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American Exports: The Solution?

President Obama, with Dr. Kedar Gupta, right, and Dr. Carl Rick Schwedtfeger, left, from Arc Energy during his tour of an L.E.D. lighting manufacturer in Nashua, N.H., Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2010. (AP)

For decades, the United States has been the world’s great consumer, the world’s great importer.

Now American economists and the U.S. president are talking exports: a surge of American exports to the world to bring back the U.S. economy.

President Obama says we must double U.S. exports in five years.

That would be huge – and mean huge changes.  Can it even be done?  Over all our habits and Chinese low-wage competition?  And what would be exported?

This Hour, On Point:  Can America export its way out of economic crisis?  And what would that look like?


Greg Ip, U.S. economics editor for The Economist magazine. He wrote a special magazine feature on reviving the American economy called “Energetic Progress.”

Brad Jensen, economics professor at the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University. He is also a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. He co-authored two studies of past U.S. export booms to learn how they unfolded and what worked.

Deborah Wince-Smith, president and CEO of the Council on Competitiveness, a non-profit, non-partisan group that brings together labor, industry and government. She served as the nation’s first assistant secretary of commerce for technology policy in the administration of President George H.W. Bush.

David Ickert, vice president of finance for a small aircraft manufacturing company in Texas called Air Tractor.
In 1995, 90% of their sales were domestic. This past year, nearly half of their sales were overseas, according to the company.

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  • nick

    How does anyone increase their exports when we are at such a disadvantage with China in regards to currency values?

    Plus, we have lost so much of our manufacturing base that it is very difficult to find anyone who can build a mold, injection mold the plastic, and even buy plastic at a price that makes up competitive.

    We starting selling out our manufacturing base with Reagan and it continued through the Bushes and Clinton. We place our economic interest on Wall Street and the banks and out side of making a few people Billionaires, they screwed the rest of us.


  • Gary

    There is NO China problem…There IS an USA problem.

    Our failure in manufacturing is engineered to maximize short term returns for the oligarchy. There are so many causes, but the undeserved salaries and benefits are at its core.

    The rise of a privileged class of Americans who by nature of their birth, who move from their privileged childhood, to their privileged schools, and then to their privileged jobs…(now repeat Ad-nauseam)… and combined with the ultra rich propagandists and politicians to keep the lower classes fighting against each other over false ideologies… and you have America today.

    IMO the entire nation would change overnight if the people who make policy for the bulk of the populace had actually ever worked for a living.

    Millionaires make decisions to benefit millionaires, and they do so solely based on personal gain, and not on morality or patriotism.

  • http://www.tedauch.com Ted Auch

    Until an American president turns to the American people and confronts them(us) about our addiction to consumption and gets us to seek help (ConsumAnon Anyone?) in the form of a 12-Step program phased in over 10-20 years we have no one to blame but ourselves. The whole world is laughing at us right now, because when the word Protectionism is mentioned our politicians and economic minds shoot it down as nonsensical. Is it really? Isn’t protectionism one of the highest forms of patriotism?

  • wavre


    You have said it all. The prosperity of this nation is being sabotaged by its own greedy elites, a virus that will destroy the all system at the end. There is nothing we can do, The “elites” control the narratives( they own the media)and the decision-making process(they own the government), we have no choice(they control and manipulate the parties, tea party included!).
    The others are going full speed on green and sustainable energy and technology, and us, we are still at “drill baby drill”.
    What are we planning to export for the future? the hammer still?

    You are right, We are screwed big time!

  • Gary

    …In addendum : “In 1984, General Motors and Toyota opened NUMMI as a joint venture. Toyota showed GM the secrets of its production system: how it made cars of much higher quality and much lower cost than GM achieved. But today, GM cars still don’t have the quality of Japanese imports, GM is bankrupt and on March 31, NUMMI will be closed, sending thousands of car workers looking for jobs. In this hour-long story, NPR Automotive Correspondent Frank Langfitt tells the story of NUMMI and why GM – and the rest of the American car business – wasn’t able to learn from it more quickly”


    IMO our arrogance and greed create a mental climate where we are unwilling to change to meet the needs of markets… we say the markets should change to meet our manufacturing needs.

  • cory

    Great comments this morning.

    Sure, we can manufacture and export goods from this country. We just have to abandon organized labor and work for as much as the Indians and Chinese are paid. In the global labor race to the bottom, corporations will put jobs wherever labor and other costs are cheapest. If it is us, they’ll come.

    I love the idea of protectionism, I just don’t see how other than the electorate wising up.

  • Sam E.

    As unpopular as it is to say it the value of the dollar needs to come down more.

  • jeffe

    I posted this on the Woods segment.
    It seems to me to be more appropriate here.

    In the context of American exports the interview from News Hour took place in Silicon Valley which use to be the main hotbed for exportable technology and a magnet for jobs. Apparently this is no longer the case.

    I just watched a segment on the News Hour on PBS last night in which a PHD and a few computer scientist were talking about being unemployed laid off because of the economy and tax laws that favored the industries they worked in moving over seas.

    I then saw a segment on another news program in which this economist was saying people needed to more flexible and retrain to stay employed. I would like to have had her speak to the man with the PHD in computer science about that. Flexible for what? Her job? What is happening in this country is pretty scary for most people and I for one am getting to the point were it seems like nothing is going to be done. When I see smart people like those interviewed on the News Hour who can’t find jobs and have been looking for almost a year or more I have to think that something is seriously wrong.

    I would like to see a good show on the tax system and how it encourages bushiness to move over seas and it seems to me that the bad economy is being used as an excuse to make these moves.

  • wavre


    The corporations are not in China,for the most part, they just do business there.They live in wall street, London, Brussels …and have managed to use our money thru tax accomadations and loopholes to export for even more profit our jobs oversea.
    It’s a serie of unfair practices like the manipulation of currency,tax loopholes, tax heavens, wall street’s “sophisticated instruments of trickery”,poor and weak regulatory practices,ill deregulations, predatory globalization…that is killing the middle class and spreading misery all over the globe.

    A new world order based on fair-trade practices it’s what’s needed.

  • jeffe

    wavre I beg to differ. I saw a segment this past week on the news in which a technology company was moving so much of it’s production and R&D to China that the CEO was moving his whole family there.


