SPP: Just to give you a little quick background, I know I mentioned it in the email, but we started a podcast about eight to ten months ago. Got put on the front page of iTunes and kind of got some exposure there.
Roger: Oh that’s fantastic.
SPP: Yeah. And I think we just recently eclipsed the 300,000 download mark.
SPP: We just try and talk to various authors and professors about topics that kind of grab our attention. That’s pretty much it.
Roger: All right well I’m glad this grabbed your attention. It’s good to be on because you sound really well established. That’s fantastic you’ve achieved that much in such a short time. That’s great.
SPP: Yes. I think we got kind of lucky but sometimes better to be lucky than good. Roger: Well I don’t maybe.
SPP: Yes. So do you have about 25 minutes do you think?
Roger: Sure. I got all the time you need.
SPP: All right great. We are recording it so if you need to edit anything out let us know we can pause, stop, do whatever. Roger: Okay.
SPP: It’s kind of informal we just want to talk to you about the book and your ideas and all that good stuff.
Roger: Do you have my name and the Web site and everything correct before we start and all that?
SPP: Yes. Well what we do is we’ll put a post on our Web site and that’ll have a picture of your book a link to it on Amazon, a link to your Web site, and then like a write up, a little blog about why we chose this book and things like that.
Roger: Okay so the interview isn’t going on. It’s like an MP3 or something it’s just going to be information that’s going to be translated to a readable document is that right.
SPP: No it will be a podcast MP3 and what it is along with that we supplemented with kind of a written blog just like our reasoning. We had Roger on the show because he wrote this book. You can buy it, go to this link and we’ll link it to Amazon, all that stuff.
Roger: Okay. I understand.
SPP: Roger, we record the intro and outro post interview. So we’ll mention your name, book, Web site, all that kind of stuff. At the end of the interview we ask you too if there’s anything you want to plug. So if you want to mention any books, Web sites or anything that you want out there you can do it at that time as well.
Roger: Okay. Do you usually have that as part of your criteria? I mean if you’re going to ask me that question I want to have some ready to give you. I don’t want to say “Well no I don’t really have any.” Do you know what I mean?
SPP: Yes I mean we can ask or we don’t have to ask if you don’t have anything that you want us to say. I mean if you want to plug your Web site or your book at the end of the interview you can do so, but I mean we don’t have to.
Roger: Okay. Yes that’s great.
SPP: All right we’ll just go ahead and get started. Roger again thanks for being on the show today. I really was interested I came across your
book doing some searches on Amazon and the book is “How Americans Can Buy American”, and obviously it caught my mind. Being the 10th anniversary of 9/11 everybody’s feeling pretty patriotic and I figured hey, let’s talk to them about. So I just want to dive right in and ask you how it is you came to write a book on “How Americans Can Buy American Goods”.
Roger: Well I got involved in politics when Ross Perot came on the scene in 1992 and a couple of years later I went shopping for some clothing at a Florida mall down here in Orlando where I live. I had such trouble finding American made clothing that I just got upset about it and decided to do something about. The books that I’ve written are a result of that experience. But that day in the mall I was thinking to myself I’m an American, I live here, I work here, I pay taxes here, why is it so difficult for me to support other Americans that live here, work here and pay taxes here, and that was really the motivation behind the book.
SPP: Could you kind of give us a general overview I guess for myself and for our listeners as to the key topics that you cover in the book? Obviously, the title will give you a general idea but kind of a more in depth look.
Roger: Well the book is not just a book of lists, although there are over 20,000 different American informed products and services listed in the book. There’s over 2000 union made American made products as well. And along with those book of list of American and foreign products there’re also chapters, chapters that read like a traditional book would. For instance, back when I wrote the book there was a lot of controversy about whether General Motors should fail or should be propped up by the government with any tax dollars and federal help. And there were just a lot of rumors going around about a lot of false information about American cars.
So I wrote a chapter called Auto Explanations which really lets people know that American companies in the auto industry employ more American workers, they have more plants in the United States, they get more of their parts a higher percentage of their domestic parts from domestic sources from us, and they also support more workers, retirees and their dependents than foreign automakers do. And they also pay taxes they pay more taxes than foreign owned companies do.
And typically I found out that American companies pay about twice as many taxes to the US Treasury compared to foreign owned companies. So that’s very important if we’re going to keep the tax based in the United States and do things like help save programs like Social Security and Medicare, or do things like pay down the national debt, which is very important as well.
