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Against all odds, the American Made Chic tour hits the road first thing tomorrow morning.

I say against all odds because the lead up to this bus tour has been Murphy’s Law at its finest – that’s the law that states anything that can go wrong will.  For the AMC Tour, seemingly anything that could possibly have gone wrong has.

Just weeks from departure, what seemed like a plan that was being perfectly executed began to unravel.

The biggest obstacle to overcome was acquiring a vehicle.  Originally, the Chic Tour ladies were told that a vehicle would be donated to the project, but just weeks from departure it became clear that the bus they were anticipating would not be pulling up to take them to Kentucky and beyond.

What a setback! The vehicle was a key component of their promotional strategy.  They absolutely needed a bus or a very large Winnebago on which to display the logos of their sponsors.  The bus tour was the whole idea – no bus, no tour.

So, not having planned or budgeted for the purchase of a vehicle, the ladies hit the market for used Winnebago; one they could transform into a traveling advertisement for all things made in USA.

After hours and hours of fruitless searching, which spanned hundreds of miles up and down Florida’s Atlantic and Gulf Coasts, Julie Reiser, the lead on this project, considered folding up the tent.  The show simply could not go on without a vehicle, and they didn’t have one.

But instead of allowing this setback to shoot down this dream that was three years in the making, Julie stiffened her upper lip and decided that failure was not an option. 

Her relentless search for wheels continued.  That’s when she found a 1997, Coachmen Mirada RV being housed in Miami, Florida that was for sale.  This vehicle had some quirks, but it would fit their purpose, and best of all, the price was right. Julie shot down to Miami and came back with the land-yacht that will ultimately serve as the epicenter of the American Made Chic Tour this summer.

The trials and tribulations didn’t stop there. Sponsors fell through. Goods that would be sold on the tour never showed up. The wrapping of the vehicle with all the logos turned out to be another enormous, yet unavoidable, expense.  Thing after thing went wrong.  But on the eve of this historic journey, every leak in the dam has been patched, and the show is ready to hit the road.

Me (Randy of Buy American Challenge) and Chic Ladies Julie Reiser (right) and Kim Gregory (left) pictured here on April 12th. We met up in South Florida to plan for the big tour over a bottle of California's finest.

As they do, the Chic trio is hoping to pick up additional sponsors. The unanticipated expenses have put this project in the red, and while the AMC Tour is all set to go to Kentucky, they are still trying to figure out how they are going to find money for the gas they will need to get home. But they’ve come too far to turn back now; the tour will continue as planned.

Thinking ahead, Julie and company left open space on the RV siding so that new sponsors could be added as the tour gets underway.  If you know of any business that might like to sponsor this tour, send me a quick email, and I’ll pass it along to Julie.

Or if you would like to make a small personal contribution to the tour, you can make it here (all major credit cards accepted).  The sole purpose of the AMC Tour is to promote “Made in USA.”  These ladies are out there fighting the good fight so businesses that create jobs in America will succeed, and our country can lift itself out of the economic doldrums we’ve been stuck in.  Even if it’s just a few dollars, please consider making a little contribution to support their effort.  I am.

Now, just hours from departure, the vehicle is ready, the bags are packed, the reservations are made, the events are planned, and the three powerful and stylish ladies are enjoying one last night at home before the traveling circus begins.

With these three fabulous and chic ladies, it’s bound to be a wild ride.  One you won’t want to miss.

You can follow the American Made Chic tour at these sights: AMC Tour Facebook Page, AMC Tour Twitter Page, AMC Tour Live Blog

Until next time, here’s to doing what we can to support our country by buying American.

Randy

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In all the hoopla surrounding the Republican presidential primaries, the release of President Obama’s 2013 budget, the Grammy’s, and the tragic passing of Whitney Houston, a truly significant report about America’s relentlessly growing trade deficit has been given very little media attention and is in danger of going unnoticed by the American public.

On Friday, February 10th, the U.S. Department of Commerce announced that the U.S. trade deficit for goods and services was $558 billion in 2011, a 12% increase over the trade deficit for all of 2010.  Over half of the U.S. trade deficit (53%) was due to a $295.5 billion trade deficit with China, a staggering sum which stands as the largest trade deficit between two countries in history. (full report)

As our country’s job-stifling trade deficit continues to expand rapidly, and our inability to get it under control is without a doubt undermining our economic recovery.

Let’s look a little closer at why the trade deficit grew in 2011.  U.S. exports experienced strong growth in 2011.  Exports increased by $265 billion for the year, an 11.4% increase over 2010.  However, these strong gains were more than offset by $324 billion increase in imports, a 13.8% increase over the previous year.

