Senate Democrats Introduce Legislation to Make Olympic Uniforms in America

Helen Whalen Cohen

7/15/2012 7:21:00 PM - Helen Whalen Cohen

Recently, Senate Democrats caused a stir when they expressed outrage over the Ralph Lauren Team USA uniforms being made in China. My colleague Erika Johnsen at HotAir.com reported that Harry Reid said we should "burn" the outfits because they weren't made in this country. Now the Chicago Tribune reports that six Senate Democrats will introduce the Team USA Made in America Act of 2012 next week.

With U.S. unemployment hovering just above 8 percent, politicians have spoken out against the uniforms for the London Games, which start later this month, and six Democratic senators said they plan to introduce legislation requiring the ceremonial uniforms be produced in the United States.

 

"At a time when too many Americans are looking for work and our manufacturers are closing factories, we need to do everything we can to keep jobs in America and not give the work of producing our iconic American uniforms for our Olympians to China," Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey said in a statement announcing the measure.

The senators said they will introduce the "Team USA Made In America Act of 2012" next week.

"I call on the USOC (U.S. Olympic Committee) to do the right thing for this summer's team, and I call on my colleagues to help pass this bill to ensure we don't find ourselves in this appalling, embarrassing situation before the opening of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics," Menendez said.

Oh please. This fake populism warrants so much criticism that I'm not sure where to begin.

Currently, 2 percent of clothing is made in America. I imagine that most everything these members of Congress wear wasn't made in America. And that's a good thing. Counterintuitive as it may sound, we become wealthier from buying particular items abroad.

It's called comparative advantage. If someone spends time building something when they could buy it for less, they are making themselves poorer. I don't know too many writers who make their own pens or computers. If they did, they would have no time to hone their skill, and no products to offer to anyone else. This principle applies on an international level as well. Countries that are able to offer more advanced products that require a higher level of skill make themselves better off by concentrating effort on those products, not wasting time on things that could be done by someone else. The more time they spend making products that are cheaper to buy, the less time they spend making themselves wealthier by producing whatever it is that they are best at producing. It doesn't make sense to make more clothing here, but as the article linked above points out, we do design advanced clothing products (like waterproof jackets).

America has been consistently importing cheap products and designing more advanced ones, and I don't see our GDP shrinking. As a matter of fact, the only dip we've had came during the worst years of the recession. Poor countries design t-shirts. Given the opportunity, I would like to ask Harry Reid why he thinks we should be more like Honduras or Vietnam.

But even if you don't buy that, it's hard to stomach the faux outrage over Olympic outfits given how many imports we subsidize through things like the Export-Import Bank.

I can't imagine that the members of Congress who sponsored this legislation are losing sleep over the handful of jobs that would have resulted from making Team USA's outfits in America. I suspect it has a lot more to do with making a row to distract from their policies that caused the unemployment rate to get so high in the first place.