An online journal of politics, policy, and society with a special focus on Maryland -- Contact: on_background at yahoo.com.

Friday, August 29, 2003

Buying American

I really wanted to buy an American car.

I’ve always had American cars and have been generally satisfied. More importantly, I support the union movement here for protecting and advancing the rights of workers, and I wanted to buy an American product that would help our economy and working people. I understood that no matter what kind of car we were talking about, there were American-made components and imported, and that the management had little to do with the origin of the name of the company, but I wanted to do my part.

After all, as citizenworks.org says: “This Labor Day, 9.4 million Americans are out of work and 30 million Americans - one in four U.S. workers - earn $8.70 an hour or less, which works out to be $18,100 a year, the current official U.S. poverty level for a family of four. Meanwhile, CEO pay rose again in 2002, up to a median of $3.9 million per year, or a whopping 282 times the salary of the average company employee. Clearly, something is wrong with this picture, and on Labor Day it is worth re-dedicating ourselves to the fight for workers rights and economic justice.”

I decided to buy this car a bit more scientifically than I had previously, so I checked out a couple of books at the local library, bought Consumer Reports’ New Car and Used Car buying guides, and made more trips to car-related web sites and dealerships than I had in my life. I knew that I needed either a mid-sized sedan or a wagon, and thought that would open me up to myriad possibilities and difficult choices. I was wrong.

Unless you are looking for flash and dash, size or style, the critics agree that Japanese is best. The reviews in Consumer Reports are particularly illuminating, in reliability, resale value, ease of driving, and other categories, Honda and Toyota consistently outperform the competition, and are competitive in most other categories. The reason this is coming up in a log that is generally about politics and policy is that, for this writer, the shift to a Japanese car, coming on the heals of a shift to Japanese stereo equipment and other electronics years ago, is because of what it says about the global marketplace.

Ayn Rand argued that it was a virtue to favor quality in all things. Beyond buying the best car regardless of who made it or is selling it, the argument is made to extend to most goods and services, as well as to human relationships. I’m not going to argue for this perspective, just thought you should know.

In politics this week, the New York Times asserted that retired Gen. Wesley Clark was itching to run for president (and a draft organizer, Jason McIntosh, said that support was widespread) and the LA Times ran a front page article on Minnesota politics after Jesse Ventura (the young Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty seems to be getting good reviews). If you’ve got a second, check out the caricatures on http://www.weeklystandard.com/