When I was a kid in Los Angeles, back when TV stations broadcast in black and white and Howdy Doody was a hit show, the label "Made in Japan" was a marker for a cheap piece of junk. Now, things are very different. My car, my bass guitar, my digital camera are all Japanese made. If there were American products that performed as well, as cheaply, as those Japanese products, I would buy them. But there are not - the analogous American products are overpriced pieces of junk.
This imbalance is trivial when it comes to me, but very significant in the larger scale when we think about changing the American economy in a "green" direction. For example, as the New York Times reported on February 21, 2008, and as President Obama mentioned in his February 24, 2009 speech to the joint session of Congress, many of the solar panels and wind turbine parts that we need to move to a clean energy economy are made overseas. So is the battery for the much-touted all-electric Chevrolet Volt. And it's not price that is driving these sourcing decisions - rather, it's the regrettable fact that American industry doesn't have the capacity to make what's needed.
It doesn't have to be this way. There is no reason that American workers can't make these products in American factories. There is no reason that the billions of dollars that the federal government is spending on economic stimulus can't help fund green industry startups, instead of merely providing tax breaks every couple of years.
Locally, NRDC endorses Los Angeles Measure B, which, proposes to install 400 megawatts of solar panels in LA and is estimated to create tens of thousands of new jobs. In addition, the ballot measure calls for a bid preference for local manufacturers of solar panels. This provision to buy from local manufacturers, if implemented nationally, could bring us much closer to a green economy than the loose language in the federal stimulus bill that waives any "Buy American" restrictions if "the relevant manufactured goods are not produced in the United States in sufficient and reasonably available quantities."
Well, a rule that says you have to buy stuff here, unless it isn't made here, and it's not, would be a joke if it came from the lips of Howdy Doody. But there's nothing funny about it in today's economy. Let's follow the lead of the City of Los Angeles and make "Made in the U.S.A." a flag of pride again.