Walmart's 'Buy American' Push: Patriotism or Red, White and Blue-Washing?

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walmart store u.s. flag
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Earlier this year, Bill Simon, Walmart's president and CEO, unveiled a new plan to spur American industry and employment: The company committed to hiring 100,000 veterans within five years and to increasing its sales of American-made products by $50 billion within 10 years. But this week, as the retailer hosted a two-day "US Manufacturing Summit" in Orlando, questions are surfacing about whether the new initiatives are good deeds -- or just good marketing.

An increase of $5 billion a year in American-made goods is nothing to sneeze at. Then again, as Time's Christopher Matthews notes, Walmart (WMT) already increases its purchasing by an average of about $15 billion a year. In this context, the $5 billion it plans to spend on items that were made in America works out to about a third of yearly growth. And, according to Walmart's Simon, the company already spends two-thirds of its money on goods that were grown or made in America. In context, then, it would appear that Simon isn't even promising to maintain the company's current level of spending on American-made goods.

Over at Salon, Stacy Mitchell suggests an even darker interpretation. Noting Walmart's expansion into grocery shopping, she points out that most groceries consumed in the U.S. are produced in the U.S., a factor that may help account for the company's promise to buy more American products.
Given Walmart's notorious tendency to underpay its workers -- a significant percentage of its employees have to resort to using welfare programs -- this move to expand its already strong presence in the grocery segment is bad news for American wages.

Many other grocery chains pay their workers better than Walmart (some even have unions), and if they lose more market share to Bentonville behemoth, they'll cut jobs. Some of those jobs will be replaced by lower-paying ones at Walmart, with at least one result being a higher cost to the taxpayer-funded programs that currently underwrite the retailer's low, low prices.

Walmart's push to buy American is certainly good business: According to a Gallup poll released earlier this year, 45 percent of Americans said that they "recently made an effort to buy products made in the United States." If Walmart can associate itself with that trend -- if it can become a place where Americans go with the feeling that they're supporting U.S. jobs -- it would be a big boon to the retailer.

If you're looking to buy American, there are quite a few resources that can help you find manufacturers and retailers who carry American-made products. Made In USA Challenge has a database of American manufacturers, as does Americans Working. Both databases have shortcomings: Made In USA is a bit hard to search, and Americans Working sometimes has dead links, but if you want to find jeans made in Ohio or a grill made in Oregon, they're great places to start.

Bruce Watson is DailyFinance's Savings Editor. You can reach him by e-mail at bruce.watson@teamaol.com, or follow him on Twitter at @bruce1971.


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59 Comments

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grstewartcpa

Walmard did that a long time ago then every turned to made in China Is China part of the US now?

August 29 2013 at 6:51 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
ectullis

Hypocrite

August 29 2013 at 6:22 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
pmrspnj2

it is difficult if not impossible to find anything manufactured in the USA IN A WALMART STORE.
this must be a marketing gimmick to distract customers from the low wages and poor working conditions that walmart provides.
i know this to be true because i went to my local walmart and searched in vain for a product made in the usa. THERE WERE NO PRODUCTS TO BE FOUND. when i asked a manager about this i got a blank incredulous stare AND AN ANSWER ,LIKE 'YOU ARE KIDDING , RIGHT ?"

August 29 2013 at 5:09 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
pdbliz

PEOPLE,,,CRY WALMART ALL YOU WANT.............THE CLINTONS SIGNED THE,,,FAIR TRADE ACT TO IMPORT AND EXPORT TO CHINA.!!!

ANOTHER DEMOCRATE THING......

August 29 2013 at 4:19 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to pdbliz's comment
jokesl3

What Clinton did in 1994, was to grant China, Most Favored Nation trade status. It had been done before but had to be granted each year. Clinton made it PERMANENT. He said we must ignore China\'s Human rights violations to reap the economiic benefits. The benefits were all our jobs and manufacuring going to China. Now we can buy inferior products at cheaper cost. We just don\'t have any jobs here and need to replace the Chinese junk about once a month.

August 29 2013 at 6:07 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
toosmart4u

Sure Walmart will bring in a few American products. But they price them way above their percentage incresase of chinese made products and say that Americans do not want American products. I have not shopped at WalMart for more than 10 years and will never shop there again. You look at the products in the box stores and you will find very few American made products. I buy on the internet American.

August 29 2013 at 4:01 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Joseph Fondeur

Walmart is like a disease.....it has convinced Americans that cheap products are inexpensive, but must be repurchased continually. The poorer the consumer the more they end of spending in the long run! Ignorance is NOT bliss.....and by shopping anywhere else you are helping the economy of the US!

August 29 2013 at 3:20 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Joseph Fondeur's comment
pdbliz

Joseph......You have a good point,,but,......,I have to help my pocket book first,,,,then the economy....
FAMILY COMES FIRST..!!!

August 29 2013 at 4:15 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
tms36

That was their motto back in the 70\'s when Sam Walton was alive.

August 29 2013 at 2:08 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to tms36's comment
pdbliz

Old Sam,,,worked hard to get what he had before he died.!!!
I do not throw stones at any hard worker...
I DO THROW LARGE STONES AT ALL THE WELFARE PEOPLE NOW,,,
85% COULD WORK,,,,,EXCLUDE THE SENIORS AND DISABLE...
GREED IN THE WELFARE SYSTEM AND DEMOCRATE RUN .!!!!

August 29 2013 at 4:17 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
timothyknerr

The only thing that going to help anyone who works at Walmart is a raise in the federal minimum wage. When that happens things will get better in this country, till then the income inequality gap only grows wider. Walmart isn't helping to fix the problem they're helping create the problem.

August 29 2013 at 12:32 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to timothyknerr's comment
pdbliz

THERE ARE 100,S OF MIN WAGES COMPANIES..
WHY DOES THE GOVERMENT KEEP ITS EYE ON WALMART.????
SOMETHING SMELLS HERE,,,AND,,IT AIN,T WALMART.!!!

August 29 2013 at 4:18 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Mostberg

Walmart knows marketing and Americans - most - love Walmart. So: "Buy American" is a marketing strategy that will work as long as they still keep prices low.

August 28 2013 at 11:50 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
lvh44leo

Walmart will always just be Walmart an American success story gone sour the Wal in Wal Mart, welcome All Losers Mart.Better prices and better Quality at other stores including Groceries. SHOP SMART AVOID WAL MART!

August 28 2013 at 11:32 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply