A brief history of “Buy American” and “America First.”


The president of the United Auto Workers union (UAW) declared that the “Buy American” movement is back. As well, he praised President Trump for criticizing outsourcing and reiterated his call for the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement – a Trump policy promise. Importantly, the UAW backs Democrats at the ballot box almost exclusively. (An internal study showed 59% of its members voted for Hillary Clinton, while only 33% voted for Trump.) This may change in 2020.

As I have stated many times, I believe in free trade. Mr. Trump has been pilloried by both Democrats and Republicans for being so “moronic” to suggest that free trade policies should be abandoned. My reading of his words is that “free trade” is only “free” when it is also “fair trade.” While I still favor “free trade,” I must admit to many times in the past score of years thinking “we just got screwed on that deal.”

In his inaugural address our President said he was instituting a new era of “America First” and today we are seeing a “Buy American” campaign beginning. These are not remotely “new” notions and Mr. Trump’s is far from the first American Presidential administration to push these policies.

[Sources: ‘America First’ Is Not a Threat but a Promise, by Michael Barone; Wikipedia on “Buy American“]

“America First” was the name of a bipartisan organization spearheaded (but not founded) by Charles Lindbergh, one of the most popular and heroic figures of that era. The group was opposed to US entry into World War II (the group disbanded after one year when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor). However, it was one of the largest anti-war organizations in US history with membership peaking at 800.000 and 450 chapters. It boasted some famous members: future president Gerald Ford and future U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart. Future President John F. Kennedy donated $100 along with a note saying, “What you are doing is vital.”

Similarly, “Buy American” was actually passed into law back in 1933 (the Buy American Act) and required the United States government to prefer U.S.-made products in its purchases. Fifty years later another law was passed called the Buy America Act (note the subtle name difference). This law required mass transportation projects funded in any part by the federal government to purchase US made products.

I am not taking a “pro” or “con” position on these issues. Personally, I’d like to see if they gain traction. In such matters I submit to the will of the American people – just as Democrats should submit to the will of the American people when they spoke on November 8, 2016.

Roy Filly

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About Roy Filly

Please read my first blog in which I describe myself and my goals.
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7 Responses to A brief history of “Buy American” and “America First.”

  1. David L. Wood, M.D. says:

    President Trump’s pronouncement, “America first” inspires pride and resolve in the mood of the country. It does for me in spades.
    Of course, the opposing ‘liberal’-minded people of the Democrat Party think only their method of political control is valid. Thankfully, the leftwing Democrats represent a minority of the population.

  2. Steve Kemp says:

    America second, or third, hasn’t worked out too well. So I’d rather see a push for America first, rather than fourth.

  3. Starchild says:

    Sad to see many Republicans now rushing to sell out free trade in order to embrace Trump’s centrally government planned economy. “America first” is a bigoted movement, like “Whites first”, “Blacks first”, “Gays first”, or putting any other group of people ahead of others on a group basis instead of respecting individual rights and equality before the law.

    • Roy Filly says:

      “America first” is light years away from “Whites first”, “Blacks first”, or “Gays first.” Even you you should know that.

      • Starchild says:

        Roy – No, it’s not light years apart, or really any different at all. That’s part of the point I’ve been trying to make in these discussions. For most people, being American or not American is an accident of birth, something over which they have no control – just like people don’t control the skin color, gender, or sexual attractions with which they are born. Discriminating against someone on the basis of one such characteristic is as bigoted as discriminating against them on the basis of another.

  4. Starchild says:

    “When goods can’t cross borders, soldiers will.”
    –Frederick Bastiat, in “The Law” (1850)

  5. Starchild says:

    In the case of an official “buy American” campaign, there is not even the (false, but believed by many) justification that the people being discriminated against represent some kind of “invasion” of the United States, harmful net drain on public services, etc.

    When it comes to trade, we are talking about government discrimination against people and companies based elsewhere that simply want to sell products or services to people in the United States, AND the people and companies in this country who voluntarily choose to buy from them. In some cases the folks in the latter group are businesses seeking to make purchases or investments intended to enable them to boost their own bottom lines, increase sales, maintain or add to their employee workforce, etc., than they would be able to do if unable to buy a particular good or service from U.S.-based sellers at a competitive price, or in some cases at all if the item in question is not produced in the United States.

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