Well, black friday is a mere ten days away. The holiday spending frenzy is nearly upon us. Americans spent more than $675 per person last year on gifts for family, friends and probably a few for themselves. Clothes, shoes, electronics, and yes, a few labrador puppy dogs. Sadly, probably the overwhelming majority of those goods were not produced on these shores by members of our extended American family. How many of those myriad of North Face coats and sweaters do you think are made in this country? Not many I would guess. How about Eddie Bauer from my home town of Seattle. They do sell a few U.S. made products such as the Vintage® Lace-Up Chukkas but the overwhelming majority of their products are imported. How about Columbia? Most of the stuff I looked at on their website was imported as well. What is an American fella to do?
The U.S. Census Bureau is the Federal Agency that tracks imports and exports into and out of this country. Most of the numbers on trade that the Census Bureau tracks are in red. Want to know the last year the U.S. exported more goods than we imported? 1975. Want to know what our trade deficit in manufactured goods was last year? Almost $600 billion dollars. We ran a $200 billion dollar trade deficit in computers, televisions and other electronic products. A $72 billion dollar trade deficit in apparel. A $37 billion dollar trade deficit for electrical equipment, appliances and components. A $28 billion dollar trade deficits for leather and allied products. And a $21 billion dollar trade deficit for furniture. That is not good.
Not surprisingly, our largest trade deficit was with, wait for it, Christmas Island. No sorry, it’s the country above Christmas Island on the Census Bureau’s Exhibit 6, Exports, Imports and Trade Balance by Country and Area, Not Seasonally Adjusted 2010. That would be China. We ran a $273 billion dollar trade deficit with China last year. Rounding out the top five of our trade deficit partners was Mexico at #2 ($66 billion), the Germans at #3($34 billion), Oh Canada at #4 ($27 billion) and Ireland at #5 ($26 billion). The Irish at #5? What, other than Guinness, Harp, assorted Irish whiskeys and Pogues CDs could possibly be worth buying from the Irish? Saints preserve us!
We can turn this trade deficit around, you and I. But first, we need to know how we personally are contributing to it. So the exercise is to chart your own personal trade deficit during the upcoming holiday spending season. When shopping, look at the labels on the clothes, shoes, pots and pans and furniture you are considering buying. Flat panel TVs are right out. Who needs a 60 inch TV anyway? If you want to reduce your own personal trade deficit, consider purchasing classic shoes from Allen Edmonds , whimsical socks from Wigwam Mills, knitting bags (always a favorite of Grandma Boo) from Tom Bihn, cool polos from Loggerhead Apparel or stylish women’s clothing by Karen Kane. Or a million other great gifts made by your family, friends and neighbors in this country. We have the ability to put members of our extended American back to work by buying the products they make for us. I dare you to cut your personal trade deficit this year. I know you can do it!