Why “Made in America” matters to me.

Builders:

I am a well known advocate of American made products, because this is my country, and for both moral and economic reasons, I want jobs to stay here. It is my personal belief that lives of adults are physically, mentally and spiritually richer if they have a chance to do meaningful and productive work. I was born into a good family in the richest country the world has ever known. As an element of being grateful, I try to have every part we can made in this country, at shops that respect to human dignity of the workers and pay livable wages.

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If I was driven by greed, I could simply have most of our sub-components made in places like China, by workers without rights or freedom. When you buy a part from us for your plane, you can be assured that I put every effort into making sure that all hands that touched it before you were fairly compensated and worked in an environment that I would have a member of my own family work in.

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If the above two paragraphs sound ‘new age’ or ‘liberal’, let me assure you they are not. I am very well read on the subjects of US history and Ethics, and the ideas above are directly taken from President Theodore Roosevelt’s 1902 philosophy, “The Square Deal.”

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I do not expect advantaged Americans who compulsively buy imported products, often people who don’t have a single friend who works in a factory or a blue color job, to understand the above values.  They may never have spent a minute to consider that our country was not built by wealthy consumers employing workers in 3rd world countries, but it could end that way.

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Above, my 1986 C-20 pick up, sitting in my yard. Thirty years ago this month, it was made on GM’s Truck assembly line #2 in Flint, Michigan.  In the three decades since, Flint has lost 60,000 good manufacturing jobs. The media and politicians can spend all day playing the blame game over Flint’s lead drinking water health crisis, but none of them have spoken of the root cause of the demise of the city: The loss of jobs. 

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Workers pay taxes, and taxes fund cities. Take away the jobs, and the cost of operating any city goes up, just as there is no more revenue. Broke cities make stupid decisions like trying to save $100/day on water costs and creating a health crisis that might cost a Billion dollars to fix, not to mention the moral crime of potentially poisoning several thousand children.

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My mother is from a once thriving manufacturing city named Newark NJ. The 1967 riots did not destroy that city, the damage was done in the decade before when the manufacturing jobs left. In the 50 years since, the city has remained impoverished. Nothing any politician says will return any once great American city back to life, only manufacturing jobs with wages that allow the dream of home ownership and sending one’s children to college will ever change these cities, and that will only come when Americans wake up to understand that the real cost of our addiction to imported goods includes such things as paying for fixing a few billion in damage to a city called Flint.

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Why this matters to homebuilt aircraft: Go back and look at all the EAA magazines from the 1950s-1970s. You will find that the backbone of the EAA, it’s builders and particularly its volunteers, were very heavily represented by people who had good, stable, middle class jobs in manufacturing. These people were “In the Arena” not spectators. As our country has given these jobs away, we have lost a critical base in homebuilding, one that can not be replaced by spectators admiring the toys the 1% can afford. The very core of the EAA was the principle of having an avenue where creative middle class Americans were not economically excluded from exploring flight. Homebuilding has actually done a reasonably good job at keeping the opportunity there, unfortunately our economy has done a poor job at maintaining a stable middle class in this country.

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The median age of the very poor in Florida may be as low as 12 years old. You can’t wave a magic wand and make that go away, but if you want to attack it, you do something that provides a good job for that kid’s parents, preferably in manufacturing. You don’t need a PhD is sociology to understand that domestic violence and substance abuse go down when employment goes up. People say the family is the fundamental element in the country, and I agree, but a family where people can’t work, take care of themselves and have basic dignity is a disfunctional family, and your fellow countrymen deserve a better shot in life than that.   Employment is a moral issue. There is no discretionary consumer good I need enough for a 12-year-old American to go hungry so I can save a buck on it.

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These are my personal values, and they matter to me. I don’t think of them as political, to me they are a question of ethics. I am not responsible for others choices, nor do I wish to be. I have many friends who choose to buy imported products, as is their right. I am only concerned with living as close to my personal values as I can. However, if a person chooses to spend 75% of their disposable income on imported products, I will have limited patience for his opinion of “what is wrong with this country.”

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The average, skilled US aircraft mechanic with 15 or 20 years experience gets paid about $35K/year. This includes the people who build the planes our military Airmen and Aviators fly in combat, and the mechanics who work on the airliners your family flies on. The myth of an “A&P shortage” is created by schools trying to fill student rolls at overpriced institutions. Wages are low because much of the work has been sent overseas, while the workforce here has actually grown. It is simple supply and demand.

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Last nights debate reveals that a candidate for leader of this country thought there was absolutely nothing wrong with accepting $675,000 from a wall street firm for three hours of talking, glossing over the potential conflict of later having to regulate their industry. This is revealed as three of hundreds of speeches, which averaged over $100,000 and hour. I don’t believe this was done to represent the interests of working Americans.

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Even if you don’t agree with me that this is absolute corruption, bribery and prostitution, please just take a moment to acknowledge the person who took the money with a smile, claims to understand all the working people in this country, including all the aircraft mechanics, to the point of once claiming to be ‘broke’ themselves, in spite of her husband collecting $200K/a year for life from taxpayers.  They find nothing wrong with taking the same wages for 3 hours of speaking that a skilled aircraft mechanic makes in 20 years of labor on the job.

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As a capitalist, I don’t think there is anything wrong with profit, but I would like to remind people that the $675,000 came right from the same firm that collected a 10 billion dollar taxpayer bailout. Yes they paid it back, but did so by selling mortgage backed securities to the Federal reserve. This is the equivalent of getting a loan, paid in crisp $100 bills, but paying it back with a IOU note from an unemployed guy in a single wide mobile home. But you get to do things like that when you own the people who are supposed to regulate you.

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To Canadian builders: Please note that some of our subcomponents, like the very high quality CNC tubing kits in motor mounts, are made in Canada. I believe fair trade works between countries which have similar values about the value of human labor, working conditions and environmental preservation. I do not think the workers in either of our countries need to have their standard of living lowered to match those of China’s slave labor. PS, my blue 1986 Chevy truck was made at Oshawa Truck Assembly, and it lasted 310,000 miles. Thanks, it served us well.

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-ww.

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