  • Martha

    As previous posters have said, what do we have to export? I will be interested to hear the show.

    A friend of mine recently pointed out that other countries have become savvy to the US exploiting them, so now the only people left to take advantage of are Americans. The country is being torn down internally, and those profiting don’t care. How do we turn that trend around? More regulation?

  • Larry

    Export? Only once we fall to third world status which is in the process of happening will we be exporting manufactured goods.

    The US’ future is one where we sell our natural resources to First world countries for pennies on the dollar as well as our companies and real estate.

    Thanks Ronald Reagan for starting American on it’s road to decline.

    Thanks George H Bush.

    Thanks Bill Clinton.

    Thanks George W Bush.

    Thanks Barack Obama.

    And special thanks to all our members of Congress the past 30 years who sold out the American people every chance they got in favor of the multi-national corporations.

  • Alex

    “The richest one percent of this country owns half our country’s wealth, five trillion dollars. One third of that comes from hard work, two thirds comes from inheritance, interest on interest accumulating to widows and idiot sons and what I do, stock and real estate speculation. It’s [....]. You got ninety percent of the American public out there with little or no net worth. I create nothing. I own. We make the rules, pal. The news, war, peace, famine, upheaval, the price per paper clip. We pick that rabbit out of the hat while everybody sits out there wondering how the hell we did it. Now you’re not naive enough to think we’re living in a democracy, are you buddy? It’s the free market. And you’re a part of it. You’ve got that killer instinct. Stick around pal, I’ve still got a lot to teach you.”

    — Gordon Gekko

  • Rick

    Shouldn’t the export figures include the innovative financial products we have exported? The total value of the various forms of credit and debt products that we have exported (CDOs, CDSs, ABSs, etc.) far exceeds world’s total GDP. Including those products makes us the de facto leading exporter in the world. If these products aren’t counted in our export numbers, why not???

  • jonah


    Your usual lineup of rightwing nuts as “experts”. I’m willing to bet that they decide that American workers need to take even more cuts in wages in order to be competitive.

    Don’t forget to ask for money

  • BHA

    Every country in the world is planning to solve their economic crisis by exporting more than they import. The math doesn’t work, SOMEONE has to buy.

  • Alex

    Don’t forget movies and music. I bet pop culture is the biggest export we still have. Conservatives should stop being so scornful of the Hollywood types. They are the biggest marketers of the American brand (putting aside the Marines for a moment). Without them, what do we have to sell imagewise? Cheney? Limbaugh?

  • Joe

    Can we “compete” with China? Comparably no labor standards, undervalued currency and 10% growth…not likely.

  • Todd

    U.S. exports? What U.S. exports?! The U.S. has nothing left to export, except its DEBT—and no one’s buying! Debt is the only thing the U.S. produces. The U.S. has encouraged corporations to EXPORT nearly all of its manufacturing jobs over the past 30 years.

    The U.S. no longer produces; it only consumes.

  • Rick Evans

    Let’s do like China & Mexico and export our unskilled low wage and no wage workers to China and India. We can use their remittances to offset the trade deficit.

  • Larry

    Shouldn’t the export figures include the innovative financial products we have exported? The total value of the various forms of credit and debt products that we have exported (CDOs, CDSs, ABSs, etc.) far exceeds world’s total GDP. Including those products makes us the de facto leading exporter in the world. If these products aren’t counted in our export numbers, why not???
    Posted by Rick

    Do you really want to bring that up Rick? The rest of the world hates us enough already.

  • John

    Why are we discussing such an unimportant topic? I want a Tiger Woods update.

  • Larry

    Don’t forget movies and music. I bet pop culture is the biggest export we still have. Conservatives should stop being so scornful of the Hollywood types. They are the biggest marketers of the American brand (putting aside the Marines for a moment).
    Posted by Alex

    Alex, most of the Hollywood companies are majority owned by foreigners. How do you like them apples? America is a for-hire nation, even in it’s entertainment.

  • Rick

    Larry. Yes I really do want to bring up our world leadership in exporting innovative financial instruments. It’s about time we took a serious look at this. These weapons of mass destruction have been treated as sacrosanct for far too long.

  • John

    How do we keep our next technological innovations being produced by Americans and not shifted to low wage China?

  • Rachel

    Two words: GREEN TECHNOLOGY. What is preventing us from becoming the world leader in green technology exports? We have some of the most brilliant minds and cutting-edge companies in Silicon Valley, etc. that could be leading the global market on fuel cells, energy-saving consumer goods, hybrid cars,and large-scale solar just to name a few.

  • Wait one minute…

    These are “Americans” opening factories in China to export to Americans.

    The service sector is not going to export products, they export jobs. Those are not the same thing. Who do these oversees workers pay taxes to?

  • Larry

    Rick, maybe they have. But they don’t make money for anyone but a small few on Wall Street. They have nothing to do with the real economy, until that is the real economy has to cover them when there is a meltdown.

  • Todd

    Yeah, right, the U.S. is going to EXPORT its way out of debt—just as soon as it can figure out the best way to ship Big Macs and Whoppers internationally.

  • http://www.lit.org/author/fritzwilliam F. William Bracy

    Well, well Cory. You’re here. Good to hear from you.

    Organized labor is the problem, I guess you’re saying. We’ll just have to work for Chinese labor rates, according to you. Know what? … workers in the U.S. can start earning $2.00 an hour, while the CEOs, the CFOs, and board members will STILL be taking home $40 million. You’re not naive enough to think that all the cream will stop rising to the top, are you?

    Nothing will change in overall outcome except for the lifestyles of the American poor and un-famous. American style consumerist capitalism IS DEAD. The great American Experiment has ended in failure. We just haven’t awakened to the fact.

  • Rick

    Larry. Two words: “trickle down”. You can’t consider financial products part of the real economy when it suits supply siders and exclude it when time comes for the reckoning.

  • Wait one minute…

    If an American engineer moves to China to develop their infrastucture, is he an American worker or a Chinese one?

    When an immigrant comes to this country and gets a job, whether as a doctor or a dishwasher, are they not an American worker?

  • Larry

    This conversation is once again a short-sighted 5 year plan.

    In twenty years the flow of goods around the world will be winding down substantially due to the scarcity of oil.

