Dear Julia and Tom: Let's Give Your "Favorite Things" an All American Makeover, Shall We?

Dear Ms. Roberts and Mr. Hanks,

May I call you Julia and Tom? Hope so.

Congratulations on your soon-to-be released film, Larry Crowne. The premise--the title character Tom plays has lost his job--is one over 14 million Americans would likely relate to could they afford the price of a ticket. Which brings me to my current project. But first, a bit of background might be helpful.

On January 1st, 2011, I began a one-year commitment to seek, find, and buy only products made in America. I blog about it several days a week at China Ate My Jeans. The project is dedicated to my Dad, a Hollywood cinematographer who recently passed away from esophageal cancer.

In the early 1970's, in between television and feature film shoots--Alias Smith and Jones, Westworld, Prime Cut, That's Entertainment, to name a few--Dad ranted about "missing jobs" and "missing capital." I'd just graduated from college; the world, despite the Vietnam war, seemed full of possibilities. What was my crazy Dad talking about? "You kids are gonna be stuck with this problem," he used to say. "Rots o' ruck."

At the time, unemployment in this country stood at 8.5 percent. Faced with spiraling costs brought on by inflation, American corporations had begun to manufacture products overseas. Like a virus, offshore manufacturing spread. Dad watched it play out, stunned. How could America's CEOs do something so insidious: eliminate jobs here, create jobs and products overseas, then import those foreign-made products here to sell to the very people whose jobs had been taken in the first place? The phenomenon so troubled him that he wrote a 20-page paper on the topic, called "Import Backlash and Unemployment Crunch." He sent the paper around to various editors. It was never published.

Fast forward three decades to Thanksgiving Day, 2010. Although a tanned Dad looked Cary Grant-dapper in his pressed pants and cashmere sweater, he could no longer swallow solid food. He was literally starving. At one point, trying to distract him, I said, "Remember that paper you wrote? 'Import Backlash?'" He nodded, half-smiled. "Everything's made in China nowadays. And look at our unemployment rate. You were way ahead of the curve on that one, Dad." More weak nods. "Maybe I'll blog about it. Try to only buy stuff made in the U.S.A." He smiled and said, "Can I have some turkey now?"

Dad passed away two days later. Back home in the San Francisco Bay Area, I pulled out his old writing--he'd sent it to me long ago for safekeeping--and read it start to finish for the first time. In a nutshell, Dad's theory makes sense: we are interconnected here in America. All jobs--blue collar, white collar, any jobs--mean capital. And capital keeps the middle class healthy and strong. It's the oil in America's engine. Reduce that capital by offshoring jobs and we'll all be in trouble.

Today, as I've already said, over 14 million Americans need jobs (9.2 percent are unemployed). Our trade deficit totals a half-trillion. Our federal deficit is in the trillions. Where are our jobs? Where's our capital? Why is it "missing"? Where'd it go? That's no mystery: China, India, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, South Africa, Vietnam, Thailand, Italy, Germany, France…anywhere but here.

On May 11, The Wall Street Journal reported this news from Beijing: "China's trade surplus swelled dramatically in April…The trade surplus widened unexpectedly to $11.4 billion…the exports powered ahead, data from the General Administration of Customs showed Tuesday. Market expectations had been for a surplus of just $1 billion..." Go, China. So glad America's offshored corporations could help.

Other than an out-of-work protagonist in your film, what does any of this have to do with you two?

Well, on May 6th, you both appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show to promote Larry Crowne. At the end of the show, you did a "favorite things" segment. I tuned in, curious to see how many of the products featured would be Made in the U.S.A. Turns out that only 25% of the products were made here. Three-quarters of your so-called "favorite things" were made in other countries. I guess I should be grateful. One quarter is better than nothing. But it got me thinking (I get that habit from my Dad).

The Oprah Winfrey Show is viewed by about 23 million Americans per week. Imagine how poignant and inspirational (and contagious) it would've been had you both instead--as a nod to your film's protagonist, and a nod to all those real Americans out there looking for work, and a nod to those American companies that continue to make their products here despite the challenges--brought to The Oprah Winfrey Show only products Made in the U.S.A. That gesture could have had a ripple effect. It could've helped create more jobs within the companies that made the products. It surely would have resulted in an infusion of capital into our economy, right here in America (which, of course, would mean more movie tickets sold). It would've given a welcome boost to our country's morale. Yes, America, we can turn this ship around. Ripples of good things. All from a simple, well-planned gesture.

Below, I've taken the liberty (such an American trait) of giving your "favorite things" a 100% Made in the U.S.A. makeover. Enjoy!

All the best,

Tina Polito / China Ate My Jeans

*

Instead of Theodora and Callum's scarves ($175; Made in China):

Marine Layer scarves ($30; Made in San Francisco, CA)

or

Anytime Scarf's "Hail Queen Elizabeth Cashmere Scarf Shawl Wrap" ($103; Made in Lambertville, New Jersey)

Instead of Melinda Maria bangles ($185 ea; Made Here and There):

Alexis Bittar Studded Hinge Cuff ($185 ea; Made in Brooklyn, NY)

Instead of Lancôme Définicils Precious Cells Mascara ($18; Made in France):

Clinique High Lengths Mascara ($14.50; Made in New York, NY)

Instead of Lancôme Juicy Tubes Lip Gloss Set ($29.50; Made in France):

Clinique Long Last Glosswear SPF ($14; Made in New York, NY) or Estee Lauder ($16; Made in New York, NY) High Gloss

Instead of Coach Julia Nylon Cosmetic Case ($58; Made in China):

Cinda B Cosmetic ($21; Made in Fort Wayne, Indiana)

Instead of Sea-Thos Foundation Tote Bag ($25; Made in China):

Turtlecreek Products Canvas Grocery Shopping Bag ($9.75; Made in Lebanon, Ohio)

Instead of Nespresso CitiZ & Milk Espresso Machine ($349; Made in China and Switzerland) here are a couple of other choices. Tom & Julia: Please note that these machines are hand made and have extensive warranties. Check them out online. They look exquisite and durable; American made espresso machines to pass down from generation to generation. Ciao!

Salvatore ($1,275; Made in Solvang, CA) Semi Automatic Espresso Machine

Astra Pro ($1,775; Made in Canoga Park, CA) Espresso Machine

*CAMJ's Budget-Conscious Do It Yourself Latte: Take a giant coffee mug, fill it halfway with freshly brewed very strong coffee, add 2 TBS Torani (under $5; So. San Francisco, CA) vanilla flavored syrup, add 1 cup whipped nonfat milk (heated in microwave for one and a half minutes, whipped with wire whip), and yum. Inexpensive, delicious.

* China Ate My Jeans