What does this mean? Even though we are making significant gains by increasing exports, which is creating jobs, we are simultaneously costing ourselves jobs by continuing to increase our consumption of imported goods. 

While some of the simultaneous increases of imports and exports are due to imported materials being used to make goods in the U.S. for export, the vast majority of our trade deficit is due to the trade imbalance we incur in consumer goods and automobiles. 

In 2011, the U.S. imported $768 billion worth of consumer goods and automobiles.  However, we exported just $309 billion in these same categories.  Overall, the U.S. experienced a $459 billion trade deficit in consumer goods and automobiles, which accounted for 82% of the overall U.S. trade deficit for 2011.

What does that mean for American consumers?  It means we have the power to control our collective economic destiny by adjusting our consumer behavior.  If enough of us will commit to buying American, we have it within our power to eliminate the U.S. trade deficit, which will keep more than a half-trillion dollars circulating in our economy, and will create jobs – probably millions of jobs – here in America.

That is why I am buying American.  I am determined to do my part to get our country back to prosperity.  Will you join me?  Take the Buy American Challenge today!

Until next time, here’s to doing what we can to support our country by buying American.

Randy

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2011 Ford Explorer

Cars.com is misleading the American public again with their conceptually faulty “American-made Index” that was just recently published by the website for 2011 model cars. 

These rankings, which Cars.com promotes as the most American-made cars on the market, lists the Toyota Camry the #1 most American-made car for the second year in a row.  That distinction should have rightly gone to the Ford Explorer.  The Ford Explorer is made in Chicago, Illinois and has more domestic parts content than the Camry.  In fact, the Explorer has the highest domestic parts content of any vehicle currently in production  which is still being sold through 2011 .  That means it beats the Camry on this website’s list of most American-made vehicles.  (Point of Clarification: the Ford Sport Trac has 90 percent domestic content, but was discontinued after production of model year 2010 was complete; however, it is reportedly still being sold in Ford dealerships through calendar year 2011.)

Please don’t misunderstand me; I am extremely pleased that Toyota chooses to produce many of their automobiles in the U.S., thereby creating American jobs.  But putting the Camry on top of a rating called the “American-Made Index,” is simply wrong.

Not only is Cars.com is using questionable methodology to reach their conclusion, they do not publish the methodology they use in developing the rankings.  If these rankings are going to be cited all over the place and regarded by many to be the list of the most American-made cars, the methodology should absolutely be made public.

According to Cars.com, the three factors that were considered to create this American-made index were: country of final assembly, American-made parts content, and volume of sales.

Wait a minute! What does volume of sales have to do with anything?  If I’m going to use the “American-Made Index,” I am going to use it to buy a car that is going to be the most American-made per car. The Toyota Camry doesn’t move ahead of other cars with higher American-made parts content, like many cars produced by Ford and Chrysler because more Toyotas are sold. 

The Camry is made with 80% domestic parts content.  That’s not bad at all.  But there are several other American-made cars with higher American parts content that got skipped on this list.  These are the cars that should be making headlines for being the most American-made.  In fact, two cars with higher domestic parts content that got skipped on this list compete directly with the Camry and the Honda Accord (which Cars.com dubiously ranked second on their list). 

The Chrysler 200 Sedan (remember the “Imported From Detroit” Super Bowl commercial with Eminem) has more American-made content than either the Camry or the Accord.  So does the dodge Avenger Sedan. Both are made in Michigan.

I don’t know what Cars.com’s motivation is in creating this misleading index, but it is very counterproductive to efforts to increase consumer patriotism in this country.  Stories like these create consumer confusion, which causes many people to just give up on buying American altogether. 

If you have some time, please let Cars.com know that their index should leave sales volume out of their methodology.  They should also publish precisely how their rankings are determined. 

Here is the email address of Patrick Olsen, editor in chief at Cars.com: polsen@cars.com

American consumers could really benefit from an American-made index that doesn’t “cook the books” for certain cars.  To be acknowledged as most American-made car, you should have to actually be the most American-made car. 

Once again, here is the full list of vehicles and their domestic parts content as reported by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration: http://www.nhtsa.gov/Laws+&+Regulations/Part+583+American+Automobile+Labeling+Act+%28AALA%29+Reports

Until next time, here’s to doing what we can to support our country by buying American.

Randy

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The Ford Sport Trac is made in Louisville, Kentucky and has the highest percentage of domestic parts content - 90% - of all vehicles being sold in the U.S.

