Why 'made in America' is a slippery concept
Why 'made in America' is a slippery concept
14:41

Why 'made in America' is a slippery concept

Tech Industry
Speaker 1: There's a lot of appetite out there for things that are made in America, whether it's to get, what is it perceived better quality product, whether it's to preserve domestic employment, whether it's to not fund a country, you may see as not too friendly to America, but all of those goals become very complicated when you try to actually act on them in America is no longer simple. Now what I've got two of my CNET colleagues who have been doing some really interesting [00:00:30] reporting on this as part of a, kind of a long ongoing thread that we've been doing on CNET. This whole Maide in America topic. Um, a bra ADI is here. She is staff reporter at CNET news. And Ian sure is editor at large at CNET. Uh, Ian, let me start with you on the definition of maiden. America used to be simple. Yeah. Everything about the product design materials, manufacturing, shipping, marketing, all of that was American. I'm going way back a number of decades today. Maiden America seems like a more complicated Speaker 2: [00:01:00] Thing. One of the, that really kicked off trying to figure out well, how do we define what made in America is these days was actually the federal government deciding that they wanted to specifically put money toward buying American made goods. And of course, being the federal government and having billions in trillion of dollars at this point worth of purchasing to do the reality was that made in America gets very complicated [00:01:30] when you're trying to figure out like buying a car because we don't have any a hundred percent American made cars. So what percentage should it be? Right? And those are the issues that we started trying to figure out. Uh, these two, what we've learned after decades of having this made in America rule that we've had in the federal government is that a lot of industries have actually come up with ways to, uh, I won't call cheating the system, but getting around the problem, right? Maybe they have half or less [00:02:00] of their product is made in America. My cream that I literally used this morning says that it was made in America with imported parts. So it's not actually made in America Speaker 1: And that's hand cream that doesn't have a lot of parts compared to a car for crying out loud. And you make a good point that the auto industry was one of the first, I think, uh, where we started to be aware of this idea of content, because you started to see it on the, on the window sticker, uh, the engines from here, the transmissions from there, but the cars assembled [00:02:30] here that seemed to have been one of the big Dawnings for Americans that made it America isn't vertical anymore. Speaker 2: No, and in a lot of ways, it hasn't been for a very, very, very long time. I mean, really since the industrial revolution and we had ships to brings stuff back and forth, we never really had fully American made everything. But I think what's interesting nowadays is that after the early two thousands, right, when we dealt with massive losses and jobs in the manufacturing sector, particularly [00:03:00] in the rest belt, right, we think about all of those states that in 2016, decided to go red instead of blue in part, in response to a lot of concerns about American jobs, that what we've learned is that really the, the idea of made in America has become among a lot of people. Uh, it polls extremely well, but also it's something that we are struggling to actually get enough money behind. So Amer [00:03:30] the, the white house has actually changed the rules for what made in America are according to the federal government used to be around half the, they want to kick it up to more than 70%, uh, which I, you know, a lot of people would say they're very supportive of, I've spoke to a number of companies, uh, for our story at CNET, where I actually tried to figure out like, how do you navigate this problem? Speaker 2: And a number of the companies that are still making stuff in America, right? Well, we'll take wall. The [00:04:00] people who make hair Clippers is a great example, right? W a H L they are one of the premium hair cutter, amen companies. They struggle to be able to actually keep making stuff in America, the ones that are tethered to the wall, right? The ones you plug in, um, those are American made. They, they come from the steel that's from America. They do the whole thing here, but when it comes to overseas, right? And when they are doing a re a, uh, wireless haircut, right. One with a battery, they suddenly learned [00:04:30] that the motors and the, the circuit boards that control the batteries and all the things that you need to make a wireless, anything work, they have to get overseas. They said, no, oh one in America. And they've tried, uh, actually makes the parts necessary for them to be able to do that. So it's, it's really interesting where the problem lies. And also, um, they believe a lot of people believe the problem. The solution is you and me, right. Us actually doing the legwork to find stuff that's American made and [00:05:00] buying it and show industry. We want it. So that then they'll make more of it. And that, that just hasn't happened enough yet. I recall, Speaker 