Does the “Buy American” Campaign Really Help the Economy?

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Christmas shopping is in full swing, but this year, the recession is making some people think a little differently about how they spend their money.

Does it make a difference where that perfect gift came from? Does your dollar have more impact if you “Buy American?”

“Stuff” is a store in Brookside focusing on local and regional artists and American made products. Co-owner Casey Simmons says shopping at her store versus a big box or online has a domino effect that helps the local economy.

“The money goes back to an artists, it pays for their mortgage and their children’s education and groceries at a store that employees another local person and so on and so on,” says Simmons.

Customer Brenda Clevenger loves to shop at stuff but she also likes the idea that her dollars make more of an impact here.

“It makes you feel good spending because you’re pinching pennies but if you know you’re helping Kansas City it makes you feel a little better and wiser,” says Clevenger.

A 2004 study found that for every 100 dollars spent at local stores 68 dollars impacted the local economy. That’s compared to 100 dollars spent at a big box store, only 43 dollars stayed local.

However, UMKC Economics Professor Bill Black points out that this is a global economy.

“If you stopped buying everything not made in the United States, the primary victims would be poorer people throughout the world,” Black says.

Black adds that international trade is an important part of our local economy, for example, the Midwest exports a lot of meat and corn.

“You can’t have it both ways,” he says, “you can’t have a campaign that says we won’t buy anything from the rest of the world and they have to buy all our stuff, that won’t work.”

The “Buy American” movement has sparked a blog and a “Buy American Challenge” asking people to buy only American-made products for 30 days.

The blog argues that the efforts could help save jobs. However, Black says with 10 million jobs lost in the recession, it’s going to take more than “buying American” to help the recovery

But Simmons says buying local and American is important to her for more than just economic reasons.

“I want a world with great culture and arts and diversity,” she says, “and I think that’s what we secure when we choose to support American made and local made.”

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