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Federal government spends $1.5 billion on foreign-made products

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In 2012 the American public objected after learning that U.S. Olympic team uniforms -- from hats to shoes and all worn in between -- were made in China. For athletes who represented the country to wear clothing made in another country was, well, un-American.

A new report by New York Times' Ian Urbina, though, finds even more unpatriotic purchases: the U.S. government spends $1.5 billion annually on items made overseas.

Uniforms for federal firefighters and law enforcement, souvenir clothing sold by the Smithsonian and others items carrying military logos, and even uniforms worn by particular military units are made at factories in Southeast Asia, Central America, and the Caribbean.

And even though some laws and policies still exist to deter such outsourcing, it seems that few in charge of the relevant purchasing departments know much about it, and don't seem to care, either.

According to the article:

"Federal agencies rarely know what factories make their clothes, much less require audits of them, according to interviews with procurement officials and industry experts. The agencies, they added, exert less oversight of foreign suppliers than many retailers do."

And not only do these U.S. government offices not care if their goods are made outside the U.S., but they also don't seem to care about the unfair -- even dangerous -- conditions in which those products are made.

"(T)here is no law prohibiting the federal government from buying clothes produced overseas under unsafe or abusive conditions."

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Attempts to at least ensure that the products purchased are safely made have been fruitless, too, and due to apparent profit-oriented selfishness.

"Labor and State Department officials have encouraged retailers to participate in strengthening rules on factory conditions in Bangladesh -- home to one of the largest and most dangerous garment industries. But defense officials this month helped kill a legislative measure that would have required military stores, which last year made more than $485 million in profit, to comply with such rules because they said the $500,000 annual cost was too expensive."

That the Dept. of Defense insists on overlooking life-protecting safety to preserve only one percent in profit doesn't uphold its stated mission of security and protection, it seems.

Foreign facilities aren't unsafe to their workers alone, though. They're dangerous for Americans, with high rates of product recall due to safety violations.

Perhaps worse, they're also a danger to the U.S. economy.  Losing over 2 million jobs during the 2007-2009 recession, unemployment in manufacturing remained as high as 13 percent through early 2010, months after the recession was declared over, and is still at a 6.2 percent level in the last-reported period of November 2013.

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The 6.8 percent difference isn't complete regain, either. Many of those jobs were eliminated, and the workers had to find employment in other industries.

Continuing economic damage to the U.S., those new jobs are paying workers less than they previously earned. While unemployment has notably declined, today's wages are 6.1 percent less than national average income before the 2007-2009 recession began.

Manufacturing was once the dominant industry in the U.S., employing 19.5 million in 1979. Since then, over a third of those jobs have been lost to overseas facilities, though; only 12 million Americans currently work in this industry.

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A progressive political insider (and meddler) in the red state of South Carolina, Rob Groce operates his own blog, ROBservations (

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... by Rob Groce on Tuesday, Dec 31, 2013 at 9:27:18 AM
It is - they're cutting unemployment benefits for ... by Dennis Kaiser on Tuesday, Dec 31, 2013 at 2:41:52 PM
I very much agree - ... by Rob Groce on Tuesday, Dec 31, 2013 at 3:58:32 PM
Also, let us not forget NAFTA was a thorn in our e... by Dennis Kaiser on Tuesday, Dec 31, 2013 at 2:53:25 PM