The weekend after Thanksgiving kicks off the make-or-break holiday shopping season: in other words, a few concentrated weeks when the free-market balance of power tips back to "the rest of us." We must not ignore this opportunity to flex our consumer muscle. Like it or not, in our capitalist democracy, consumer dollars are more influential than votes. Holiday shoppers will spend on average nearly $1,000 during these weeks. So forget the primaries for a minute, the holiday shopping season is your best opportunity to declare your priorities in a way that actually counts.
This year particularly, your wallet-votes will be followed closely by those who otherwise seem oblivious to your concerns. Among those paying attention to consumers this year are the recall-skittish toy companies, down-trodden mall retailers, layoff-riddled car manufacturers, Wall Street, and all the 2008 presidential candidates. In January, as they are counting our wallet-votes, let’s make sure they hear a clear and unequivocal message: we are optimistic, pro-growth, passionately patriotic, and we demand a prosperous and sustainable American economy.
Buy American this Christmas.
If you are still reading, you might be the one who already scours the web for a domestic product, even though you know you could grab an imported one at the mall five minutes away. Or the one who drives an American car. The one who desperately laments the shuttering of factories, and the impoverishment of the middle class. The one who checks labels. The one who has been labeled: isolationist, business-hater, regulation-lover, idealist, naive. The one who, until now, felt powerless, ignored, and invisible. There are more of you than you realize. And the collective "you" can make a huge impact by buying what you believe in.
Don’t misunderstand—this is not G.W. Bush’s post-attack "go shopping" message. This is a call to make conscious decisions about what you are already planning to buy this holiday. Instead of chasing sale prices, focus your purchases to benefit our national community.
Cynics have said it’s too far gone; the invisible hand of the free market has already decided the question. America is out, imports are in. "Low low prices" win, America’s working middle class loses. See you at the unemployment office. But you have refused to accept foregone conclusions before. Consumer demand for green products, hybrid cars, and organics has transformed business models. The driving force behind this transformation was not corporate profitability, free-market efficiency, or CEO greed. It was you. The invisible hand is you.
So what are you going to do this shopping season to sustain the American economy? Where are you going to spend your $1,000? Here are some recommendations for everyone eager to be heard:
- Check labels on all purchases this holiday season. Resist the siren call of the lowest price and spend your money conscientiously. It’s not easy. Be persistent.
- Spread the word: Persuade others to buy American using every forum available. Tell your mom and chatty aunt to check labels when they buy gifts. Post resources on your blog. Put a bumper sticker on your car. Get the message out.
- Shop online: there are many websites listing retailers of products still made in the USA—yes, even toys. Just find them. Several shopping sites can search by origin of manufacture.
- In stores, ask the service desk to search for their American-made products. Instead of wandering aimlessly checking labels, get the manager's assistance. You will also be communicating your priorities. If the store can’t manage your request, express disappointment and leave. Spend your $1,000 at accommodating stores.
- Call your favorite catalog retailers and ask the Customer Service representative to point you to American-made products. You will find that many are not able to search by origin of manufacture. Ask the rep to escalate the issue. What would happen if they got this request repeatedly every day?
- Write letters, write letters, write letters. You will be amazed how many "All-American" brands have exactly zero domestic products in the holiday catalog. Zero. Let them know you expect them to do better.
- If you are the holiday gift-buyer at your company, buy US-made gifts for your customers and employees. Let them know your company believes in and supports American workers.
- If you own a retail business, use this holiday season to spotlight domestic products. Put them at the front of the store, at the top of the holiday flyer, and on the first page of the website, with a banner announcing "Made in the USA." Be at the forefront of this trend.
- Be loud: Write "Buy American" in Christmas lights on your shrubs. Dress up as a flag-waving Santa across from the mall. Hire a plane to pull a banner over the main shopping district. Sky-write. You’re creative, you’ll think of something. Whatever you do, notify the press.