1: Um, uh, many years ago, I recall reading an article when Rubbermaid shifted their production of laundry baskets and just about all the other relatively pedestrian products that they make over to, I think it was China, or at least Taiwan. This was at least 20 years ago. And the sea always being interviewed and said, look, uh, happy to happy to do ma in America products. But I don't think anybody out there wants to pay $30 for a laundry basket. And [00:05:30] so that's part of the that's, that's part of the essential tension here is you may want ma in America for various reasons, but we're also the nation of Costco. So that value appetite and made in America, domestic appetite, they just, they aren't even remotely synced up. But one of our colleagues, Mary King, over at CNET new she's an editorial intern. There did a really interesting list. Speaker 1: Uh, and it's in the article. That's going with this discussion today of some products that are made in America post-it notes. I didn't know this or made in Kentucky that actually [00:06:00] surprised me. Pyres kitchenware still made in Pennsylvania, verts bees, lip balm didn't surprise me. And that seems like kind of an artisanal, uh, domestic product than it is made in North Carolina subzero appliances. That surprised me being made in Wisconsin and Arizona. I think of every appliance being made somewhere else. And one more here is Lazyboy chairs, uh, made in Tennessee cuz every piece of furniture I've bought lately on Wayfair has been made in China. So the products are out there and yet these look like they're [00:06:30] basically things you win a bar bet on saying, I know the one thing in a category that's still made in America. Part of Speaker 2: It is that the, the really, because this industry has been so hollowed out, right manufacturing in the states, uh, it has come down to you have the one or two within an industry to do it. There's only one flatware company that I could find that makes stuff still in America using Mo local steel. There, there, it, it, a lot of this stuff down to one or two brands and that's really [00:07:00] sad, right? It, it really is tough and that's not because we don't like stuff that's made overseas. I think one of the things we learned during this pandemic and what has caused a lot of people to rethink how they think about these things is that supply chains were completely thrown out of whack. There are times you can walk into a store and there are shelves and that's not because there's a run on stuff. It's because the supply chains have been stressed so badly during this pandemic by random shutdowns of factories or slow downs in shipping or [00:07:30] whatever else that it's actually hard to get stuff onto the shelves. And people realize, well, if we made stuff here, right, we would be able to fill those shelves, even in an emergency. Even if the ships weren't making it across the water. Speaker 1: Now we've been sitting, talking about tangibles and that's what's in our mindset, but I wanna turn to what I would argue. It could be America's most to this day, most successful and robust, uh, manufacturing category, which is entertainment. Now, a bra, you did an interesting story about the locus and the sourcing and the, [00:08:00] the location of American entertainment, which you always said is Hollywood. Hollywood is the, is the synonym for the American entertainment industry, wherever it's located, what's going on with this enormously influential supposedly American product. Well, you Speaker 3: Really do think of Hollywood as being the most American export, really. I mean sales from intellectual property. So these are like non-physical items. These are things like software movies and TV shows that brought in 49 billion in 2017. That is a huge chunk of the money that America makes. But that's really [00:08:30] been undermined by the fact that a lot of countries, um, are looking to Lu a lot of these productions. So places like Australia, places like Canada, particularly Vancouver and Toronto have been, and trying to bring a lot of these films overseas with, um, incentives. So if you film there, you can get a tax cut or you can get perks that you wouldn't get in California or in other parts of the us. Other parts of the us did notice this. And so you see places like Atlanta, new Orleans, um, offer their own incentives and then you have California kind of scrambling, okay, are we no longer [00:09:00] do we no longer have this unshakable grasp on the film industry? And so because of that, California has launched its own film and TV tax credit program, which, um, basically gives 330 million each, uh, year up until 2025 to movies to, as an incentive for them to shoot back in California. Again. Speaker 1: Now you've done a lot of coverage about, uh, the multicultural aspects of entertainment, representation, and portrayals of people who are traditionally stereotyped in Hollywood's usual ways. [00:09:30] Do you think that having these productions move into other countries helps to rectify some of, of those that stereotyping or does that just keep happening? Because that's the way entertainment tends to be written? Speaker 3: That's actually a really interesting point because one of my sources did say that it's a good thing to have a lot of these productions move to other areas because of that, because