Broadening ‘Buy American’ is Path to Prosperity


For years, American workers have witnessed thousands upon thousands of jobs shipped overseas due to increasingly lax trade rules that encouraged job relocation and drove down U.S. wages. Last week, President Trump issued an executive order (EO) that takes an important step to reverse course on such policies and help hard-working Americans.

The “Buy American and Hire American” EO can help jumpstart an investment in domestic work product that would employ U.S. workers and boost the economy at the same time. It outlines federal procurement policies that focus on utilizing goods, products and materials made in this country. And it also directs federal agencies to reduce the use of waivers and exemptions that have allowed them to bypass Buy American laws up until now.

Communities in the Rust Belt and elsewhere have seen the results of companies closing down and have the scars to prove it. Higher unemployment and lower tax bases have led to dilapidated downtowns that are a shell of their former selves. This White House action could help end that, however. If Congress were to get into the act, Americans workers could be heading down a road to redemption.

How does that happen? By lawmakers supporting legislation that like offered by Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.) that expand the current “Buy American” federal procurement program to include spending that isn’t covered under the current law while also closing existing program loopholes.

“It’s common sense that American tax dollars be used to purchase products made in America, not overseas,” Sen. Stabenow said.  The bill, she added, “will create more opportunities for American jobs by strengthening our current Buy American law and holding federal agencies accountable.”

Among other things, the measure would set domestic content standards for indirect purchases by U.S. Department of Transportation grantees, which would ensure that tax dollars spent on transportation infrastructure needs will support manufacturing and mining jobs in this country. Other federal grant programs would also need to focus their spending on American companies as well.

Taken together with the Trump executive order, which also addresses the flaws in the H-1B visa program that is increasingly being exploited by employers so they can hire non-U.S. citizens at lower wages, elected officials are put forward solutions that could make a real difference for American families.

 Action, however, is still needed. This EO needs to be enforced and Buy American legislation, which would be a more permanent legislative solution, needs to be approved if lawmakers are going to ensure the restoration of middle-class jobs to parts of the country that have been particularly hard hit. Only then will workers begin to profit from U.S. prosperity as they should.