    It will no longer be cheap, and the countries that have taken steps to get off of it well will be the winners.

    I can tell you that won’t include America.

  • Daniel Lefebvre

    We need to make and export, medical and “green” technologies. And to do this, we need to lead the world in these technologies.

  • Larry

    When Obama made this announcement I read a blog that said to the effect, what’s Obama going to export, our women as prostitutes?

  • Todd

    “American style consumerist capitalism IS DEAD.”
    Posted by F. William Bracy

    No, it isn’t dead; it’s merely been exported to China and India.

  • Wait one minute…

    Don’t be fooled, what is being promoted as “service sector exports” is just a fancy economic term for out- migration.

  • Larry

    Small companies exporting over seas. The reason it works well the other way is that the rest of the world learns English and studies our culture.

    But most Americans don’t even travel outside of the US no less understand other cultures.

    Plus, our currency has a long way to fall before our goods will be competitive. And that’s not as easy as it sounds when the whole world is experiencing deflation.

  • Steve V

    One large aspect of this issue is not being addressed and that is population. Our world is producing more people than it can support. Where will these people live? Where will they work? Where will the resources come from to support them? Nature doesn’t allow any species to over-populate for very long and we will be no exception.

  • http://www.lit.org/author/fritzwilliam F. William Bracy

    Brad Jensen — don’t you get it?

    We need to BEAT our imports with exports! America is already a net importer of FOOD, for crying out loud! We can’t even grow enough food to feed our own population!

    And Ms. Smith is an absolute mess! She’s being paid to come up with Pollyanna-ish talk … the attitude that is going to do nothing but sink us further into the hole we’ve been digging now for nearly a century.

  • Nick

    Talk about Industrial Espionage. We (US) need to hold on to our technology advantage.

  • Larry

    Stop trying to tell us the corporate tax rate is high.


    2/3s of all US corporations don’t pay ANY FEDERAL TAX.

  • Rick

    American strength in innovation comes not from Americans alone; it has a heavy (i.e. double-digit percentage) contribution from motivated people who come here from other countries. In fact, so much of the innovation done in the U.S. is done by foreigners who then return home that we have a truly unique form of “brain drain”. And most of the proposed immigration reform would foreseeably make it worse!

  • Liz B.

    BHA (above) made a good point: every country wants to export more of their products/ services than they import.

    The main problem is that there is a cash flow problem among the majority of the populace in most countries and they do not have money to buy imported products/services unless they are necessities. People’s pockets are more than squeezed nowadays, and not only in the US.

    Unfortunately, most countries’ economies have been destroyed by the forces of globalization over the past few years and they are no longer self-sufficient therefore they are vulnerable to any kind of global economic challenge. If you think China and India are doing well, think again because they have enormous social and environmental problems that will effect their economies. Also, there is a great deal of suffering and discontent created by the mobilization of all those Chinese / Indian people from the rural areas to the cities.

    Nevertheless, the economic situation is difficult everywhere; and the ‘free market’ rhetoric is NOT going to solve this problem but will make it worse, much worse. In our globalized economy there are a number of gigantic multi-national corporations that seem to impose their wills and interests on governments (taxpayers) without paying much taxes(!) and the rest of us are watching and suffering from the consequences.

    I’m trying to be optimistic but I don’t really see change.

    Yes, the US perhaps could export more products and services but to start up the economy again it will take a huge investment which we don’t have unless we mortgage the future generations even more. Additionally, the cost of doing business is the US is fairly high, which was the principal reason behind outsourcing. So it’s a catch 22.

  • Curtis

    It’s been said before. The USA lags behind European countries (e.g. Spain, Iceland, Germany, etc…) in the manufacture of sustainable energy tech, because the government does not subsidize it. For example, in the past 2 years of energy funding in the US, we’ve spent more than $38 billion on coal and oil subsidies. That is tax payer money. Tax gasoline at a higher rate, reduce subsidies for fossil fuels by 10% each year, then give that money to green tech industries here. In a decade we will have the beginnings of a green tech export base for growing markets like India, China, and Africa. Will we have to change our labor force? Yes…

    But the stone age did not end for lack of stones…the fossil fuel culture that powers ALL of our industry cannot and should not last another decade.

  • Rick

    The caller Keith has it right and clearly the “experts” simply can’t get their heads around it. We have been selling (exporting) our debt like crazy and yet we don’t want to include that in the equation.

  • Tom from Boston

    America’s best export is technology. Not just hardware, but software and Internet services. Microsoft, Google, Apple and HP are just a few of the companies leading the way. Think about the iPhone, Windows, and how many people around the world use sites like Google and Facebook.

  • Wait one minute…

    I feel like I am listening to a propaganda program where nothing I am hearing resembles the reality I see on the ground.

  • Rick

    I think we also need to differentiate between economic “stability” and economic “growth”. We seem to think that anything short of maximal growth is UNstable. How about we lower our growth expectations in the interest of stability?

  • Catherine LeMay

    I hope we give some thought to putting quality as well as quantity in our imports. If we maintain dependable quality vs the uncertainty of what’s coming in from other countries especially China… that something made in USA is “branded” as being worth purchasing, I think we can more than compete in a world that is tired and frustrated with junk.

  • Wait one minute…


    I listened to your program on St. Patrick’s day. Ask yourself this: D0the unemployed Irish moving to Asia for work consider themselves exports or immigrants?

  • BHA

    I do wonder how many iPod assembly jobs are in China vs how much is automated. All I know is they are REAL fast when shipping (FedEx I think). I ordered one with personalized engraving (online through Apple) on Tuesday Dec 15th at about 2:30 PM (3:30 AM Wednesday in China), no special shipping, HOPING it would come by Christmas. It showed up THURSDAY afternoon – 2 days, from Shanghai! Stuff I order from the USA takes at LEAST 3 days.

    They must have a packaging line that plucks the proper machine out of a bin as soon as the order comes in, drops it on the ‘belt’, stops under the engraver if necessary, then packages it all up and shoots it into a big box for shipment. Not much in the way of people handling.

  • http://www.lit.org/author/fritzwilliam F.. William Bracy

    Wow! More Republican crap!

    These talking heads have their business degrees from “Ha’v’ad” and the rest, and have been indoctrinated in the conservative mindset throughout most of their lives.

