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Buy American, Again

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The Democrats will be in full control over the next few years. There will probably be 58 Democratic senators when the dust clears, and two or three Republicans can be convinced to avoid a filibuster, if the issue is important enough.

The economy will dominate the decision-making for many months to come. A second economic stimulus package will be enacted, this year or early next. The American car industry, especially General Motors, is on the ropes. GM essentially declared in their third quarter report that it will become bankrupt by the middle of next year... unless there is Federal assistance.

Motor Trend has picked a car of the year since 1949. Until 1971 every winner was American. However, over the past six years, four have been Japanese, with only four of the seventeen cars currently making the finalist list for 2009 being American. They have already selected the Subaru Forester as the top 2009 SUV. Domestic maintenance records are actually improving, but we have time and again built the wrong cars with bad vision. This has to change. Recently passed was a $25 billion low interest loan to Detroit to work with the Feds in developing better next-generation vehicles. Let's do it right this next time.

Our economy has hopefully pushed through the equivalent of 1929. In 1933, the U.S. Congress passed the Buy American Act, which required the United States government to, yes, buy American. There were necessary loopholes and waivers, but this is one policy we might again consider. Republicans defend free trade, but Democrats, influenced by unions, have tended to support this sort of legislation.

Thus, the times and situation provide a simple solution to Buy American, recognizing as my two books did, that the implications are fraught with uncertainties. Even though Barack Obama campaigned on a platform of international cooperation, an explanation can be couched that America is the largest market for the world, and it is absolutely necessary that we, to avoid a total crash, for the good of the global economy, start by strengthening the purchasing foundation at home. To appease the Republicans, a bunch of trade barriers can actually be removed, on the premise that the populace will turn towards patriotism to Buy American.

It might cost a bit more in the supermarket, the car might not run as smoothly, but there are good domestic cheeses and great American wines. In addition, we would be sensitive to the carbon footprint by buying locally.

Here, then, is the simple solution to our economic woes:

1. When the second economic stimulus package is passed, the President should boldly suggest that, as an act of loyalty to country, those planning to use this gift as down payment for a car, Buy American.

2. The U.S. Congress should attempt to pass the Buy American Act of 2009. Even if this fails, the whole point is symbolic. The buying public will need to be internally motivated to want to help and be part of the solution. An actual law might be counterproductive to international relations and difficult to enforce. I traded in my foreign car and bought a Ford when I went to work for the U.S. Senate. If I can do this, so can many others.

3. Barack Obama said throughout his campaign that we will need to sacrifice, initiate a mandatory public service opportunity for the youth and govern for change. Well, Buy American crystallizes the essence of his message into effective policy. Yes, we can, and will!