SPP: I wanted to get into I guess the auto industry a little bit more. There’s discussions where Toyota will say we have American plants and American workers are working there as well. So is your main argument against the American overbuying products that are still built in America but foreign based the fact that those companies don’t pay the same amount of taxes to the US government.
Roger: Well part of the misleading that’s gone on among the minds of the public with American versus foreign cars, and I understand the journalistic enticement to write a story that says “Hey we found an American car that happens to be made in Mexico, and look here’s a foreign car that happens to be made in the United States.” But the fact is that American companies have about twice as many plants and all the foreign competition combined.
So it’s really misleading to say “Well Toyota is employing workers in Kentucky and therefore I’m going to go out and buy a Toyota because I know it’s American made.” That’s just simply not the case and it’s not the average fleet wide when analyze the situation.
SPP: Continuing on with the automobile industry my initial thought, because as I was kind of researching and reading up about you on the web and everything, I know it said you drive an American made car. And obviously my first thought is American made cars are worse. I mean I don’t know if it’s a stigma that we have or what it is, but how do you react to the fact that people say “I can buy a Honda that’s cheap and that’s going to get me 250,000 miles or I can buy some GMC or who knows what and it might crap out on me after 100,000.” Is that just a myth belief?
Roger: Well it is actually a misbelief and it depends on mostly what year you’re talking about. But a few years ago the Chevy Aveo was declared by Edmonds.com as the cheapest car to operate. That factors in not just gas mileage but insurance cost, resell value, repairs, things of that nature. And the Aveo is actually just before they phased it out was made in the USA. Right now Edmonds.com says that the Ford Fiesta is the cheapest car to own that you can buy, which is made in Mexico.
We have to understand that even though we support some people would go out and buy an American brand car like a Ford that’s made in Mexico we have to understand that it takes about 20 months to engineer and research and develop and design a car but it only takes about 20 hours to put it together or to assemble it.
So we have to worry about jobs and other than just manufacturing we have to worry about engineering and research and development, design and testing and administration, advertising, it’s an American company those jobs are going to be here. There’s only about 10% of Americans employed in the manufacturing sector so that’s leaves 90% of the jobs left over. And if it’s an American company then 90% of those jobs are going to be in the United States as well.
So we have to look beyond where it’s made and we also have to look at things like domestic parts content which puts American companies on top in that regard. And ownership really is for me the most important factor and that’s what the book is really all about. Because ownership equals control and control equals independence. And we simply are no longer an independent nation for manufacturing bases under foreign ownership and under foreign control.
SPP: That’s actually a really interesting way to look at that. I never really thought about it in that way where you do have all that R&D advertising and overhead that’s over in those other countries. I also wanted to ask you there’s a lot of areas in consumer products that America seems to lag behind, whether it be electronic products or computer parts, those types of things. Do you go into great detail in your book on how you can find good electronics out there? I guess TV for example people think Samsung, Sony for television and those American brands, whether they’re off the top of my head I’m only thinking I guess RCA. What do you go into the book about for electronics? What’s your view for the electronics I guess situation in America?
Roger: Well the electronics category is one of the areas to buy Americans but the good news is it is possible. I talk in the book how if you want to buy a computer there’s a company called http://UnionBuiltPC.com I have a laptop from them that’s all detailed in the book about that company. I also have a home computer by Systemax Computers, which is http://Systemac.com. They’re all assembled in the United States, of course some of the parts are going to come from overseas, but you can’t always do anything about that if there’s no RAM or motherboard or power supplies made here in the states. It’s going to be the same regardless of whether you buy a Sony or an American brand but at least the assembly will take place in the United States.
In the area of television there are no TVs manufactured in the United States but I tell people to look at Vizio television because they’re based in California, it’s an American company, and again even though their manufacturing takes place offshore the engineering, the development, the research, things like that are in the United States. And these are important jobs we need to hold onto as well. So again I’m going to need to look past manufacturing and definitely need to include that but the idea behind the book is to not only buy American made products but buy them from American owned companies, so we keep not just the jobs here but the profits and the tax base as well.
SPP: I love the Vizio reference because when I got my first job I got my first paycheck after college I went to John actually and I said “I want to buy a huge TV what should I buy?” And Vizio was new and not really as well established at the time. I ended up getting one, 50″ inch plasma, like probably half the price of all the other ones. It’s still alive and running well and a great picture. And it’s one of those companies that I have a new found respect for. So I didn’t know that they had an American component to them.