    What about failing American education? Here is just one more aspect of the great void in thinking ability on the part of these money grubbers that doesn’t even enter into their thinking.

  • Wait one minute…

    I guess WBUR was trying to please its corporate sponsors today.

  • Larry

    I guess WBUR was trying to please its corporate sponsors today.
    Posted by Wait one minute

    Yeah, 11 and 1/2 programs for them. A half of one for the people.

  • Wait one minute…

    OK kids, what we learned today: if you are Irish and leaving home for work, you are an immigrant.

    if you are American, you are an export in the service economy.

    Makes perfect sense actually.

  • Todd

    “I feel like I am listening to a propaganda program where nothing I am hearing resembles the reality I see on the ground.”
    Posted by Wait one minute…

    @ Wait:
    Agreed! Your ears do not deceive you. Propaganda; what did you think the ‘P’ in NPR stood for? Just dig into the history of some of the organizations from which NPR gets the majority of its funding. Always follow the money!

  • Kami

    These comments and the person being interviewed in this article are spreading a lot of misinformation.

    My source: http://www.trade.gov/press/press_releases/2009/export-factsheet_031309.pdf


    1) Canada, not China or Asia, is our largest export market. Canada is our largest trading partner.
    2) “Capital goods” were our top exports for 2009. The top export categories for capital goods products in January 2009 were civilian aircraft ($3.8 billion), semiconductors ($2.6 billion), industrial machines ($2.3 billion), telecommunications equipment ($2.3 billion), and medicinal equipment ($2.2 billion).
    3) From the above figure, high tech silicon valley equipment is only a fraction of our exports. The person talking about an iPhone economy does not understand the US economy.
    4) Not everyone is smart enough to get an engineering job. We can not simply be a high tech country. The person being interviewed is delusional.
    5) Other top exports included fuel oil, petro products, chemicals, plastics, agriculture, and food. The person being interviewed did not mention any of this, but thinks everyone should get an engineering degree. The fact of the matter is that in the foreseable future a very large majority of the population will not be smart enough to simply go into tech jobs. We need manufacturing jobs. There will always be a large population who need “low inteligence” jobs. Not everyone wants to do math.
    6) Services were also a huge export includingg travel, liscencing, and government services. Some of these were higher than silicon valley exports.
    7) He should have discussed a tariff. That is how you protect local production. He should have talked about currency manipulatoin. That is how China and Japan become competitive with exports.
    8) After almost every question the host destroyed the person being interviewed. This guy is clueless and had to change his positions. He seems to have an infantile obsession with the high tech.

  • Larry

    Because “Americans are uniquely special.”, George the King Bush (said to a woman who said she had to work 3 jobs to make ends meet).

  • Rob Walty

    I live in CT and am an exeutive developing a large alternative energy project in KY. I’ve been in manufacturing and business development for over 40 years, and I’d like to de-bunk the idea that we can “tech” our way into the export business. Here’s three recent examples: 1) Custom software development, one of a kind for machine control, bid in US and China. China wins at 1/5 the cost and 1/2 the delivery time. 2) I ran a company that made assembly robots for auto and medical manufacturing to reduce labor, to make workers more productive. Which workers? The owners ship the robots over seas to make product sold to US because a forign worker can run a robot as well as a US worker. The capital spent in the US didn’t generate long term benifits for the US. 3) Biotech, when a new protien is developed by US R&D, its production is imediately shipped (by emailing the amino acid sequence) to Chinese mfgr. 4) Natural resources, foring intersts are now buying coal mines in the us so soon we will be deprived of our own energy sources. Each $1.00 spent to pay US wages generates $4.00 in our economy. Each $1.00 spent buying goods sends $1.00 away from American workers. We need a VAT on imports to level the playing field.

  • BHA

    “I think we can more than compete in a world that is tired and frustrated with junk.” (regarding quality)

    Unfortunately, people look only at price for ONE item, not the cost of buying multiple replacements over a period of time.

    Plus, we don’t have options in a lot of items – quality for more vs cheap replacement. We got a microwave as a wedding present 20 years ago, replaced it 5 years ago, replaced that one last year. There weren’t “cost more last longer” options, higher priced models were bigger with more features I didn’t need.

    My clothes dryer is 27 years old (no repairs) and still working, replaced the washer 3 years ago after 24 years of service and 2 reasonable cost repairs. My dishwasher is 22 years old (no repairs), the refrigerator 21 (replaced 1 gasket). My friend who sells large appliances says they are now expected to last 8 to 10 years. WHAT a waste of money AND resources. I would LOVE to have the option of paying more for better quality and longevity. I might be convinced to buy a new refrigerator (for energy saving reasons) but if it will cr@p out in 8 years, no thanks.

  • Steve T

    I’m sorry, no point made.

    To: F. William Bracy,

    We have enough farmland to feed 50% of the world. But we loose farmers and farms, every day! Our own FDA is making sure we can’t compete on our own soil.

  • Larry

    Rob, if you look to the future it is easy to see that shipping 7,000 miles will not win out. As oil becomes harder and harder to extract due to having already used up the easiest to get to sources and demand increases, the price is going to rise astronomically. We do not now, and will not have a replacement for oil in the foreseeable future.

    So if you plan to be in business 20 years from now, (maybe even sooner) you better not be depending on shipping half way around the world.

  • Wait one minute…

    And BHA,

    That same lowering of quality will occur when architects and engineers (presumably employed by firms based in the US) do “location shoots” in foreign countries. That infrastucture will be built according to standards of a Hollywood movie set. They’ll send us our antifreeze toothpaste and will design them crumbling tunnels and blame the locals “extras” for shoddy work, the inevitable consequence of not having to live with your creations.