Without question, the most important time you can buy American is when you are purchasing a car.  The reason for this is simple.  A new car is second only to a home as the most expensive purchase many consumers make. According to the National Automobile Dealers Association, the average price of a new car sold in the United States is $28,400. That is a whole lot of money to be spent at one time on a single purchase. Choosing to buy American in this one critical instance has the same impact as buying hundreds of less expensive goods that are American-made.  In short, when buying a car, this is the time when you can do the very most to help create American jobs by buying made in U.S.A. 

Another reason it is great to buy American when buying a car is that our country makes many of the best cars in the world.  Whether it’s a car, truck, SUV, hybrid, you name it, many of the very highest rated and best-selling vehicles in the world are made right here in the U.S.A.  Regardless of what kind of vehicle you are looking for, you will likely find one that fits your needs that is made in America.

Buying American is a little more complicated for cars than most other goods though.  There are lots of foreign sounding cars, like some Toyotas and Hondas, that are actually now made in the U.S.A., and there are some traditional American car brands that are now made in other countries.  So when buying a car, we really can’t just assume based on the brand name where the car was made.  We really have to do a little more homework to make sure the car we are buying is made in the U.S.A. 

Another important consideration when car buying is the percentage of U.S. domestic parts content used to make the vehicle.  We can’t get parts content information for most goods we buy, but with cars we have access to a great deal of information.  Not only can we identify where every vehicle had its final assembly, but every car manufacturer publishes the percentage of domestic parts content used in making their vehicles.  This allows us to differentiate between the cars that have 0% domestic parts content and those that have a much higher percentage of U.S.-made content.

The parts content is important because when you buy a car, you aren’t just creating jobs for the people working in the final assembly plant; you are creating jobs for workers all the way up through the supply chain – like the person who built the transmission or the person who sewed the seats together.  Cars create lots of jobs for workers that never actually see the final product being made.  That is why it is critical to consider the percentage of domestic parts content when purchasing a car.

One thing to consider about parts content is that no car is made with 100% American-made parts anymore.  One main reason for that is every car built today has a computer chip and complex electrical system built into it.  Some of this parts content simply cannot be sourced in the U.S.A.  But we shouldn’t let that discourage us from buying an American-made car with as high a percentage of domestic parts content as possible.  Thankfully, we have over 100 cars and trucks to choose from that have 50% or more of their parts content made in the U.S.A.

If you are wondering what the most American-made car on the market is; it is the Ford Sport Trac, made by Ford Motor Company.  The Sport Trac is made in Ford’s Louisville, Kentucky plant that has been in operation since 1955.  There are 2,100 workers employed at that plant.  In addition to the Sport Trac, this plant also makes the Ford Explorer and the Mercury Mountaineer, both of which have 85% domestic parts content. 

For a full list of cars (years 2005-2011) and their percentage of U.S. parts content, go here: http://www.nhtsa.gov/Laws+&+Regulations/Part+583+American+Automobile+Labeling+Act+%28AALA%29+Reports

Remember, there is no more important time to buy American than when you are buying a car.  And don’t forget, the higher percentage of domestic parts content the car has, the more American jobs you are creating when you buy it. 

Until next time, here’s to doing what we can to support our country by buying American.

Randy

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My shot of the Golden Gate Bridge

Hello everyone.  I’m back from my brief blogging hiatus.  I was on vacation, and it wouldn’t have been a vacation if I brought the laptop, so I left it.

About a month ago I wrote a blog entry called “Support American Jobs, Vacation in the U.S.A.”  Boy am I glad a decided to take that advice.  I just got back from the most amazing road trip down the coast of California, and I had an absolute blast.

We started our trip in San Francisco and ended in San Diego.  All I can say is WOW!  If you haven’t seen the California coast you really need to think about getting out there and seeing it.  The places we saw were breathtaking.  From redwood forests to sandy beaches, the California coast has so much to offer. 

The sweet blue Mustang convertible we drove

We flew into San Francisco and were picked up by our friends in a blue Mustang convertible.  I was glad we were able to get an American-made rental.  And let’s face it, if you’re going to be driving the California coast, it should be in a convertible.

We spent a couple days in San Fran, then made our way down the coast.  We took the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) down through Half Moon Bay, Santa Cruz, Monterey, Carmel, and all the way to San Luis Obispo.  We must have stopped ten times on that leg of the trip, usually just to spend a few minutes a on a beautiful beach we knew we might never see again.

From there, we made our way south through Santa Barbara, Ventura, Malibu, and finally to Los Angeles.  The scenic

Santa Barbara

views on this portion of our trip were magnificent.  I felt like I was Ansel Adams taking pictures of the mountains and scenery. 

Finally, we made it down through Orange County and down to San Diego.  We ended our trip with a nice day at Mission Beach in San Diego, which reminded me a lot of Miami Beach (my hometown beach). 

