Wal-Mart, the retail leader in the outsourcing American jobs, has clearly been feeling the pressure of the growing Made in USA movement. Today, the Arkansas based firm announced a "jump start" plan that promises it will buy more American goods -- $50 billion over 10 years. Wal-Mart also propose to hire 100,00 veterans and move more part time employees to full time positions.
These are actually three seriously good ideas to move our economy forward. Taken together, they represent a better rendition of "Happy Days Are Here Again" than the tune Washington keeps humming: borrow more money from China to loan to our already debt loaded consumers so they can buy more stuff stamped "made in China."
However, to be honest, for a firm with nearly $450 billion in annual revenue, buying a mere $5 billion more a year of Made in America stuff is chump change. That will only account for about 1.5 percent of their wholesale purchases. While it is clearly not enough, the fact that America's biggest importer has made such an announcement is very important in itself.
The Wal-Mart plan follows fast on the heels of Apple CEO, Tim Cook, announcing that some Macintosh production would be moved back to the U.S. this year. Apple has been the other iconic driver of Chinese GDP via American consumption supporting a process of declining real wages for the middle class, rising levels of long-term unemployment and a national calamity of under-employment (college grads working two shifts in retail stores).
Together, these announcements show that even top CEOs can no longer whitewash their lack of corporate patriotism with blather about the "benefits of free trade" and promises of "access to the world's largest market" that will come to America, someday. The public has finally figured out that someday never comes. Corporate America is beginning to worry that the American public has caught on to the real source of their collective misery -- a disastrously naive trade policy that benefits a growing plutocracy in China and the U.S.
In the last 18 months, I've seen this awareness in a completely new level of response to my lecturers about trade and China. It doesn't matter if I'm in a college classroom, a union hall or a Tea Party meeting. Business leaders are also more attentive and I've had several very positive discussions with enlightened members of Congress from both parties. A somber determination is building to throw out the rascals who have negotiated the transfer of America's wealth to Communist China. In fact, almost nobody outside of a few diehard faculty in our top business schools and their fans in the business press still holds on to the belief that America will actually benefit from a continuation of the trade policy status quo.
A lot of the credit for this awakening belongs to small group of brave, non-partisan economists, writers, bloggers, organizers, business owners, and even politicians that have been serving on the front lines of this battle. Through the dark years, they've worked together, despite disagreeing on many other things. They've often endured insults and sustained injuries in the fight for restoring American strength and prosperity. A lot of them have spoken out on the issue of workers and human rights in China as well. They have carried on, because they cared more about the real world outcomes than the beauty of theory. I've been proud to be a minor player in this effort and I'd like to thank a few of these daring Americans for a job very well done, but not yet finished. The following, incomplete list, provides a good starting point for those interested in learning more about trade reform.
Governor Buddy Roemer
Peter Navarro, economist, professor, writer and mentor
Ian Fletcher, economist and writer
Alan Tonelson, economist and writer
Thea Lee, labor economist
Bob Baugh, Industrial Union Council
Michele Nash-Hoff, businesswoman, writer
Richard McCormack, Manufacturing Technology News
Pat Choate, economist and policy analyst
Leo Hindrey, businessman and writer
Dylan Ratigan, TV personality and writer
Pat Mulloy, dedicated public servant, speaker
Andy Grove, visionary business leader
Peter Morici, economist, professor and writer
Ralph Gomory, mathematician, business executive, and writer
Bob Hall, writer and aspiring U.S. president
Harry Moser, businessman and advocate
Brian O' Shaughnessy, businessman and patriot
Michael Stumo, Coalition for a Prosperous America
Clyde Prestowitz, economist, author
Den Black, American Jobs Alliance
Joel Joseph, Made in USA Foundation
Charles Blum, diplomat and consultant
Gil Kalpan, Renaissance for American Manufacturing conferences,
Beri Fox, Business Woman
Nanette Lepore & Robert Savage, Save the Garment Center
Congressman Tim Ryan (D,OH-17)
Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R, CA-48)
Congressman Chris Smith (R,NJ-4)
And if you want more, follow:
Mike Tamulis, American Made Heroes
While I know I didn't get everyone (sorry) and I've left out some really hard workers who generally don't want publicity, you know who you are. Let's celebrate this crack in the fortress of multinational corporate resolve and then get back to work so Americans can get back to work!
Greg Autry is the author of Death by China and serves as Senior Economist for the American Jobs Alliance and Economist with the Coalition for a Prosperous America. He has taught at the Merage School of Business, UC Irvine and is joining the faculty at the Argyros School of Business and Economics at Chapman University. You can find him on Facebook.