Japanese workers making 20% of UAW wages in 1970, Detroit comes out with no profit subcompacts. AMC had factories in Mexico, GM in Brazil, Ford in Argentina that could have matched Japanese wages. Instead the competing new designs of Detroit are designed and built in the USA by the UAW. Only Chrysler goes captive import, the Cricket where they paid union UK wages. Not selling out their workers, sharpening their pencils. No credit at all forthcoming from the truckfaces of the USA.

          Reply
  2. Avatarstingray65

    I hope Ford made sure to keep the drum brakes and standard 8 turns lock to lock manual steering on the Lightning 100 to keep costs low and make it affordable to the working man. I also expect that a few hundred pounds of tools or pigs in the cargo box would help get the lightly loaded rear radials to hook up better and get that quarter mile time down into the 13s.

    Reply
  3. AvatarMichael b

    Had a hard time posting on Hagerty article about John’s driving interest. Reposting here.

    “Glad somebody said this. I can trace my obsession with cars back to when my dad let me shift gears from the passenger seat. I didn’t care much about driving until I was old enough to do that, but when I did I felt fully involved in driving even though I couldn’t reach pedals for another 5 years. 

    As my Dad accelerated, I waited for the interruption in foward thrust, the revs would fall on the tach, and my only mission was to drop in a flawless shift just in time for him to get back on the throttle in next gear without hesitation. It was a great game, him always mixing up the rpms, or me doing the shifting without watching his clutch foot, feeling it “blind”. It honestly taught me to drive, my focus was laserlike. Later he would let me steer and hold the wheel a little. I didn’t have a clue about racing because he didn’t have a clue about racing, but those days I shifted and he did a full blast 0-60 were the joys of my childhood. I was driving. Even if I wasn’t fully, just yet.

    Give him a way to get involved Jack, like he is in racing. Street driving was a ticket to freedom for me, a way to expand my world, and I longed for hours and days behind the wheel of every different machine I could get in. Racing came much later for me, and is a different kind of adrenaline bliss, but its limitation is closed course. The open road still feels like freedom to me, and I bet given the chance to choose left or right, faster or slower, upshift or down, that John will feel that too without much of a push from you.”

    Reply
  4. AvatarJohn C.

    It is nice to see an inline six return to Jaguar, I hope it makes it to the XF, preferably in a 2.4 and without the turbo or supercharger. That loses power but going back to the aluminum bodywork would fix most of that Then stop showing self loathing and slather on some wood in the interior, VdP?, and stop forcing the dealers to be the ones to attach the leaper and offer a few dignified vintage colours. Maybe you persuade Dunlop or Pirelli or better Avon to do a tire that offer a better compromise. Hope Jaguar has an autopilot system. A lot of upscale buyers have experienced it and think it a must. With now even the last ugly XJ gone, it would be great to reestablish themselves with a proper modern Mark II.

    In the old days Jaguar gave you a DOHC small six priced right on top of the 2.0 liter four Euro exec class. It wasn’t really faster just showed what the others were missing in terms of refinement. Seems like there is a hole to offer that again.

    Reply
  5. AvatarDon Curton

    Even though your “truck review” was satire, funny enough was back in ’62 or ’63, Dodge asked dealers what they wanted in order to move more trucks. Several dealers responded with “put the 413 Wedge in it already” and thus was born the first muscle trucks. I read about these long ago, paper magazine, so no internet link to back it up. But indeed, some American truck maker did do the completely irresponsible act of stuffing its largest, most powerful hot rod engine into a plain jane truck and then throwing on some chrome and paint stripes.

    Of course old Dodge trucks were butt-ugly and a distant third to Ford and Chevy, so probably not too many people remember the max wedge trucks of yore. But it really happened.

    Reply
  6. AvatarDan

    Don’t blame foreign manufacturing for the ruin of the middle class. The money is still here. In material terms, the entire world working for us means, at least so long as they respect our dollar presses, that there’s vastly more of it than ever before. Distributed with any morality whatsoever we could have a more comfortable middle class service economy than the golden age industrial economy ever approached.

    Keyword: any morality whatsoever. The middle class was ruined not because the factories left but because the finance plutocrats bought the government and rigged the game to pay no taxes, provide no benefits, and import an endless supply of hungry third worlders to keep wages down.

