Janesville man makes effort to buy American

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Monday, April 9, 2012
— Bobby Wilson takes off his hat for the American flag, pays his taxes, lives the American work ethic and believes in taking care of the country's veterans.

"I guess it's pretty much been instilled in me," the Janesville man said about his patriotism.

"I was raised by my grandfather, and that's just how it was. When you're raised that way, it's kind of like going to church. I was raised to support the United States."

For Wilson, part of being patriotic is making the effort to buy American.

Russell Kashian, director of the fiscal and economic research center at UW-Whitewater, makes an effort to buy American, too.

If people want America to move forward, they should pay more attention to where they buy their goods, Kashian said.

"It's about finding quality products made in America at good prices," he said. "They're all over the place.

"You just have to put in more effort."

Roger Simmermaker has created a "buy American" website, howtobuyamerican.com.

Buying American is not only about supporting American jobs, he said during an interview from his home state of Florida.

It's about supporting American-owned companies that pay taxes to the U.S. Treasury.

'It's the economy'

Wilson, 45, was born in Florida and now owns an insulation company in Janesville. He goes out of his way to find American-made goods.

"If you make an effort, you can find it," Wilson said. "It's hard for me to buy anything without looking it over to see where it's made."

He is convinced if more people did so, they could change the course of AmericaŚmake it stronger and put people back to work.

Others might opt to buy American so as not to support the politics of a country where the goods are made.

"The bottom line is, it's the economy," Wilson said. "If you save 10 bucks on a $100 item but you're sending that money to China or Taiwan, how is it really helping our economy?

"If our money stays in the United States, I would think it would help us more."

If the American products cost more, Wilson has no problem spending it. He believes the quality is usually better, anyway.

But buying American is not easy, he acknowledged.

Some items, especially electronics, are mostly manufactured elsewhere. Wilson said he recently heard on the radio about a Minnesota company making high-end speakers, and he's anxious to try them.

'Beneficial to everybody'

Buying American became Simmermaker's passion in 1994, when he couldn't find American-made apparel.

"I got upset," Simmermaker recalled. "I thought, 'I'm an American. I live here, pay taxes here. Why is it so hard for me to support other Americans who live here, pay taxes here, work here?'"

When he couldn't find a consumer guide, he wrote one. He has since become a well-known media contact on the subject.

American companies typically pay about twice as many taxes compared to similar foreign companies, he said.

"The more revenue (the United States) brings in, the more beneficial to everybody," he said.

Simmermaker cites examples of American-made products.

Take Clorox and Lysol, for example. Both are cleaners and both are similarly priced, he said. But Lysol is a British company.

"With the Clorox, you're sending about twice as much revenue to the U.S. Treasury without spending an extra dime," he said.

He pointed to Swiss Miss, owned by an American company, and Carnation, which is owned by a Swiss company.

He noted Janesville's auto past and his preference for American cars. American automakers have more plants in America, get more of their parts here and pay more taxes. They support more workers, the workers' dependents and retirees, he said.

'We can compete'

Kashian wished people luck finding an American-made shirt.

"I hate to tell you, you're not going to find a man's shirt," he said.

Consumers have better chances finding American-produced food, boats, large pieces of equipment and equipment made with mid-sized engines.

America has exported its high-labor jobs to the lowest bidders, he said.

"We lost those jobs to Mexico in the 1990s, and Mexico lost those to China in the 2000s, and China's losing them to Vietnam," Kashian said.

What America makes is capital-intensive goods, goods such as airplanes that are produced with expensive machinery.

"If you're in an airplane, accuracy is a big deal," Kashian said. "If the button (on a shirt) is in the wrong place, I'll be mad, but I'll make it through the day."

Kashian said it's possible to buy American, and he believes it is important.

More often, the goods are there and the price is about the same, he said.

Retailers do not have high inventory cost with American-made goods, he said. American workers work harder, faster and smarter.

"Our workers are the most productive in the world, by far," he said. "We can compete, even with low wages.

"I think if we encourage the repatriation of goods, the manufacturer will respond," he said.

A recent example was Master Lock bringing jobs back from China to Milwaukee, he said.

"I hate to sound like a jingoistic American, but I would compare it to watching a Green Bay Packers game at Lambeau Field rather than Soldier Field," he said. "I'd much rather. I'm not saying anything against the Bears. It's just a better experience for me."

Last updated: 8:11 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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