"Let's Look For Made in America"
By Capt. Fred Davis
Published: Friday, February 1, 2013

As many people approach retirement, it seems to be getting farther away. Life expectancy has greatly increased thus retirement expectancy increases along with it. Difficulties regarding the expense of retirement mount each year.

When retirement age was around 50, life expectancy was probably about 65. (Currently it is 78 for men and over 80 for women). In the past, it was less expensive for major employers to make contracts with labor unions for benefits; health, life, and discounted company purchases. The extended pay-outs usually only lasted a few years.

With longer life expectancies, employers began suspending or drastically cutting many benefits they once offered. Many even stopped matching 401(k) retirement plans. Discounts offered on products companies manufactured also became a thing of the past.

As we examine increased layoffs as well as cost increases, it is difficult to understand how everything got so out of hand. The wealthy became wealthier and the middle class slipped behind, many even joined the poor. How did this come about? There are a number of answers but none of them fit all the problems.

As I see it, the upper middle class were caught up in efforts to reach the top. They purchased larger than needed new homes, waterfront properties, big boats and multiple cars. Most of them had overtime pay coming in, extra pay checks and high interest bearing savings accounts.

As work hours decreased and layoffs began, income diminished and debts became harder to pay. Upper middle class workers got hit the hardest. Their new purchases, with multiple payments, became difficult to manage. he hope and expectancy of a quick recovery kept them from selling off all the newly purchased extras. Soon reality struck and values dropped for all their assets; selling became difficult if not impossible. As time passed, the upper middle class began to disappear altogether.

To compound problems, many industries shifted their business to the Far East. Some even totally relocated there. Others left the U.S. and moved to areas where it was less costly to produce their goods.

Things have slowly begun to change. The building industries found less expensive materials purchased offshore were of very poor quality. They had to remove and replace them, some under warranty. Many replacements cost purchasers large sums they never expected to have to pay. Greedy companies that expected to reap large profits were forced out of business. Owners of others dug out their old clothes and went to work correcting the messes they had made.

Other industries were also hurt by the rush to go offshore. The auto industry, so big in the Midwest, had begun using Chinese and Japanese parts to save money. They laid off or forced retirement on devoted employees. Those employees did not quit driving cars, especially while seeking jobs. As their vehicles required major repairs or replacement, loyalty to their former employers faded. They too went offshore and began to buy foreign-made cars. This added to the woes of the auto industry. It has taken them a long time to recover and not without help.

Other U.S. companies: cable, phone and radio took their business overseas by using backrooms to outsource calls connecting us with employees who did not understand our language. Orders were hopelessly fouled up. Clothing manufacturers looked offshore and found poor quality, but cheaper goods. They flooded the market with them and forced us to accept their products because “Made in the U.S.” became so hard to locate.

Fortunately, many companies have begun to recognize their poor choices and are beginning to do business in the U.S. I noticed a large retailer advertising they were returning to “Made in America” products. Some U.S. auto companies are cutting imports, which is resulting in more jobs here in our country. Some of the jobs may not pay as well as in the past, but they will pay the bills and put food on the table.

As we adjust to the new costs and wages perhaps we may be able to work back to a “new normal” and find our middle class.




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