    Bring those factories back without changing that underlying structure and they’ll be the Amazon Americas product line for 16.75 an hour and fired if you use the bathroom twice in the same month exactly like the Amazon Delivery line is now.

    Reply
    • Avatarstingray65

      “The middle class was ruined not because the factories left but because the finance plutocrats bought the government and rigged the game to pay no taxes, provide no benefits, and import an endless supply of hungry third worlders to keep wages down.”

      Not exactly true. Until the Trump tax cuts US corporate taxes were the highest in the world, which made it much more profitable to produce and keep foreign earned income outside the US. Tax cuts made by Reagan, George W, and Trump have also made US income taxes the most progressive in the world – the bottom 50% pay basically zero income taxes. What benefits have been cut? Do you mean the “free” college, pensions, daycare, and healthcare that some Europeans enjoy, because I’m not sure they can be considered “free” when the middle-class pays 50% income taxes, and everyone pays 25% sales (VAT) taxes and $8-10 dollar per gallon for gasoline (due to taxes). But you are absolutely correct that the plutocrats (and Leftists) have encouraged open borders to keep low end wages down so they can afford reasonably priced laborers, gardeners, maids, and nannies.

      Reply
      • AvatarDan

        1, Don’t kid yourself about how progressive our taxes are, the marginal rates look like it but the reality of FICA and sales and property taxes for working people and 70,000 pages of loopholes for billionaires like Bloomberg and companies like Amazon to treat most of their income as not being income and pay nothing at all are anything but. Remember when Buffett released his returns to declare that he paid a lower rate than his secretary? He nor any of his water carriers in the press pointed out that at the end of it all his adjusted income on 65 billion dollars of rapidly appreciating BRK-A was like 10 million bucks. You could charge these people 100% marginal rates and it wouldn’t do anything.

        2, Yes those are exactly the benefits that have been cut, retirement, healthcare, and childcare are literally what middle class is. The Club For Growth always spins not having these things as protecting you from $10 gas (Germany today is around $5.60, but whatever) and 50% income taxes but what they mean is that that’s what it would take for us to pay for those things with no help from the .1% that they are shills for. Can’t be permitted to interfere with our betters’ trips to Mars.

        3, Useful idiot leftists support open borders because they’ve been trained to hate white people. But the billionaires who steer those idiots don’t care what 100 hours a week of hired help costs, they care what 8,000 hours a day of their employees cost.

        Reply
        • Avatarstingray65

          The top 1% pay 37% of US income taxes, and the top 25% pay 86% even after all the loopholes. The only way to sorta be able to pay for all the “free” stuff is to heavily tax the middle class because there are not enough rich people and the rich will always figure out someway to minimize excessive taxation – including renouncing citizenship and moving to another place. Europe taxes the crap out of everything and everyone, and they still can’t pay for their welfare state because there are too many takers and not enough makers. In the 1950s when the top US marginal rates were at 90+% there were something like less than 10 people in the country that paid the top rate.

          Reply
          • AvatarJohn C.

            Have you really kept up with demographics enough to know that there really are not enough rich people that should, and judging by their politics want to pay a bigger percentage. When people like Paul Ryan, Marco Rubio, and whatever Nicky Haley’s real name is came up, maybe that was true. Since then, much wealth has been transferred upward thanks to Koch, Adelson, and the chamber of commerce. Yet you spout the same old lines. Sad.

        • AvatarDaniel J

          The fundamental problem is that taxing does not equal income. The federal government in 2019 hit 3.46 Trillion in revenue. Even after Trump’s tax cuts. Taxing does not equal revenue. Period. Do we want revenue or do we want fairness? Fairness by the progressives will never equal the revenue brought on by tax cuts. Under Obama in 2013 the rich paid the most taxes, but revenue was only 2.77 Trillion.

          I can’t find the article, but Obama even admitted he didn’t even care that there was less revenue if we could tax the rich more. This goes against all logic and is just ideological nonsense.

          Reply
      • AvatarCJinSD

        “Don’t blame foreign manufacturing for the ruin of the middle class. The money is still here. In material terms, the entire world working for us means, at least so long as they respect our dollar presses, that there’s vastly more of it than ever before.”

