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Let Trump Sell “Made in America” to Americans

December 17th, 2018 by dk

We’ve been debating for years now the meaning of “Make America Great Again.” As the campaign slogan has begun shaping presidential policy, industry leaders and accountants are worrying that their balance sheets could start looking ball-cap red.

Economists warn that trade wars are not “easy to win,” as President Trump claims. Every country suffers when trade is restricted — if we suffer less than the others, that will be a cold comfort. There will be casualties, unless we change course.

Unfortunately, what our current leader lacks in adaptability he makes up for in confidence. As economic conditions worsen, he will double down on his original strategy, escalate his demands, and always be ready to blame others for the outcome.

Trump is bound and determined to bring manufacturing jobs back to America. That is to say, unless Trump is somehow bound, he will remain determined. We must find a way to give the president what he wants. But it would be even better if we could use his unique skills to fulfill his promise to his devoted believers.

Trump calls himself a builder, but there has been just one thing that he has undeniably built — his brand. Our brander-in-chief could revive “Made in America” as a label that conveys American self-sufficiency, even if it comes at a price.

Could President Trump convince Americans that the extra cost of locally sourced goods is worth the prestige that the consumer’s choice carries? Luxury brands have been built on less, and successfully so. Will Americans pay more to keep their neighbors employed? They may, or they may not, but there’s no better time than now to find out.

How can this or any other president get more Americans making more things? President Obama reportedly asked Apple’s Steve Jobs exactly that. The president got a rebuke more than an answer: “Those jobs are not coming back!”

Economic pressures to use inexpensive labor are simply too great for any political force to counteract. Faced with that reality, Trump has threatened tariffs and other penalties against companies that refuse his overtures.

Let’s try shaking the other end of the rattle. It might sound better. What if there was a way to entice manufacturers without bribing them or threatening to punish them? We may have an opportunity here that no one could have predicted, using Trump’s unique skills.

Rather than asking Apple to make their iPhones in America, Trump could ask that they make some of their iPhones here, but with two significant differences. The locally made phones would have an American flag embossed into the case, and the price would reflect its higher labor costs.

Other industries would likewise offer locally produced products, side-by-side with their less expensive, foreign-sourced version. The difference in price would show consumers exactly what “made in America” costs.

Can our president persuade people to pay extra for patriotism? Americans have begun to think of themselves as citizens second and customers first. This could reverse that trend. If Americans become convinced that shopping can contribute to civic solidarity, America’s greatness will take care of itself.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at

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