“I am so upset. I think the Olympic committee should be ashamed of themselves. I think they should be embarrassed. I think they should take all the uniforms, put them in a big pile and burn them and start all over again.”
-- Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid
“They should be wearing uniforms that are made in America.”
-- House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi
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“It is not just a label, it’s an economic solution. Today there are 600,000 vacant manufacturing jobs in this country and the Olympic committee is outsourcing the manufacturing of uniforms to China? That is not just outrageous, it’s just plain dumb. It is self-defeating.”
-- Rep. Steve Israel, D-NY.
Those are just a sampling of comments coming out of Washington, D.C., concerning the Ralph Lauren designed and China made uniforms for the U.S. Olympic team. Our athletes will be wearing the uniforms when the 2012 Summer Olympic Games open in London on July 27. The outfits are quite smart, blue double-breasted blazers, white pants or skirts, topped off with a beret.
You can tell it’s a political year when leaders of Congress take the time to hold news conferences over the uniforms of a privately-funded Olympic committee. It also shows that they haven’t been in a WalMart lately.
We are surprised the elected leaders are surprised. The Olympic uniforms are just another example of the flight of our manufacturing base. We have some of the smartest engineers in the world from Microsoft to Apple, but their products are not assembled in the United States. Buy an iPhone and it’s shipped directly from where it’s made: China. When President Barack Obama asked the late Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO, what it would take to make iPhones in the United States, Jobs replied: “Those jobs are not coming back.” The same can be said of the textile industry.
Maybe our legislators should check our trade balance with China. According to The Wall Street Journal, the annual China U.S. trade deficit increased 18 percent since 2008 to $202 billion. China’s textile exports to us were up almost 50 percent from 2008.
The first thing lawmakers should do before throwing stones is look around their offices. There’s a good chance much of the gear they use is made in China, too.
-- Charles E. Richardson, for the Editorial Board