Buy USA-Made Holiday Gifts. Create Jolly American Workers.

...last year alone, the number of working age nonworkers grew to 89.2 million from 86.8 million...Welfare payments...now exceed $1 trillion a year.

--The Wall Street Journal (12.08.12)

*

When men are employed they are best contented; for on the days worked they were good-natured and cheerful, and, with the consciousness of having done a good day's work, they spent the evening jollily; but on our idle days they were munitious and quarrelsome.

--Benjamin Franklin, Autobiography

*

Fog shrouds my San Francisco East Bay neighborhood, but Mr. Franklin's words bring clarity of mind: each of us needs a sense of purpose. Sigmund Freud would agree: "Love and work are the cornerstones of our humanness."

Those of us in this country who believe that at least a percentage of our purchases should be American-made are pretty much dismissed by economists. We are clueless. We are provincial. We are unsophisticated protectionists. We believe in high tariffs that, like the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act of 1930, will lead our country into another Great Depression. Give it up, these economists say. It's a globalized world. Get over it. But this--the fog image again drifts across the page--muddies an otherwise simple truth. Americans need work. We also need stuff. So why not make the stuff we need here? Why not make the stuff other countries want / need to buy from us here? We are not protectionists. We are realists: 89.2 million people out of work can't be healthy for anyone.

That said, I doubt that raising tariffs or increasing government intervention will solve anything. Instead, count on the power of American consumers to ignite positive change and put pressure on American corporations to bring manufacturing back home.

When I began this blog on New Year's Eve, 2010, the concept of buying American-made products was a mere blip on the screen; barely registered a pulse. But the Great Recession dragged on, as did high unemployment, and ABC World News with Diane Sawyer launched its Made in America series (which, by the way, coincided with the launch of China Ate My Jeans). Consumer awareness and country of origin label-reading in this country skyrocketed: We don't make anything here anymore. Why not?

Fast forward to earlier this week. Apple Inc announced that beginning next year the company will invest $100 million in local manufacturing. CEO Tim Cook plans to produce an existing Mac line somewhere in the USA (I'm betting on Texas). Business analysts seem unimpressed. They say Apple spent $9.5 billion on capital expenditures last year (manufacturing equipment, corporate facilities and infrastructure). What's a mere $100 million--a 2% drop in the bucket? Michael Palma, who studies electronics manufacturing for tech consulting firm IDC, dubbed the investment a public relations initiative. Hey Mr. Palma, it's a start. We'll take it.

Again: We, the American consumers, wield tremendous power. We need to be smart about how we use it. Seems like the perfect segue to CAMJ's Twelve Days of Christmas, American Style: Day Two.

In a nod to Apple and American business, I decided to look for USA-made laptop bags. And I must admit that Don (my ever-supportive husband who still wears his China Ate My Jeans t-shirt to the gym) desperately needs a new laptop bag for work. I showed him a few online choices. His top two picks are both made in San Francisco by a company called sfbags.com. Its signature label is WaterField Designs. From the website:

No mass production or overseas workforce. WaterField bags are designed and made in San Francisco, where rent is high, labor is expensive and competition is intense. We wouldn't go anywhere else!

Cargo Bag (3 sizes; from $189-$279)

Racer X Bag

Racer-X Bag (2 sizes; $169-$179)

Either bag is bound to please the worker-bee on your holiday list. Go forth, Americans. Consume with wisdom. And no worries: more CAMJ gift ideas to come.

PS: Is it just me? Anyone else love Ben Franklin's use of the word "jollily"? Makes me smile.