        There is only more of it because we’re printing it. Money has to be a store of value, and this fantasy where the middle class can have high wages based on serving fries and setting up each other’s websites doesn’t create any of that value. The printing presses haven’t caused crippling inflation because most of the printed money ends up in the hands of plutocrats. If they weren’t spending it inflating the P/E ratio of the stock market, playing monopoly with desirable real estate, and collecting eight-figure baubles; the demand for all those Chinese consumer goods would increase to the point that the illusion of the dollar having some intrinsic worth would vanish. We need real jobs that create real value. All other theories are delusions while we’re fleeced of our freedoms in the name of preserving a lifestyle that ever more people aren’t sharing in.

        Reply
  7. Avatartrollson

    It’s not easy to justify spending an extra thousand dollars for a virtually identical bike just because the frame is made here.

    I actually have no problem with Taiwan. Taiwan is not China.

    Reply
    • Avatarhank chinaski

      re. Taiwan, Just give it a couple of years.

      “The Pagan Science Monitor”. heh.
      Don’t need a stepladder to get to the bed? A+
      It reminds me of the Syclone.

      Reply
    • Avatardejal

      Taiwan is Taiwan.The President of Taiwan isn’t even Chinese. She’s Hakka (at least partially).
      These people in some ways act more American than we do in the US.
      30+ years of martial law can do that to you.
      As long as the KMT doesn’t take over.
      They are itching to do a Carrie Lam.

      I think I’d fit in there.

      Reply
  8. AvatarLatisha Brown

    When I think of the resurrection of the Weimar Republic, I think of things like Desmond is Amazing, Queen Lactacia, and Cuties. I suppose economic factors are also relevant.

    Reply
  9. Avataranatoly arutunoff

    when people talk about how well america did with those 93% rates way back when (this is just another comment on deductions), my much older deceased brother whose 101st birthday was a couple days ago told me that we bought our magnificent estate in Beverly Hills in ’40 because our company was developing business in California and a home there was therefore a deductible expense. doubtless thousands of tax law changes since then but I’ve always remembered his answer when as a youth I asked him how we lived so well with such high marginal rates

    Reply
    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      For some of these people, the fact that the rich are forced to engage in odd behaviors to avoid paying taxes is almost as good as getting the tax money. Thus the phrase — dictatorship of the proletariat.

      Reply
  10. AvatarRonnie Schreiber

    I have a dilemma with the Harmonicaster project as I try to avoid Chinese suppliers, if possible. I’m fine tuning the latest design and I’m strongly considering switching from a made-in-Chicago Switchcraft jack to a Pure Tone jack made in China by an American company. The Pure Tone jack is simply a better, far more reliable design, with two spring-loaded contacts for both the tip and sleeve. Conventional jacks like the Switchcraft use a single spring-loaded contact for the tip and rely on simple physical contact to ground the sleeve. Furthermore, in quantities, the two jacks are very close to the same price.

    I won’t refuse to use Chinese goods – the ABS filament I use in my printers is made in China, because I found it to work better than the American brands I tried, but all things being equal, I avoid the Middle Kingdom. As far as Taiwan is concerned, the impression I’ve gotten from speaking with folks in the electronics industry is that the Taiwanese have figured out the benefits of actual quality control and can make world-class goods. Apparently cha bu duo culture is not as entrenched there as on the mainland.

    Reply
      • AvatarRonnie Schreiber

        I wish the Harmonicaster was well known enough that suppliers would approach me. I saw one being used in a YouTube guitar build video so I bought a sample online and tracked down the distributor once I was sure it would fit in the current design. I had no idea where it was made, just that it is a better design. Simply put, it works better. The fact that in quantities it costs no more than the Switchcraft jack I’ve been using makes the decision easier. The patent is registered to someone who lives in Florida so at least the IP revenues stay here. It has a $4.20 MAP (Minimum Advertised Price) and I can buy them in quantity for $2 each. The distributor has some kind of margin on that price as well. That means the majority of the retail price stays here in the U.S.

        Is buying something from an American company that is making things in China any better than buying something from a Chinese company? That’s a point for a good debate but in my case I’m not going to blindly buy American made goods if I can get something better at the same price, and the Pure Tone jack is demonstrably better.

