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How to 'Buy American'
Orlando author publishes guide to
products made in U.S.A.

By Wayne T. Price
Florida Today

December 26, 2002

Roger Simmermaker said the idea of buying only American hit him out of the blue one day several years ago while shopping.

The 38-year-old electronics technician at Lockheed Martin's Cape Canaveral operation found it nearly impossible to find American-made products. It led him to pen a book, "How Americans Can Buy American," which lists American-made products as a guide for consumers.

With nearly shoulder-length hair and a soft-spoken demeanor, Simmermaker doesn't necessarily look the part of someone who has a testimonial by hard-line conservative Pat Buchanan on his book jacket.

He seems to enjoy the dichotomy.

"Though I'd describe myself as more conservative-leaning, I also belong to two unions, and so I see the liberal point of view pretty clearly, too," said Simmermaker, who lives in Orlando with his wife and two children.

"The thing about buying American -- a great thing -- is that it's truly nonpartisan. We all stand to benefit from buying American."

Florida Today interviewed Simmermaker on his book, "How Americans Can Buy American -- The Power of Consumer Patriotism," published by the Orlando-based Rivercross Publishing Inc. Here are excerpts from that interview:

What are the major differences between the first and second editions of "How Americans Can Buy American"?

There are two main differences between the first edition (1996) and the second edition, which was printed this past October. The first had about 7,500 listings of products and services, but the new book has over 16,000, including a special section of 1,000 American-Made/Union-Made products.

Roger Simmermaker got the idea of compiling American-based companies and American-made products after finding it was difficult to 'buy American' without a guide. He said, 'So often we're being tricked into thinking we're buying American when... we're not."

The second main difference is that there are now what I call "traditional-text" chapters that discuss the current issues of free trade, foreign investment, the "New Economy" and how they relate to Buying American.

Why is the issue of buying U.S. made-products still important. in your view?

Buying U.S.-made, or Made in USA, will always be important to the prosperity of our country and ourselves.

But what's of equal, if not greater, importance to me, is taking that concept and going one step further with it. By that I mean, yes, do buy "Made in USA" but also buy from American-owned companies.

Why is this important? Because the taxes American workers and American-owned companies pay into our country go towards funding Social Security, our military, education, health care, the NASA space program and national defense.

And, simply put, American-owned companies pay a whole lot more taxes than foreign-owned companies do . . . three times as many, to be exact.

On a more-personal note, I work for Lockheed Martin on a U.S. Navy contract, and so my wages are funded by tax dollars. Buying from American-owned companies, (such as Lockheed) helps support other defense-industry contracts because of the above-stated fact that American-owned companies pay three times as many taxes than foreign companies.

This applies not just to tax money going towards our national defense, but also towards teachers' salaries, firefighters, policeman, librarians and any other government employee whose wages are paid by tax dollars.

To me, it comes down to respect for your own paycheck.

What's the most-common reaction you get from your book?

It would have to be: "But I already buy Made in USA."

And so the majority of people I meet don't really understand why the book is important. I explain that "Made in USA" is only part of the overall big picture and that buying American is the other (big) part.

People really feel empowered when they realize they can do more for their own prosperity and their country's prosperity and do it without spending an extra dime.

We have more power than we ever imagined to steer the global economy in a direction that really benefits America, and ultimately ourselves.

I try to explain it this way: We don't just vote (in November). We vote every day -- with our wallets, checkbooks and credit cards.

How much additional effort does it take to ensure you're buying American? A little? A lot?

Definitely "only a little." Buying American can usually be done at little or no inconvenience to the consumer and at little or no extra cost, too.

If we think about where we shop most often . . . like the supermarket, it's really very easy.

Almost all the products there are made, canned, processed, etc. in the USA. The only difference is who owns the company.

And, as I mentioned, this determines where the profits and the taxes on those profits go (or stay).

Since we want the profits to be paid to American companies who pay three times as much in taxes to America than foreign ones do, we definitely want to know who owns what.

And then it's truly as easy as buying Swiss Miss instead of Carnation; Hershey's instead of Nestle Crunch; or Clorox instead of Lysol.

Why would an American not do this, knowing they'd be tripling the amount going to fund our schools, libraries, military personnel, national defense and so on?

The book is organized into chapters such as Retail Stores, Electronics, Home and Office Products, Food Products and the like. It's easy to use and easy to see if you're actually buying American when you're buying.