you have different perspectives and because other communities can benefit from those productions as well. And I am hoping that, you know, really the only way you can rectify these misrepresentations is to have people from [00:10:00] diverse backgrounds on staff in, on, in front of the camera and behind the camera. So that is actually, that could be one, the one silver lining here for a lot of these productions moving to other areas. Absolutely. Speaker 1: You, uh, have also, uh, mentioned that even here in the San Francisco bay area, uh, where seen at, as headquartered. So just this very small part of California and not the one that is usually associated with Hollywood because that's Hollywood, um, has even stepped into the spotlight, is what what's unique about the San Francisco bay area. It's trying to get into [00:10:30] the action here or stay more in the action. Speaker 3: One thing that San Francisco has above LA is better weather. And also it's just an area where you have these really, really iconic landmarks. So a lot of productions have wanted to film the golden gate bridge or film quite tower or other landmarks that really kind of stand out and really establish that this is San Francisco. The problem there is a lot of these productions will shoot these outside scenes and then they'll go back to LA for studio work. And so people in San Francisco really want them to do everything in SF. So there's [00:11:00] this push to kind of build more studios to have incentives within SF specifically. So there's something called the scene in San Francisco rebate program, which also gives a refund of up to $600,000 in any fees that are paid to the city from these productions. And so with these kinds of incentives, um, the city is hoping that the industry becomes more established in the area, especially after COVID cuz with COVID everything shut down, right? And then once people started getting vaccinated, there's been this huge production boom. And so all these studios in LA are fully booked [00:11:30] out right now. And so San Francisco's like, well, wouldn't this be a golden opportunity for people to come to us, but there aren't that many large studios basis. So that's something that, that a lot of people on SF are really pushing to build up in the coming years. Speaker 1: So what's interesting here and as, uh, as our viewers and, and as you, Ian listening to us have noticed a discussion of made in America can quickly turn into a discussion of made where in America. Yeah. Um, what do you see out there in, in terms of, uh, competition between [00:12:00] cities and regions of the United States, if we are going to see any kind of a resurgence of made in America, and I know the opinions very widely on that, where do you think things might end up? I mean, I know back in, I don't know, long, this is probably around the turn of the 20th century date in Ohio was essentially the Silicon valley of America, uh, Wichita, Kansas. I mean an enormous powerhouse of aviation technology in another era, uh, not to mention Southern California, which had its aviation and, uh, aerospace industry pulled out from under [00:12:30] it, I think in the nineties. So there's been a lot of moving of where made in America happens. Detroit's one of the, uh, one of those that knows you can quickly leave Detroit and end up in the south very quickly. In general. Do you have any gist on what you would tell us about how America competes for its own made in America label? Speaker 2: Yeah. A lot of what we've seen is that the, a of those cities that have struggled in the last few decades, right. Especially as those manufacturing [00:13:00] jobs tried up moved overseas, what have you, uh, they have seen opportunities to grow again. Uh, especially there was, uh, one of the companies I spoke to they're working out of an old aircraft manufacturing, uh, hanger, and they took it over right. Still got its big land land, and a lot of usage that they can use out of it. And they were able to turn it into a place to manufacture their stuff. You've got what Tesla is doing in, in San [00:13:30] Francisco, right. It it's a, it's a local one for California, but a great example of how we saw the, the car companies pull out of their manufacturing center in Fremont and Tesla walk in and take over and turn it into what they have now. Speaker 2: So there are a number of these examples where these places used to be able to, you know, be a place where people built stuff and then the, in, he walked away and it fell apart and someone else is coming in and starting to invest [00:14:00] in using those factories again. So it's not so much who's competing for what space, right. That does happen definitely in intellectual property. And we hear it a lot also in the tech industry because Miami and Austin wanna be the next Silicon valley. And, uh, God bless 'em. I hope they they're able to turn it into that. But in the meantime, we're seeing actually that a lot of those manufacturing centers that we set up a long time ago with train routes and with big, big factory floors and everything, they are able to become that again, [00:14:30] it just takes the investment. All right. Speaker 1: I've been talking to a bra ahe staff reporter at CNET news and Ian sure. Seen that editor at large on now.

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