        I wonder if the inventor tried to license the rights to Switchcraft, who say they make all of their products in a Chicago factory.

        Reply
    • AvatarGianni

      A friend of mine that makes cork sniffer guitar amps and pedals uses Neutrik jacks. Not sure where they are made, but he tries like hell to use US (or at the least non-Chinese) parts in his stuff.

      Reply
      • AvatarRonnie Schreiber

        The Neutrik jacks won’t physically fit in my current design and I’m trying to keep things as compact as possible. Their jacks are better than conventional jacks because they do have a spring-loaded contact for the sleeve, but the Pure Tone has two contacts for both tip and sleeve, and the tip contacts are curved so there is more than just point contact.

        Reply
  11. Avatarsilentsod

    I spend a lot of time and effort to source the majority of my purchases from anywhere but China.

    It’s expensive, and sometimes I can’t even find the goods I seek, and yet I feel much better knowing it isn’t supporting a genocidal regime as all Chinese manufacturing is state backed.

    Reply
  12. AvatarEric L.

    I’m trying to make my First Serious Mountain Bike purchase and just when it looked like the final contestants were the Guerilla Gravity Trail Pistol and the Ibis Ripley… I had to face the music and embrace how much cheaper the Ripmo AF is, even if it’s Too Much Bike for the San Diego-area trails.

    But it sounds like it’s my duty to spend $5005 on an XT + Fox Factory Trail Pistol instead of $4000 on an SLX Ripmo AF? If only my wife shared my interest in buying American, that would make the Trail Pistol an easier pill to swallow.

    Reply
    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      Get the trail pistol with the cheapest possible group and upgrade it over time… as soon as I post my video from Snowshoe yesterday it will be obvious why everyone needs a GG

      Reply
  13. Avatarscotten

    I will never forgive Nixon for granting that China status, especially while American soldiers were fighting and dying in Vietnam.

    Reply
    • AvatarRonnie Schreiber

      China entered the World Trade Organization and was granted Most Favored Nation trade status by the U.S. during the administration of George W. Bush, in late 2001.

      Nixon may have opened up China, so to speak, but it was decisions made during the Clinton and Bush administrations that put us in our current trade and manufacturing situations vis a vis China.

      Reply
      • AvatarWill E

        China had MFN status from 1980-2000 subject to annual approval.
        The annual approval got to be an issue after Tiananmen square. We couldn’t have politicians go on record every year supporting china. So, in 2001 MFN was made permanent by GWB.

        Reply
    • AvatarCJinSD

      I’m not an admirer of Nixon or either Bush, but I believe the decision to get in bed with the Chinese Communists was somewhat rational in the context of preventing them from fully aligning with the Soviet Union. Yes, there were other reasons why that might not have happened, but another one probably seemed prudent.

      Reply
  14. AvatarMike

    My issue with Buying American is that generally speaking, the options available are either:

    0. Token efforts- as an example, I needed a new tape measure recently, and was excited (at first) to find MADe IN USA tape measures made by UIS Tape. Unfortunately, after ordering several, I discovered they were kindof crappy tapes. They did repalce one under warranty, but I’m not optimistic about the longevity of the replacement. The price point was about comparable to the Chinamade tapes at the big box stores.

    1. Wildly expensive Veblen goods- like the bicycle components mentioned above, or most US-Made tools one tries to buy nowadays.

    I have to believe that products could be made here that were of reasonable quality and price. It seems like right now we only get to pick one.

    Reply
  15. AvatarSigivald

    In a few cases, notably tires and tubes, I had no choice other than Taiwanese-sourced items. Taiwan is Chinese but it’s not Chinese, I suppose.

    Very much so.

    The problem with China is the Chinese Communist Party, not the ethnic makeup of the country, as I’m sure you agree (being not a bigot, and no fan of authoritarianism, yes?).

    Taiwan has the ethnic Chinese component, with a free government and a lack of concentration camps, ethnic cleansing, and prison labor.

    Buying Taiwanese is no more supporting China than buying Japanese, Korean, American, or German is.

    Reply
    • Avatarsnorlax

      Taiwan is to China as Ukraine is to Russia. In other words many (though by no means most) Taiwanese citizens and companies (e.g. FoxConn) are in fact loyal to the CCP. This is why the Committee on Foreign Investment (CFIUS) often blocks Taiwanese acquisitions of sensitive US companies.