The trip was huge success.  I got to see so many things and places I had never seen before, and everyone had a great time.  I’m looking forward to getting back out west again soon.

Mountains just a few miles from Malibu, CA

But it’s also good to back home in Arlington, VA as well, and sleeping in my own bed at night.

Until next time, here’s to doing what we can to support our country by buying American.

Randy

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Before you begin reading this post, please take a look at this graph which represents America’s trade deficit as a percentage of GDP since 1960.  In the ‘60s and early-‘70s, we had a small trade surplus, usually at or below 1 percent of GDP.  We also had lots of good-paying jobs back then.  Remember when one breadwinner could support a family? Over time, that surplus turned into a deficit that reached about 3 percent of our nation’s total income by the late ‘80s.  Our trade deficit contracted for a few years, nearly disappearing by 1991.  But from that point on, our trade deficit as a percentage of GDP has simply ballooned.  Since 2004, the U.S. has consistently had trade deficits of 5-6 percent of GDP.

All of the red on the graph is just that, “red ink.”  That represents wealth that is leaving the country above what is coming into the country through trade.  If we ever want to restore our economic prosperity in this country, we have to get this trade deficit under control.  We cannot expect to prosper when we have $40 billion or more leaving the country every month.  There simply is not enough wealth being circulated into our own communities to create the number of jobs we need that way. 

Here is the answer: We can get our trade deficit under control simply by buying American-made goods more often.  Each American adult is responsible for $700 worth of imported goods per month.  If we cut that down to $517 per month, our trade deficit will be gone.  When you look at it that way, we really don’t have that far to go.

Let me ask you, could you cut your consumption of imported goods 27% by replacing foreign goods you buy with American-made goods?  I think you could do it very easily.  And if you will do it, you will have done your part to close the enormous trade deficit that is killing our economic recovery and the long-term prosperity and security of our country.

How easy is it to cut your consumption of imports 27%?  You could do it simply by considering where things are made before you buy them, and showing some patriotic favoritism to American-made goods, which tend to be higher in quality.  Think about how much money you spend on groceries, clothing, home goods, etc.  Making sure you buy made in U.S.A. for lots of the little things you buy will get your consumption of imports down 27%.

Or you can focus on the big-ticket items.  Let’s say you bought a $30,000 American-made car over a comparable European-manufactured import.  In that one decision, you would have done your part to eliminate the trade deficit for the next 14 years.  Wasn’t that easy?

We have to start making progress on cutting this deficit immediately.  Please commit to doing your part, take the buy American Challenge today!

Until next time, here’s to doing what we can to support our country by buying American.

Randy

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2010 Ford Focus

Buying American-made doesn’t just impact us when we buy things; it also impacts us when we rent.

Yesterday, I had to rent a car for a trip I was taking from Virginia to central Pennsylvania.  I reserved an economy American-made car, the least expensive of all the cars the rental car company I was using had available.

When I got to the rental facility to pick up the car, they said that all they had left was an import in the economy size.  I informed them that I only drive American-made cars, and would not accept an import.  They suggested I upgrade to a more expensive American-made mid-sized car.  I told them I would take whatever American-made car they wanted to give me, but I was not paying for an upgrade because they don’t keep enough American-made cars in their fleet.

When I pointed to the Buy American Challenge t-shirt I was wearing, they knew I wasn’t budging.  The conversation was over.  They upgraded me to a Ford Focus free of charge.

Ford Focus is a really nice car by the way. After driving it the last couple days, I am giving it strong consideration for my next vehicle. The Ford Focus is made in America and has 90% domestic parts content, the highest in the industry.

Okay, here is the real reason I wrote this post.  I encourage everyone to request an American-made car when they make a reservation for a rental car.  In my experience, most rental cars I’ve rented have been American-made.  But lately I’ve been noticing more imported rentals.  I believe that if enough people will ask for American-made cars when they make a reservation, the rental car companies will take notice, and stock their fleets with more American cars.  Either that, or they’ll be giving us lots of free upgrades.

If rental car companies begin buying more American-made cars, that would be HUGE.  These companies buy thousands of cars every year.  A decision by these companies to buy more American-made cars could be an enormous boon to the industry, and could create thousands of good-paying American jobs.  This would impact the communities where cars are made and the communities where all the parts used to make those cars are made.

It costs absolutely nothing to simply request an American-made car when you make a rental car reservation, but it could mean so many jobs if you, and others, will do it consistently.  So next time you rent a car, make that simple request, and know you will be doing your part to create American jobs.

Until next time, here’s to doing what we can to support our country by buying American.

Randy

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