  • twenty-niner

    Funny video describes the new American economy:


  • Janet

    HI, I am a Dutch woman who moved to this country three years ago. We had to buy lots of things new again when we came here (we are definitely not to blame for the recession in this country, on the contrary). We found out that the quality of American service is great, but the quality of American products is often a critical point. So I would say: whatever you do, whatever you want to export, make sure you do it good.
    Does anyone need ideas for the European market? Be innovative. Make what nobody else makes. We saw cookie ovens on solar energy in California. Never seen them before! Wooden furniture of New England companies: beautifully made and worth the export. Small Bose hifi-equipment: great sound and so handy for student dorms all around the globe. The I-Phone of course, but everyone knows about that. Specific local beers that my (Dutch) husband likes a lot. Holistic pet food.
    And what about exporting great radio shows like this one? In Holland, we do not have them so good!
    Bye, keep up the good work,

  • Wait one minute…

    Thanks Janet,

    The only problem is that most Americans cannot afford the American made high quality goods that you speak of because they work in the service sector for low wages. Thus, we buy imports from Walmart, Ikea etc. I think Budwieser is still made in America though.

  • Larry

    I think Budweiser is still made in America though.
    Posted by Wait

    But it’s foreign owned now.

  • Alex

    “We found out that the quality of American service is great,”

    Really? Well, maybe those who work for tips. But otherwise, look out. Have you had to deal with customer service of major companies yet? Automobile repair shops? doctor waiting rooms? “Sorry sir/mam there is nothing we can do” replies from airline clerks?

  • Wait one minute…

    so Budweiser is foreign owned… is that considered an export of an asset?

  • Natalie

    Let’s hope we export more of our government policies! Obama has a meeting with the head of all the big banks and basically pats them on the back and says good job. We bailed these guys out, now they’re paying themselves crazy money and making bad bets again, knowing that we will rescue them again. Some of these guys should be in jail, all should have been booted with no benefits. But no, Obama has taken a complete pass on these criminals. Maybe because he is completely beholden to them.

  • Gary

    One of our biggest exports is toilet paper. It is apt that we are experts at manufacturing this soft and very high quality product.

    If we could be paid for our Bulls*it, we would have a GNP of 40%.

  • Urs Boegli

    Efficiency, the result of the much lauded quality of the American professional actually augments the problem. The next state of the art factory will be run like, in the view of some, the airliner of the future: by one human pilot and a German Sheppard. The human monitors the instruments and the Sheppard bites her when she tries to touch anything.

  • twenty-niner

    Why build anything when we can just borrow and print money ad infinitum? It’s even easier now that the monetary system is mostly electronic – we don’t even have to spend money on ink and paper, just type a bunch of zeros on a keyboard. We just have to figure out how to calm all of these Chicken Littles constantly running around harping about excess debt:


  • wavre

    To be able to export more, What about joining ones and for all the Metric system,220 volt for electronics,Celsius degree instead of Fahrenheit,grams instead of pounds…

    It may not be enough, but it should definetly help.

  • twenty-niner

    “To be able to export more, What about joining ones and for all the Metric system,220 volt for electronics,Celsius degree instead of Fahrenheit,grams instead of pounds…”

    Easier said than done. You can design a machine or part in centimeters, but you’ll find that that vast majority of fittings, fasteners, o-rings, etc. are still manufactured in inches. This goes for tooling as well. Compare the number of reamers sized in inches vs. millimeters here:


    The availability and cost of ancillary parts drives machine design, and in turn, legacy and new machine designs drive what parts are produced.

  • Brett

    Good point, wavre! I remember almost forty years ago there was a bit of a push to get the US to convert to the metric system…then, it seemed there was no more mention of it. (Was it another example of US exceptionalism mentality? Or am I just being a commie pinko liberal?)

    It would be a good PR campaign, and if/when jobs producing goods would be created, it wouldn’t seem as though we are being protectionist…Oh, who am I kidding, it’s not like we’re going to start building factories in the US to make products for sale overseas or anything, or are even going to retool foreign factories of US companies for a mass conversion. Besides, I can almost hear garden-variety conservatives now squawking about having to convert everything in their homes, that it is some kind of “new-world-order” plot to align us with socialists and terrorists. You think all the Hitler/Stalin/Mussolini comparisons are bad now!!!

  • Alex

    “But no, Obama has taken a complete pass on these criminals. Maybe because he is completely beholden to them.”

    Which President was really tough on bankers? Andrew Jackson?

  • cory

    F William Bracy,

    I may not have stated my point very well because I think we actually agree.

    I would love to see a resurgance of labor unions around the world. I see no other way working people can expect to be treated with dignity and receive a fair share for their work. A CEO being paid a thousand times more than his line workers makes sense to no one but the CEO. We just have to realize the power in our numbers and rectify this imbalance. I think a return to unionization is quite likely, but not very soon. Things unbelievably aren’t bad enough yet.

    We can compete with the Chinese and Indians… If we are willing trample the average American down far enough.

  • wavre


    I came accross this article in the net, sorry for the lenght.

    America’s Aversion to the Metric System

    The anniversary went unnoticed, in this country anyways, but 2000 marked the 200th anniversary of the metric system, a system still not widely adopted by the United States. Ironically, the US was almost the second country to adopt the measuring system, now we are the last.

    The metric system was first invented in 1790 by the French Academy, as a result of the newly established French Assembly’s demand for a simpler system of measurement.

    About the time that France adopted the Metric System, sentiment in the US was pro France and anti Great Britain, it was about this same time when Noah Webster wrote his dictionary which changed American spellings away from British standards (“colour” became “color”, “theatre” became “theater”, etc.). The President at the time was Thomas Jefferson who not only was on good terms with the French government (hence the Louisiana Purchase), but was also an amateur scientist and mathematician. He no doubt understood the advantages of the metric system over the traditional British system. The US had the opportunity to adopt to the Metric system in the early 1800′s, but failed to do so. 200 years later and we are still behind the times.

    The official use of Metric measures along side traditional English measures was actually authorized by Congress in 1866, and the US was an original signatory party to the 1875 Treaty of the Meter. In 1959, the US set its own standards based on the metric system. A yard is officially 0.9144 meters exactly, and an inch is 2.54 centimeters exactly. Congress also passed a law in 1975 to work toward making the metric system the standard system in America. This was amended in 1988 when it was decided that the Government itself must be metric before it can start asking the private sector to follow suit. Since 1991, all government agencies must file an annual report on their efforts to go metric (sounds like more bureaucratic paperwork to me).

    Metrics in America

    The cost to the US for not being on the metric system is no doubt high. Just last year, a Martian probe was destroyed because some of its navigational data was in feet, and some was in meters. All exported goods have to be labeled in metrics or they do not sell. We are slowly getting our act together. Almost all packaged goods have both the standard and metric measures on their label. The can of Root Beer I am drinking is labeled 12 FL OZ (355 mL).