      Reply
      • Avatardejal

        I’ll have what you are snorting. Must be the good stuff. Nice that TSMC is going to build a $12,000,000,000 plant in the US. The vast majority of Taiwanese have no connection to China except for race and spoken language. China simplified the character strokes, Taiwan retained the old ways. China destroyed the culture (remember the Cultural Revolution?). Chinese when they fled to Taiwan took traditional Chinese Culture with them. About the only Taiwanese that want anything to do with China (Businesses are same world over, just $$$$$$) is a faction of the KMT. Even most members of the KMT are over that. China (don’t say mainland, Taiwan is not China), just had a get together and a faction of the KMT was planning to go, The rank and file were against it. So the ones that wanted to go said they were going to go as private citizens. The gov. (the DPP) then explained the the facts of life to the KMT.

        The “1 China, 2 Systems” didn’t work out too well for HK. Taiwan, when the KMT ran the show, signed an understanding with China. China takes it to mean China owns Taiwan. Taiwan begs to disagree.

        I’ll bet you think those stars on the Chinese flag represent reality.

        Reply
    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      Uh, yes and no.

      I am in favor of buying as local as possible. I’d buy an Ohio-made widget over a Chicago-made one, a Chicago-made one over a Los-Angeles-made one, and so on. My purpose is to encourage American production rather than to discourage China/Taiwan/India/whomever.

      Given a choice between a European-sourced item and an Asian-sourced one, I’ll choose the latter — not because of bigotry, but because I have a closer connection to Europe, being an ethnic German, than I do to China. Furthermore, the United States has far more of a balanced trade relationship with Europe. If that were to change, and Germany were to occupy the place China does now, I’d look elsewhere.

      Insofar as the CCP is an adversary of the USA and the Taiwanese are not, I will lean towards the Taiwanese. If tomorrow something happened that convinced me to the contrary, I would switch allegiances.

      Ironically, I did not feel good about getting a Japanese guitar in 1982, when “Japan Inc” was on everyone’s mind. Today, with those concerns revealed by time to be mostly unfounded, I am proud to own over 130 Japanese-made guitars.

      Reply
      • AvatarRonnie Schreiber

        Given a choice between a European-sourced item and an Asian-sourced one, I’ll choose the latter — not because of bigotry, but because I have a closer connection to Europe

        I believe you meant “the former”.

        Reply
  16. AvatarJoe

    Regarding you son, Jack, hang in there. I think you nailed it here.
    >It has occurred to me that I could perhaps use his natural rebelliousness in this cause. I could pick him up in my Lincoln tomorrow and take him home. When he sees the McLaren, I’ll just say, “That’s none of your business. Go inside and play Fortnite, like a good boy.” If I do something like this again and again, he will eventually demand to get in the cars.<

    I'm all in for buying American and never Chinese, the work/$ are worthwhile.

    In the meantime where are the EPA and 1967 headlights and CAFE in the U.S. Constitution?
    [the interstate commerce clause was Only for keeping states from tariffing/blocking trade, not your lightbulbs]

    For those who don't shirk work, check out losthorizons.com. Ignore what you think you know, do the work and set yourself free. The proof is all noted there. It's also lawful.
    For unlawful I'll stick to drag racing Jack at his local stop light with my Ducati v4. (future tense)

    Reply
  17. AvatarOne Leg at a Time

    For the piece about your son – I agree with the commenter who said that, at the age of 11, your ability to influence his likes and dislikes is greatly diminished.

    I was torn on the ‘Lightning’ article. I love the concept, but your tone mixed Ralph Nader with a conservative scold. I am not sure that either would have been writing for the Pagan Science Monitor.

    Question – has anyone, ever, used “pick-em-up truck” non-ironically? I have lived all over the south, including coal-country Appalachia, and have never heard the term used by anyone, other than pseudo-intellectuals (the way you did at the beginning of the article).

    Reply
    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      I read a little bit of CSM before doing that article — but “American Review” might have been a better attribution!

      “Pick-em-up truck” was once used to demonstrate an appropriate distance from the subject, the way that modern elites will affect not to know who Garth Brooks is.