Roger: Well also we have to keep in mind that when you support an American company, and like you said years ago they weren’t as well established they’re a little more established now, but they actually used to make their televisions in the United States at one time. But I think the competition for that company, a new company upstart company at the time is so great and you’re going against the big gun companies like Samsung and Sony and Sharp and Panasonic, and all those. The buy American strategy is really a long term strategy. If we can support an American company and get enough profits into the hands of an American company we can use certain strategies like corporate responsibility and go to Vizio and say “Look you’re an American company, we’re American workers and citizens. We want to support you but it would be much more motivated to support you if you would bring at least some of your production back to the United States.”
Now you can’t use that kind of a corporate responsibility ploy with Sony or a Japanese company because they don’t owe any allegiance to the United States. Only American companies will that work with them. So it’s really just about not always just supporting what’s American made at the time but developing a strategy to get some of these jobs, not only keep the ones we have here but give more of them back to the United States. And the way to do that is to be on record with supporting an American company first and then we can use that leverage to bring some of those jobs back home.
SPP: I have to echo Chris on this too, because I mean Vizio is a great company and it did it started off as one of those cheap, I want to say like second tier TV companies but now they compete with the best of them. And yeah they do use some I guess LG parts or whatever parts, but knowing that they are an American based company that will definitely influence myself and I’m sure a lot of other people. But do you find that it might become too hard to compete with wages in terms of assembling these computer parts, especially with factories overseas that are able to produce the components at such a low price. Then unfortunately their standards of living and factory practices might not be up to par with the United States. How do you think the US can compete with those low wages?
Roger: Well you certainly have to consider the lower wages and the lack of regulations in other third world countries or even China, which I don’t know if you can still call them third world country or not, but the fact is that you have several things going on in China that are actually bringing some jobs from there back to America. For instance, Ford is adding I believe about 2000 jobs in the next four years from places like China, India and Mexico. General Electric is bringing more of their appliance work back from China to the Appliance Park Facility in Louisville, Kentucky.
So jobs are coming back. And part of the reason for that is, is you have a lot of inflation over the last year or two and China wages are actually on the rise in China. You have other factors like the fluctuation and the currency which has worked in our favor to a certain degree, limited degree. And then you also have the shipping rates from China just doubled over about the last year. So it does tend to make American workers and American wages a little more competitive and for that reason you’re seeing some of the jobs come back to the United States. I mean Frisbees are going to be made in the United States again, hula hoops things like that. So it’s not just the big ticket items like cars and appliances but also things like toys that traditionally have always been made in China by default.
SPP: Now I know you opened your book talking about how there were surveys done and things conducted and the majority of people, a high percentage say they would rather buy American, they’d pay a little bit more, and things like that. Did you find that that’s actually true or is that just something that sounds good coming out of your mouth as a consumer. You feel embarrassed if you were to answer differently on a questionnaire, but when it comes time to getting to the cash register you really are only looking at price. Do you think that people are beginning to or have been trying to buy American?
Roger: Well it’s both. It sounds good and it is true. That’s why I put a certain poll like the first two or three pages of the book are just about poll after poll that show from different groups that people care about American made products and they want to buy American when price and quality are equal and even sometimes when they’re not. But there’s another sort of a myth that we always have to talk about. American products are always going to be more expensive.
I think back to 2004 when I heard Levis was going to close their last factory in the United States. I thought to myself gosh I’ve got to go out and buy the last of the American made Levis before they’re all gone. And I went to the store and the ones made in USA and the ones made in Bangladesh on the shelf right next to each other were the same price. So that tells me it doesn’t always result in a cheaper price at the cash register when we buy an American product.
So also I found out when I put together what’s on my Web site for anybody who subscribes to the email list I send out free. It’s called The American Made Retail eGuide. And it’s a list of over 2500 products that are American made products that are available at over a dozen retail stores across America. And some of those stores, believe it or not, are Dollar Stores. You would be amazed at what you can find at a Dollar Tree Store or Family Dollar or Dollar General for just a $1 buck or a little bit more made in USA and it’s actually cheaper than some of the foreign competitors. So it’s just simply not true that it always comes down to a choice between a higher priced American product and a lower priced import.