    In truth, the US is using the metric system extensively, just not totally. Doctors do all measures in metrics especially distributing medicine in cubic centimeters. Virtually all scientists in the US use metric measures exclusively. Track and field events have dropped yards and miles all together. I remember when running the mile in under four minutes was a big deal, now they do not run the mile anymore it is the 1600 meter event.

    All new car speedometers are in both KPH and MPH, and many recent cars have KPH as the dominant measure. Ironically, speed limit signs are almost exclusively MPH, even on highways where distances are measured in kilometers. Here in Arizona, Highway 19 from Tucson to Nogales is marked in Kilometers. I used to live along this highway, and drove 14 km to work everyday, it is not difficult to adjust if everything is marked that way, yet I was annoyed that the speed limit was posted as 65 instead of 105 KPH. There is not a single KPH sign on the entire 100km stretch of highway.

    In other respects, we have actually gone backwards. During the late 70′s early 80′s, there was a major effort to move metric. Weather forecasts would show both Fahrenheit and Celsius measures of temperature. Then broadcasters decided there were too many numbers being reported, people got overloaded, so they dropped all the Celsius numbers. I think the real reason was that it made the weather report shorter, thus giving more time for commercials.

    The Metrics killer: The Decimal Inch

    Manufacturing and some engineering disciplines have abandoned traditional measures as well, but not in favor of metrics. They have discovered an even better system of measure called the decimal inch. It has been discovered that the smallest distance of separation visible to the unaided eye is 0.01 inches, or 0.26 mm. What this means is that being accurate to within a hundredth of an inch is better than being within a millimeter. Four times better as a matter of fact. The only way metrics can be better is if rulers used half and quarter millimeters, but adding fractions defeats the whole purpose of decimal measurement. So now manufacturing and engineering have embraced the decimal inch, a standard inch divided into tenths and hundredths. This has set off a chain reaction, if manufacturing does not have to convert to metrics, why should we?

    Its not metrics people are afraid of, it is the conversion.

    I do not have to spend time writing why the metric system is superior to standard units. Anybody who has been schooled in both understands the advantages of metric units. Not only is metric measure easier, it is universally accepted everywhere, except in the United States.

    So why do we avoid it? It is not because we are afraid of using the metric system, it is because we are afraid of the whole conversion process. In other words, we are afraid of a lot of math that goes along with the converting. People are not going to convert recipes to metric measures as I pointed out above. Land division has been done in acres and square miles for centuries now, and because all of the property is divided this way it will not change anytime soon. Traditional measures will be with us forever in some form or another, which means converting back and forth will be with us forever.

    Converting to the metric system can only happen a little at a time, and one step at a time. I would start by dropping miles for kilometers on all US highways. Let’s use that KM/H dial on our car. If kilometers catch on, meters instead of yards, and centimeters instead of inches will follow (except where the decimal inch rules). Once distances are metric, we can start working on liquid measures. We already buy 2 liter bottles of soda, everything else is easy. Weight will be tough, people are used to pounds. Same goes for Celsius temperatures. Because temperature measurement is not tied closely with other metric measures, it will take at least another decade or two to get rid of Fahrenheit.

    Britain went to the Metric system officially in 1975, yet the old traditional measures are still a part of daily life in Britain today. I suspect that is how it will be in the US as well.

  • twenty-niner


    “The Metrics killer: The Decimal Inch

    Manufacturing and some engineering disciplines have abandoned traditional measures as well, but not in favor of metrics. They have discovered an even better system of measure called the decimal inch. It has been discovered that the smallest distance of separation visible to the unaided eye is 0.01 inches”

    As a practicing engineer, I can tell you this is absolutely true. Virtually all machining tolerances are specified in thousands of an inch (i.e +-.001). For instance, any good CNC machine should be able to hold a thousandth of an inch all day long. The metric equivalent would be +-25.4 microns (really +-25), something I’ve never seen or heard in my life.

    As far as conversion is concerned, any good engineer or machinist can convert between English and metric all day long, even the arcane slugs to kg conversion.

  • Gary

    You whippersnappers with this newfangled measurement! My horseless carriage gets 340 rods per hogshead, gosh darn it…and that’s the American way.

  • Bush’s fault

    Thanks Tom and staff for another well done segment. As usual the comments are dominated with the negativity of those whose education and career choices have left them unsuccessful and angry but ready to blame someone else.

  • Ron

    Every Tom Does one of these Shows, some expert comes on and tries to sell us the bull that we will be stronger by exporting our jobs. look at the import/export ration of third world countries. and try to justify that these countries are stronger because they import more. This guy never answered directly any of the questions.

  • jonah

    What a joke. These guys don’t even make an attempt to use sophisticated spin when they lie to us.

    First, of course this the same old “free” trade stuff being repackaged to claim that deregulation and eliminating the security net will bring prosperity to all. sure. How did that work out during the last 20 years.

    Your free marketer “guests” admit that their plan will require the severe reduction in public benefits; you know, like social security, health insurance, sick days, pensions for workers, public schools that actually teach working class and low income kids skills like math and reading.

    The lobbyist-guests claim that although most of the jobs will be shipped to China (prisons), high quality jobs will be created that require college degrees here in the US. However, we all know that the US ed system is horrible and getting worse. Kids graduate from urban high schools not knowing how to read, etc, let alone having the ability to go on to college. And, of course, fewer and fewer people can afford even public colleges. We all know that the few high qulaity jobs created by apple and other hi tech industries will mostly go to people from India and China who are receiving technical training and are willing to come here and work for 10 years for much lower wages than someone who is raising a family and intedning to retire in the US.

    Then, of course, there was the failure to address the evrionmental costs. The one spin dud(ette) claims that they only want a streamlined permiting process not a lessening of our “high” evironmental standards. In fact, it is the chamber of commerece and industry that is leading the fight against dealing with global warming and that is not even to mention the chemicals being leaked inot the soil, water supplies and the air as a result of these high tech products. There is an epidemic of childhood asthma, more and more people cannot access safe water, not to mention that those minerals are being mined child slave labor under the thumb of warlords in third world countries.

