Bonfire of the Inanities

Don’t get angry because Congress refuses to cut spending.  Don’t be upset that our beloved legislators have abandoned efforts to rein in runaway debt.  Pay no mind to the fact that Congress has left us in the dark about the tax rates we and our employers will face in just six months.  In fact, forget all of the reasons that explain why a whopping 86 percent of the public disapproves of the job Congress is doing.

We’ve got bigger fish to fry. And we can fry them on Harry Reid’s bonfire.

Words can’t express the indignation felt by the Senate majority leader over the U.S. Olympic team’s uniforms being manufactured in China. He wants the uniforms put on a pile and burned.

Look, politicians are as likely to pass up an opportunity to exploit patriotism in an election year as a dog is to remain parched upon the ringing of a nearby bell. But really, what exactly is un-American about Chinese-made Olympic uniforms? It’s quintessentially American. Probably 80 percent of the clothing in 99 percent of American closets is made in China. And the rest is made in other foreign countries. We don’t make clothing in the United States anymore (with a few small exceptions). But we design clothing here. We brand clothing here. We market and retail clothing here.

The apparel industry employs plenty of Americans, just not in the cutting and sewing operations that our parents and grandparents endured, working long hours for low wages. Congressman Steve Israel, citing 600,000 vacant manufacturing jobs (though I’m not sure what that number means), calls the Olympic Committee’s decision to outsource manufacturing uniforms to China “not just outrageous,” but “plain dumb.” Does Mr. Israel realize that the U.S. Olympic team is privately funded, and that the funders—unlike Congress—feel obligated to stay within budget?

Does Mr. Israel actually believe that producing those couple of hundred uniforms in the United States would spark an employment renaissance? How about if Congress decides what the 2013 tax rates will be today, as opposed to tomorrow? That one extra day of certainty would create far more jobs for a longer period than the one- or two-day production run necessary to make those couple hundred uniforms.

If you are still not convinced that our policymakers’ objections are inane, consider this: As our U.S. athletes march around the track at London’s Olympic stadium wearing their Chinese-made uniforms and waving their Chinese-made American flags, the Chinese athletes will have arrived in London by U.S.-made aircraft, been trained on U.S.-designed and -engineered equipment, wearing U.S.-designed and -engineered footwear, having perfected their skills using U.S.-created technology.

Our economic relationship with China, characterized by transnational supply chains and disaggregated production sharing, is more collaborative than competitive. The real competition will be happening in the gyms, pools, and on the fields. Let the games begin.