SPP: That’s actually crazy. I would never expect a $1 dollar item to be made in America. I wouldn’t think that any company would be able to make money off it. That’s really surprising. I wanted to ask you a little bit about if you touch on groceries and food. I walk through my grocery store and that’s one of the hardest places to tell if something is American made or comes from America. Because a lot of stuff vegetables, and those types of things, actually come from other countries, are ripen on the plane over, and then are packaged in America. And the consumer not really be able to tell where it’s coming from. Do you go into detail on that in your book or is that something that is too hard to get into?
Roger: No it’s not. It sounds like it’s hard but it’s actually very simple. I go through in my book and I talk about how the guidelines for labeling imported products and American made products according to the Federal Trade Commission and the Commerce Department that if a product is imported from another country by law it must be listed, the company of importation must be listed on the package. Now if it’s made in US the company making that product is not forced. They don’t have to declare that it’s an American made item.
Made in USA means either all or virtually all parts and labor from domestic sources in the United States. If it’s anything less than that all or virtually all standard you would see something like Assembled in USA, global components or Assembled in America with foreign and domestic parts, some watered down version like that. But what that means is if a company doesn’t have to list their product Made in USA when it actually is. That means that if there’s nothing on the package that’s Made in USA, or that’s imported from anywhere else, by default that would have to mean that’s made in America or they would be subject to fines or imprisonment against the law or the Federal Trade Commission and the Commerce Department.
That’s really how to clear the air. But the good news is as I tell people to start with small ticket items when they’re just thinking about buying American for the first time. Go to the supermarket where most of the products either are made or canned or processed in the United States. And the difference is usually between two American made products and one is American owned and one is foreign owned.
Just a couple of quick examples of this, Clorox is an American company, Lysol is owned by the British. Irish Spring is an American brand of soap where Jergens is actually owned by a Japanese company. Dial Soap is owned by a German company a lot of people don’t know that. And probably one of the best examples of all is that Swiss Miss is American but Carnation is owned by the Swiss.
SPP: I had no idea on those products. That’s crazy. So if I was somebody who was starting off in my quest to buy American, what would be a list of the most popular things that you would recommend that we should concentrate on when buying American?
Roger: Well like I said, I would start in the supermarket first and a lot of the difference is going to be not where it’s made, but like I said all the products Clorox, Lysol, Irish Springs, Jergens, Swiss Miss, Carnation, those are all American made products; they’re made in the USA. So the workers manufacturing or assembling or processing those products are in the United States. The difference is the ownership of the company. That determines who gets rewarded. Where do the profits go? Where are the taxes paid? If it’s a foreign company we will send profits overseas to foreign lands. The taxes on those profits will be paid to foreign treasuries. We’ll be rewarding foreign stockholders, foreign owners, and foreign investors. So even though it’s made in America we’re still draining wealth out of the county. We’re still sending it out of the United States. We need to keep it here. So it’s very important to contrast these kinds of things in areas like this when you’re talking about soap or disinfectant or toothpaste, or something like that where the consumer is really indifferent as to which product to buy. Either one will probably do they both do the same job, they both cost about the same amount of money
And cotton swabs is another area. I go to the drugstore either to CVS or Walgreens to buy their cotton swabs and they’re less money that Q-tips are, which Q-tips is owned by a company called Unilever, which is a joint venture between England and the Netherlands. So in that case, again it’s actually cheaper to buy from the US Company and you can buy it and Made in USA.
SPP: And this might sound overwhelming to some of our listeners because that is a lot of research that needs to be done into figuring out which companies own which brands and where the money’s going. So luckily you’ve already gone out, done that research, put it all in your book, and that’s awesome because people can just have one place to go to and find out which products are American.
And I wanted to bring up one of the products that you mention on your Web site, which is New Balance. And I absolutely love New Balance. I probably have three or four pairs of those shoes. They’re the most comfortable shoes I’ve ever owned. Do you have any other products like that, like the New Balance shoes that you use on a daily basis that you would recommend to people to go out and buy that they might not realize it’s an American product?
Roger: If you want to buy tennis shoes or walking shoes other than New Balance you can buy, I’ve got a pair of shoes they’re called SAS it stands for San Antonio Shoes. And they have stores here in Florida I’m not sure exactly how far throughout the country that they expand to, but they’re based in Texas. But everything in that store in an SAS store is made in the USA, from their walking shoes to their leather goods, their belts, their purses, handbags, things like that, all the accessories are made in America. And you’re not going to buy an SAS shoe if you’re going to go out and go jogging or play tennis or something, but if you just need a comfortable walking shoe those are made in America as well.