    Your guests must have forgotten to mention most these stuff.

    If you are going to have guests that are really spin artists in the pay of industry couldn’t you at least find one guest who might present a differen point of view?

    Oh, and by the way; the economic bubbles weren’t caused by people buying more house than they could afford although many people did so. The economicbubble was cause by investment companies selling the lie that their investment “products” were safe and good for people looking to invest their hard earned wages. Meanwhile the investment companies walked away with billions while working people lost hteir pensions, their savings and their health insurance.

    Oh, oh!!! don;t forget to demand that we send money to NPR to support your forum for lobbyists.

  • Nate

    Ask Congress to publish a list of products and parts made in the U.S.A.and their manufacturers. A list may cheer our economic mood.The U.S.A. is making a hugh number of parts and products that do not appear on shelves.These products and parts are specialized or embedded.
    The list would make us more cheerfully realistic about the condition of manufacturing in the U.S.A..

  • david

    Money follows the cheapest labor. As America moves more towards high-tech jobs the problem now arises, where will America get the skilled people to fill these jobs. My state, the 2009 high school graduating class, only 16% passed the college entrance exam. This means 84% of them may not go to college. What jobs will be available for them. Then we have amnesty coming for the 22,700,000 illegals, who mostly are low-skilled and poorly educated, where will they fit in. I fear after the government gets through with taxing everyone to death, America will finally join the world as another 3rd world country. America is filling up with those with hands held out and a government that demonizes the very ones whose investments fuel job creation.
    When all is said and done, it takes big money to create good jobs, and complaining people to run them off.

  • Terry

    Greetings, Tom and OP Staff,

    As a Past-President of the Tenn. Inventors’ Assoc., I’ve seen enough potential products to know that the U.S. CAN suceed! Several obstacles to sucess will have to be overcome, to achieve that sucess;
    Companies and Corporations that reward executives, with the pay and benefits of the production workers, for bankrupting their company, will have to be punished in a way that will stop this destructive practice.
    Deceptive,or plainly fraudulent advertizing and product marking will have to be punished, not allowed to change company name.
    Companies that move from U.S., should be registered as a foreign company, and ALL government contracts with them subjected to public review.
    Large corporations should not be awarded funds and help from the Import-Export Bank, that was meant to help small companies to achieve international trade.
    Product safety regulations need to be enforced against imports, even more stringently than they are against domestic companies.
    Corporate and company executives, and officers should be jailed (in REAL jails) like any citizen that commits a similiar crime, since corporations are citizens.
    Some of the suggestions of the other responders will help, too.
    There’s more, but I’ll end now for the sake of brevity.
    Thanks for usually presenting two nearly equal, opposing guests, unlike some very biased shows that claim to be fair and balanced.

    Sincerely, Terry

  • http://tombstone001.blogspot.com MOHAMMED N. RAZAVI

    consumers here and consumers there

    the great American consumer economy was based on
    1/ federal deficits, borrowing and spending
    2/ leveraging lil money in to huge sums
    3/ hyper inflated housing prices and borrowing against the rise in their value
    4/ US must control the deficits in a real short order or face an economic failure, taking the country down with it,

    The Chinese economy could only boom when the Americans were able to spend wildly
    If we stop spending the Chinese markets will fall, they don’t create money out of thin air like we were doing, O.K. not as much,
    as the wind is taken out of the bubble there is no recovery possible, only a very few elite around the world will be able to buy American goods thus no export based recovery

    world wide depression is a clear possibility

  • http://www.metricationmatters.com Pat Naughtin

    Dear All,

    Three references might be useful to this discussion:

    Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and George Washington and the decimal metric system

    Decimal inches, feet, and yards

    Cost of non-metrication in the USA


    Pat Naughtin
    Geelong, Australia

  • http://www.teamcarbon.com Evan Smith

    Greetings to all — thanks for the interesting comments.

    Regarding all above longing for a U. S. “export solution” involving “Green” technology, sustainable energy–and a retreat from a fossil-fuel based economy–you might find some of the slides from this presentation of interest:
    http://www.slideshare.net/charlesevan/0-ncse-presentation-v1-2-smith-overview (see slide 11).

    Specifically: currently, China is investing $220B/ year to build new “Green technologies”—to the U. S.’s $110B. Any NY Times readers of the last few months will have read several Tom Friedman essays discussing and bemoaning this fact. China’s workforce—even the scientists. PhD’s and product developers–are working for less $ than ours; so the “leverage” that China’s Green-business investment realizes is multiplied. U. S. quality of innovation and the resulting products might be higher; but are unlikely to be multiples higher.

    Our tentative steps during this economic recession—and our unwillingness and snail’s-pace-tendencies to invest in at-hand energy savings available today—don’t bode well for the U. S. economy. China is already leading this race – dramatically – and shows no signs of relinquishing the lead.

  • Janet

    The current system of “free trade” is not working. We should go to a balanced trade system. If you import something you have to export something of equal or higher value.

  • http://www.onpointradio.org/2010/04/american-exporting-the-solution/comment-page-2#comment-50826 eric

    It is rather surprising that no contributer mentions the vital subject of climate change? This should be the number one topic because as somebody put it so aptly, the world economy is a wholly owned subsidiary of the environment. Without sound ecological practices all our efforts will come to nought. Now a short summary why we find ourselves in the ecological mess we are.
    Capitalism’s profligacy must lead to doom if we persist in its frightfully simple and stupid Nirvana of forever BIGGER AND MORE. In other words economic “rationalism” is not sustainable in a world of finite resources and exponentially growing population.

  • Douglas R

    And realize, how great a covert economic weapon that Windoze-Orifice Combo is going to continue to be as a US export. When we are again stopped in the progression of work necessary to contribute to an advancing American Economy, and realize that 6-10% of our working day gets flushed as a direct by product of The Combo (sound familiar?). When we stop to realize that the information representation for America’s greatest competetitive society takes place with a different writing method altogether (logographic vs. alphabetic) then, I can’t help but chuckle, knowing that a logographic centric Flush Ratio has to be more then double that as is demanded when using the alphabet of the Combos creation ! Think about it. So many people, so much High Tech wasted time! ;^)

    And let’s not be so naive, thinking that The Combo is limited to wasting our our fellow human colleages time; no, no, lets be sure to recognize that true Genuine American Advantage can be maintained via all those CPU cycles, that probably wouln’t be doing any way!!! It works so well in the USA! Let’s compete as we move forward. It’ll have to High Tech, but Windoze? Orifice? Please .. . . .