What are the most-popular American-made products? Harley-Davidson, for example?

Yes, Harley-Davidson is probably the most popular. Not only is the company American-owned and all of their motorcycles American-made; the domestic-parts content is very high at 95 percent.

Cooper Tire is one of my favorite American-owned companies. Almost all the tires Cooper makes to sell to the U.S. market are made in America, and they export from here to over 100 countries as well.

Hershey is a real American-owned hero company, to me. They rejected a huge takeover bid from foreign-owned Nestle (Swiss).

What was their reason for the rejection? Hershey's believed that a change of ownership to Nestle would have had an adverse effect on the community. I think that's just an amazing example of modern-day patriotism in action.

There's a mention in your book about how labels can be deceiving. For example, Swiss Miss is an American company, while Carnation is based in Switzerland. What's the easiest way for consumers to find this out?

It's tricky because labels will only list where a product is made, but not where the company is based. And most foreign-owned companies will usually list the address of their U.S. subsidiaries.

Looking at the label will therefore not tell you that Carnation, Nestle, Lysol, 7UP, Maybelline and Ragu are all foreign brands. And since Chef America was recently bought by Swiss-owned Nestle, it's obvious we can't go by the company name, either.

So often we're being tricked into thinking we're buying American, when, actually, we're not.

The easiest way for consumers to find this out is to pick up their own copy of "How American Can Buy American." The book is literally the only current and comprehensive book on the subject.

Do you and your family buy strictly American-made products? What kind of car do you drive and where do you buy your gas? Would it be cheaper to buy your gas elsewhere or drive a foreign-made vehicle?

Yes, we try whenever possible to buy American-made.

Unfortunately, it's virtually impossible to buy strictly American-made products. But I really think we shouldn't get hung up on the areas where we can't buy American-made products and concentrate on the areas where we can.

For instance, I drive a 1996 Lincoln Town Car, which was union-made in Michigan. My wife drives a 1998 Mercury Mountaineer, which was union-made in Louisville, Ky.

I buy my gas at strictly American-owned company stations. So this means I never stop at and/or fill up at 7-Eleven with the Citgo gasoline they sell. 7-Eleven is based in Japan and Citgo is based in Venezuela.

The truth is, gas prices are about the same, regardless of company ownership, and foreign-made vehicles don't mean they cost less than American-made ones.

Remember in the late '90s, when Nissan moved production of their Sentra model from Kentucky to Mexico? Did the price of the car drop to reflect the lower wage rates in Mexico? No.

In fact, sometimes, American cars are actually cheaper than similar foreign models. The Ford Taurus, which has a 95 percent domestic-parts content, costs less than the Toyota Camry, which only has a 55 percent domestic-parts content. So here are two cars made in USA, but the American one is cheaper and supports more American jobs to boot.

What is your position on so-called "free-trade" issues?

I'm very wary of it, because free trade encourages consumption at the expense of production, and production is the only way to truly create wealth for Americans.

American consumers can only be as affluent as they are wage-earners and producers.

Free trade encourages interdependence, instead of independence. Our Founding Fathers saw this as a problem very early on, and so they used protective tariffs. And we prospered from George Washington's administration right on through to Teddy Roosevelt's.

Buying American is rooted and grounded in such traditional American values as self-sufficiency and self-reliance.

Aren't those the same things we try to teach our kids? And that they should not depend on others for what they can do for themselves?

Those are also the core principles behind buying American. As it is for the American family, so should it be for the American nation.

In the first three months after Sept. 11, we imported no less than 100 million American flags. Poor Betsy Ross: If she were alive today, she'd be first in the unemployment line and thousands more like her would be standing right behind her.

What is your prediction for the future? Will it be harder to buy American in the next five to 10 years, or easier?

Until we realize that American companies support more Americans than comparable foreign companies do, America's financial situation will continue to deteriorate, as imports continue to make up a larger share of our consumer choices.

However, if we make a bigger effort to buy American, we are helping our own American companies become more profitable, and so we stand a good chance of convincing them to produce in America.

It comes down to knowing that American companies are the home team and we have to come out and support them because they support us.

That's the message I'm trying to get out to everyone. Support the home team. Buy American.

How Americans Can Buy American
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Email the Author: Roger Simmermaker

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