"Buy American" Interview with Roger Simmermaker, Part 1


It took a while, but here is Part 1 of my interview with Roger Simmermaker, author of the book “How to Buy American.”

Roger Simmermaker is the author of “How Americans Can Buy American: The Power of Consumer Patriotism.” He also writes “Buy American Mention of the Week” articles for his website at www.howtobuyamerican.com and is a member of the Machinists Union and National Writers Union. Roger has been a frequent guest on CNN, Fox News Channel and MSNBC and has been quoted in the USA Today, Wall Street Journal and US News & World Report.

Q: Why is it important to buy American?

Buying U.S.-made, or Made in USA, will always be important to the prosperity of our country and ourselves. But what's of equal, if not greater, importance to me, is taking that concept and going one step further with it. By that I mean, yes, do buy “Made in USA” but also buy from American-owned companies.

Why is this important? Because the taxes American workers and American-owned companies pay into our country go towards many important benefits for the American people. Over 75% of all federal spending goes towards Social Security, Medicare, Education, national defense, homeland security, highways, parks, farm subsidies and interest on the national debt.

Simply put, American-owned companies pay about three times as many taxes compared to foreign-owned companies. And since I work for a major defense contractor and my wages are paid for by tax dollars, it comes down to respect for my own paycheck. This applies not just to tax money going towards our national defense, but also towards teachers' salaries, firefighters, policeman, librarians and any other employee whose wages are paid by tax dollars.

Q: What prompted you to write your book and to take on this crusade? What is your background working in the manufacturing world?

I became interested in politics when Ross Perot came on the scene in 1992. In 1994, I went shopping for apparel one day and made a conscious decision to buy something made in America. I had so much trouble doing it, I decided to write a book about buying American, and the first edition I wrote in 1996 is a result of that experience. The second edition was printed in 2002 and the third edition will be available next year.

Today, only about 3% of the apparel sold in the U.S. is actually made here. But the point to keep in mind is that as long as we know how to locate and buy from that 3%, we can still buy American. So awareness is the key, and making consumers aware of how they can still buy American is what my book “How Americans Can Buy American” and website www.howtobuyamerican.com is all about. Everything I wear every day is made in the USA because I know how to find that 3% and I am committed to letting the consumer know as well. If I can do it, anybody can, usually without any extra cost or inconvenience. And I never shop at Wal-Mart.

My background is not in manufacturing. I have an Associates Degree in Electronics Engineering Technology.

Q: Is there a generational gap in regards to buying American? Do younger Americans even think about the distinction as we've become accustomed to products coming from overseas?

I think younger buyers are less aware of the negative effects of free trade and outsourcing on our economy than the older generation. But then again, I wasn't so aware either when I was fresh out of college. But it's important to communicate to the younger generation that workers in foreign countries don't pay taxes to America. Only American workers do. And the fewer taxes we pay into the U.S. Treasury, the less funds that will be available for student loans, grants, and scholarships. So it affects young people as well, even if they aren't in manufacturing.

Q: It seems much more difficult these days to define what is an “American car,” between GM products built in Canada , Ford products built in Mexico , and a Toyota built in Kentucky . Where do you stand on buying cars from American companies versus those made by American workers?

An American car should be defined as any car produced by an American company, regardless of the point of manufacture. We have to look beyond just the location of the assembly plant and consider issues like domestic parts content and investment. For instance, General Motors alone has 82 major plants in the United States according to the Detroit News. Ford has over 30. Toyota has eight, Honda has eight and Nissan has eight. Ford averages a domestic parts-content of 87.5%. GM averages 79.5%. Popular American media darling Toyota comes in at 42.9%, Honda comes in at 52.8% and Nissan at 43.7%. BMW averages only 10.6%, Hyundai (which includes Kia) averages 3.1% and Suzuki 5% according to the Level Field Institute. General Motors has more salaried workers that Toyota has total American workers.

But the general media has been unfair to General Motors in giving Americans the perception that foreign-owned automakers are primarily responsible for America's prosperity and support of the middle class. The media can't resist the irony of saying there is a Honda plant in Ohio and a Ford plant in Mexico. When they do, they speak of exceptions rather than the rule. The amount of annual investment by GM and Ford in America – the only companies left in the “American” auto industry since Chrysler is now German owned – is about $12 billion and dwarfs that of any other industry. The truth is the GM and Ford support far more American workers, retirees, their families and dependents that any Japanese company ever dreamed of supporting. Foreign companies aren't investing in America as mush as they're using America to invest in themselves. In the long run, foreign investment doesn't create jobs for Americans – it destroys them since foreign companies use fewer American workers and import more foreign parts on average.


Thanks, Roger. I will publish a second part of this interview next week. Provocative statements. What do you think? Click “comments” to participate and I'll invite Roger to respond to any comments or questions you have.

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Mark Graban
Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.


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