    Shear brilliance really. Get a crowd in the targeted market to ‘pry the product open’, and begin to get it distributed. Then, apply pressure to effect an succefull Screw Turn. Waste the time of ALL involved, and make everyone involved PAY DEARLY, for so much time wasted!

  • http://FlusterCucked.blogspot.com Frank the Underemployed Professional

    This notion that we are going to solve our nation’s economic problems by exporting goods and services is just feel-good happy talk.

    We’re in this mess because we cannot produce goods and services in a way that is price competitive with goods and services produced in India, China, and Mexico! How the hell are we supposed to compete with fifty-cents an hour labor (Global Labor Arbitrage) and businesses that don’t have to worry about onerous environmental regulations (Pollution Arbitrage) and other regulations (Labor Arbitrage)?

    It’s not going to happen. Even if we adopted a VAT system like what Europe has, we still couldn’t export our way out of this without adopting a third world standard of living and quality of life.

    As much as our politicians and intellectuals do not want to admit, the only solution to our nation’s economic problems are trade protectionism, and end to the H-1B and L-1 visa programs, an end to illegal immigration, and a dramatic reduction in legal immigration.

    Frank the Underemployed Professional

  • http://None Michael Pazyne

    Germany has high labor cost as does the US but export more, Germany has a trade surplus. The difference is you cannot make stuff in inches with inch bolts, etc. and hope to sell it elsewhere on the planet. The United States will have to convert, it’s costing us a fortune not to. People can talk about metric inches but inches and feet are not the same unit, millimeters, centimeters, meters, kilometers, they are all meters and anyone looking at one can see immediately what it is with another symbol attached, example 29,567,000 mm is 29,567 meters or 29 km, I don’t need a calculator. This is what makes the metric system easy, it’s coherance.
    Even instructions are a joke when something is sold in the US by a US manufacturer with metric dimensions. It’s no wonder we cannot sell anything to anyone else. example drill a 5.91 mm hole?? Give me a break, they don’t even make drill bits that size. or how about a 0.591 cm hole?

    This is the problem, we use an arcane ex Roman system of measurement that’s not coherent.

  • Rob L

    Free trade as it’s practiced in the U.S. is a load of baloney. Trade should mean just that – we send you stuff, you send us stuff. When China sends us five times as much stuff as we send them, year after year, it’s not trade, it’s the rape and pillage of the American system.

  • http://www.onpointradio.org/2010/04/american-exporting-the-solution/comment-page-2#comment-50838 napoleon

    When China sends us five times as much stuff as we send them, year after year, it’s not trade, it’s the rape and pillage of the American system.

    Posted by Rob L, on April 8th, 2010 at 4:33 PM

    Get real, nobody forces Americans to buy Chinese products, they do it voluntarily. On the other hand most Chinese can’t afford your your goods and probably would not buy inch based items like the rest of the world.

  • Brett

    Thanks, napoleon, for making that point; which, the original point was a bit absurd…I guess with that way of thinking, whatever goods we sell to Latvia we have to buy in equal proportion from them? Or what about when the Czech Republic was Czechoslovakia and sold those cars called Yugos? Should we have bought as many of those as we sold them our cars?

  • gina

    nobody forces Americans to buy Chinese products

    For many products (or classes of products), there really isn’t any choice in the American marketplace, below the ultra-luxury price range. As somebody said earlier (or maybe it was on the greener footprint thread), the more-expensive-more-durable option doesn’t exist; we’re stuck with buy-cheap-replace-often. Refrigerators are one example; replacing an old workhorse a few years ago, I was dismayed to find that all the connector parts (ie, supports for sliding drawers) that were made out of metal on the old model were now all plastic. Sure enough, a couple years later I had to paid through the nose for fiddly replacement parts, and expect I will have to do so again.

  • http://us-immigration-reform.org/ Immigrant kid

    It fits our needs perfectly the advantage of immigration reform on the country: Greater supply of unskilled workers, a younger workforce, and skilled workers in needed sectors. But there is also a disadvantage of immigration reform like Greater poverty, more educational cost, lower unskilled wage levels, and increased danger of terrorism. Thanks to the post!

  • sandcanyongal

    Tehachapi, CA here. There are anemometers placed on the floor on the nearby floodplain and around our agricultural properties in Sand Canyon. I see and hear hundreds of turbine blades whining nightly. They are not only noisy: 100 foot wide roads are cut into the virgin forests along the ridges of the Tehachapi Mountains; deforestation and major grading to construct the pads to hold the towers; absolute and complete devastation of birds of prey like owls, raptors like turkey vultures, the federally protected California condors (est. 186 birds in the wild), federally protected Mojave Desert tortoises and every habitat in those forests. It’s frequently foggy and migrating birds can’t see through fog either. Kern County has approved 275 sq miles of development in eastern Kern where wildlands are already stressed severely by drought. It is no longer tolerable and needs to be stopped by any means. It is a land and natural resource grab similar to the ones taking place globally. Late November and the weather is still like early fall. Leaves still on the trees…accelerating climate change is obvious. Job loss continues. 1 in 104 homes are foreclosing in and around Tehachapi. Whatever non violent or lethal means of taking this country back is acceptable to me. I love my country and the people. The politicians and vendors have gone too far to continue to allow them to continue and I no longer fear retribution from anyone for standing up for the growing threat to my survival through privatization of water, loss of the local dairies, farms, ranches and stores carried local meat, eggs, milks, fruits and vegetables and cheese. Instead, the produce rots in 24 hours. Heck. It’s been kept artificially fresh on it’s 10 day trip on a boat from South America. I will not wait until hunger is at my doorstep to act. Food, water and shelter, the 3 essentials to survival are at risk for every American today. We can’t eat stucco and asphalt.
    - Silence is Consent

  • sandcanyongal

    Figuring out how to recycle and reuse 99% of post consumer products is the way out of our mess. Significantly lower energy, emissions, mining and drilling required. Huge local economies. Thank you for listening.

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