      Reply
      • AvatarOne Leg at a Time

        Good call – “American Review” would have worked. NR had that “I totally could have aced the Foreign Service Exam; but Mother wanted me to work in journalism” vibe.

        But I don’t blame you – “Pagan Science Monitor” was too good to leave on the cutting room floor.

        Reply
  18. Avatargtem

    Bought a slew of maintenance/repair items for my recently acquired suburban: AC Delco, Mornoe stuff. Almost all of it was US made, I was very impressed. My Gates water pump from Amazon was Chinese unfortunately.

    Got an excellent pair of steel toe boots through work: we got to browse a huge selection of name brand stuff and pick whatever we wanted. I ended up with some beatifully made and super comfortable Thorogoods. US made and on top of that: Union made. Love ’em.

    Reply
  19. AvatarGlenn Baxter

    I’m old enough to remember these exact arguments about Japan in the ’60s.

    First, they had cheap labor and Marshall Plan factories
    Second they had no problem copying our products and making them poor quality. (They had no R&D, to speak of, back then)

    Then something amazing happened: Their quality of living and cost of doing business increased. People demanded better wages and more leisure time, meaning a significant reduction on productivity per yen. They did more of their own designs, which meant more highly paid, highly educated workers.

    This will happen in China. They can’t stop it. As restricted as their internet is, they see and hear things that have them feeling left out. China will soon be buying much more from the West.

    I’m not saying that this is not a problem, I’m just saying that it is an economic inevitability. Who will we gripe about then? Probably won’t be anyone on the African continent as they don’t yet have the infrastructure. India, certainly and maybe even some South American countries.

    Reply
    • Avatarsnorlax

      You are not, however, old enough to remember the same arguments about Japan in the 1930s.

      China is akin to Japan in the 1930s, a hostile, totalitarian dictatorship, and not Japan in the 1960s, a friendly, demilitarized democracy festooned with American military bases. Unlike Japan in the 1930s or 1960s, China also has quadruple America’s population, an arsenal of nuclear weapons and an economy that by some measures is already the largest in the world. Unlike the America of the 1930s or 1960s, the America of 2020 no longer has a self-sufficient manufacturing base.

      And as long as we’re talking old arguments, you are making the same tired argument that the China apologists have been making since Nixon’s trip, FIFTY YEARS AGO. For fifty years we have been told that Real Soon Now the Chinese people will stand up and demand democracy and also the trade deficit will reverse itself as they start buying lots and lots of American-made goods.

      Meanwhile so much of our manufacturing base has been shipped to China that earlier this year, in response to another Chinese export, we discovered it was impossible to produce simple surgical masks in this country. It is actually impossible now for the trade deficit to reverse itself because there are no American-made goods for them to import. And in fact sales of imported goods (i.e. from Europe, Japan etc.) have been plummeting in China for years in the face of a highly-successful propaganda campaign against them. Oh and by the way Japan never started buying American goods either.

      And meanwhile all the (very few) Chinese people who stood up and demanded democracy are dead or disappeared. And, aside from the obvious health hazards, why would they? Why turn on a government that has so dramatically improved their standard of living? What, exactly, do you suppose looks so appealing about the American system of government right now? At least a substantial minority, probably a majority of Americans now believe America is fundamentally and irredeemably evil. If Americans do not admire America, then why would Chinese people admire America? They wouldn’t and they don’t.

      Reply
  20. AvatarJoe

    Sucked in by Jack again, American Giant looks good, I’m sure I’ll be owning a few. If you act now they have a vault limited edition in utility orange, it would make the body much easier to find after leaving the racing line in search of solid objects.

    Darn Tough socks, Vermont made with a lifetime warranty. Merino wool, great Summer and Winter. Model 1953 is my favorite.

    Reply
  21. AvatarDaniel J

    One of the things I’ve noticed as that we still can’t get branded or marketing merchandise made here.

    I know it was brought up on these pages a few years ago, but its still the case that double vacuum walled tumblers or flasks are simply not made here at all. I was thinking about getting a tumbler from my favorite podcaster, and of course it was made in china. I even found a youtube video of the guy from January of this year that they tried and tried and simply could not find anyone to make the tumblers at a reasonable cost, even if it was more than the ones made in China.

    I guess the answer is to do without?

    Reply

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