Nalini Joseph: Be American by buying American

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 11, 2021

The United States’ gross domestic product is heavily dependent on consumer spending. Consumer spending makes up more than 60% of our GDP.

Especially after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, most of us have tried to support our local economies. We want our city to thrive. We want our small businesses to grow; we want manufacturing and large corporations to bring in a tax base and revenue into our local economy. Salisbury has myriad hotels, restaurants and local shops in the downtown area that we have enjoyed for many years.

We also know that we need to take the vision for our community and city and expand it. We need to support “made in the USA”; we need to support manufacturing and industry that exists right here in the USA. As America speedily recovers from the effects of the pandemic, demand in the United States has surged. Chinese exports to the U.S. have risen by 32% over the previous year — to almost $264 billion. (BBC News/World Report, May 7, 2021.) China, on the other hand, has fallen short (by 58%) of its commitment to buy American goods as agreed upon during the Trump presidency. The net effect of this is an increased trade deficit with China.

Is the time ripe for us to examine our consumer spending habits? As a mother, it makes sense to buy my growing son a T-shirt from Walmart that is made overseas that costs $10 — rather than a T-shirt that is made in the USA and priced at $30. However, does my son really need three pairs of Nike shoes that cost over $100 a pair?

A second question that we should be asking ourselves is whether Nike can have those shoes made in the USA for about $40 a pair, retail those shoes for $100 a pair and still make a healthy profit? After all, was this not the promise of automation and robotics — to reduce costs and increase profits?

How is it possible that America is the birthplace of the iPhone and the F-35, yet we Americans cannot mass produce tennis shoes at a reasonable cost in our own country?    

Some of us point the finger at China for continuing to mass produce consumer goods that flood our marketplaces. Some of us point the finger on the corporations that import these consumer goods. Let’s take a good look at ourselves and our spending habits.

For decades now, we as consumers have taken on an active role in the greed that has perpetuated the import of goods from countries like China, India, Indonesia and Taiwan. As we spend trillions of COVID relief government dollars, we simultaneously need to take stock of how we spend, and what we are spending our money on. Most of us are proud to be American; we are patriotic and we care deeply about our country. We also seem to be addicted to spending and consuming goods that we do not have an absolute need for.

Each individual’s consumer habits impact our country’s economy and in turn, affect the global economy. As an active American consumer, I have come to believe that it is my responsibility to stop and ask myself a few questions before I click the “buy now” box. Do I really need this product? Where is it made and am I supporting my local and national economy? Can I find a similar “made in the USA” product for a comparable price? Am I helping or hurting American businesses, and in turn, my fellow Americans? In conclusion, let us all try to be more cognizant of the country of origin of the goods that we purchase.

Remember that each purchase impacts someone somewhere in the product supply chain.

Nalini Joseph is a Salisbury resident. Email her at