New Balance makes about 25% or 30% of their shoes in the United States. Some of the other ones are made in China or other offshore places so you need to still look at the label when you buy New Balance. But the contrast there is that none of the other shoe companies that make a sport shoe that you would use for sports activity or something like that, like Reebok or Addidas, those are both German owned companies. They don’t make anything in the United States either and neither does Nike. So even though you’re supporting a company that only makes 25% or 30% of their shoes in the United States, which is New Balance, you’re doing the best that you can with your American dollars in that scenario.
SPP: I wanted to jump back to I guess the food and groceries real quick. Why do you think we don’t have any laws on the books where smaller ticket items, whet her it’s everyday items, toothpastes, paper towels, toilet paper, those type of things, where we have to stock American items in the grocery store to help ourselves out. I mean is there any lawmaker out there that has even tried to pass something like that or even come up with the idea of making it, not mandatory but making sure that these items are available from American companies within our stores?
Roger: Well there are various bills in Congress that have been proposed to mandate that we increase the percentage from 50% I think they tried to raise it to 65% for all the purchases from the Pentagon for federal contracts have to be made in America. And I believe that that didn’t quite make it there’s some opposition to that.
Let’s see you also have other state legislation, for instance, I’m recalling that Minnesota actually passed a law that said any American flag sold in the State of Minnesota had to be made in the USA, which is a great thing to do. And I wish other states would follow suit on that and then we could maybe pass something nationally along those lines. So you do have legislation out there like that. It doesn’t always make it but it’s good that it keeps coming up and people keep putting it out there for people to see. And I think after awhile once people see it repeatedly and that it begins to stick after awhile and they get behind it.
SPP: Now did you say that there was a bill passed to try to raise the contracts out of the Pentagon from 50% to 65%? Is that what it was?
Roger: Yes I don’t believe that passed I’d have to double check on that, but I know there was a lot of opposition to that, and I don’t believe that that actually went through.
SPP: See and in my mind that’s a scary thought. I actually do federal consulting and the fact that half of our contracts that are out of the Pentagon are from other countries is kind of a disturbing number knowing that there is people outside of our country dealing with either national security level stuff. I mean even lower level stuff even if it’s just secret or top secret, but that blows my mind.
Roger: Well even back when the stimulus was being considered and eventually passed there were laws a Buy American provision to try to get all the steel had to be purchased from America the iron had to be purchased from here. And then there were a lot of waivers that were generated to make exceptions and kind of put holes in that. You also had during the Cash for Clunkers there were amendments made or a bill submitted that said “Hey when we do Cash for Clunkers we only want to make it apply to American made cars.” And then there were other legislators that said “No it has to include the Toyota’s and the Honda’s and the Subaru’s and everything else, that wouldn’t be fair”, even though China and Russia and other countries, Japan, had domestic only stipulations for their similar laws.
So it’s really a mystery to me why this happens like that. I would think that our legislators would want to support more of the people that they represent in their own district and other districts in the United States, but it just doesn’t always seem to be working out that way.
But I think that you mentioned earlier in the show a lot of people became more patriotic during September 11th. And there’s been other things that come along, like the Iraq War when everybody was kind of upset at the French and they wanted to boycott the French because they didn’t support the Iraq War. Regardless how you feel about the war personally it did happen.
And then the outsourcing with the Chinese became an issue with the lead paint and the toothpaste with diethylene glycal. And there were just various things that happened it had been happening throughout the year so successfully I think keeps putting this buy American issue in front of the American people. And like I said, after awhile I think it begins to stick because people keep seeing it out there.
SPP: Did you receive any negative I guess backlash when you wrote this book? Was there anybody who was opposed to any of your ideas or?
Roger: Yes you always receive some certain percentage of negative feedback. It’s not an overwhelming amount but someone will, whether they think it costs too much or American workers are paid too high wages or something and they think they need to lower their wages, and it’s not fair. And some people maybe against union labor and they want me to give them a list of American made products that aren’t made with union labor, things like that. Because they think unions are partially to blame at least for some of the jobs going overseas. I don’t share that mentality but some people do. So you do receive a certain amount of negativity, but overall it’s positive and that’s good.
SPP: Well that’s great. Roger I really appreciate you being on the show with us today. We truly do value your time. Your book is very interesting. I’m sure our readers will love it. If you want to mention your Web site on here feel free to do so.
Roger: Yes the Web site is www.howtobuyamerican.com.
SPP: All right thanks so much Roger, we really appreciate it.
Roger: Thanks for the opportunity. I appreciate you.