Condemning Olympic Apparel Made in China: Another Tempest in a Teapot Brewed by Congress

By George Coo

Congress is tackling yet another crisis of gargantuan proportions. They are upset that the spiffy outfits the American Olympic team will wear at the opening ceremony while designed by Ralph Lauren are (gasp) made in China.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was outraged and declared that all the uniforms should be burned and just let the athletes wear singlet with hand painted logo of USA. Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle jumped in to castigate the U.S. Olympic Committee for failing to buy America.

Some representative of the American garment industry pointed out that at about $1,500 to outfit each athlete, the committee could easily have sourced the apparel from U.S. makers.

What the person did not point out was that a made in the USA outfit would have taken the entire margin of profit out of the opening wear — a margin that the committee undoubtedly intended as part of their fund-raising effort.

Just go on to the official website of the U.S. Olympic Committee and one can see all kinds of “official” souvenir gear from berets to shirts and blazers available for fans to purchase. If the apparel were to be made in the USA and still affordably priced to sell, the committee would not raise much money, if any.

Unlike some countries, such as China, where Olympic participation enjoys state financial support, the U.S. Olympians will go to London through donations and private sector fund- raising efforts.

The U.S. government, even if it wanted to, does not have the money to finance the Olympians. Members of Congress surely know all this.

Since much of what Americans wear is made in China, it shouldn’t surprise anyone. But when it became known that the Olympian garb was also from China, it was a no risk, no cost, no downside and no-brainer opportunity to take a pot shot at the Olympic Committee, and implicitly vilify once again the onus of things made in China.

In the meantime, disaster looms as America goes hurtling towards the “fiscal cliff” at yearend. That’s when tax cuts expire and mandated government spending cuts begin.

While all the economists and pundits are certain that such a combination will result in the next economic disaster for the United States, they are also certain that no one in Washington has the political courage or vision to enact anything meaningful that would stop the runaway train.

Such has the state of our democracy become: Terrifically adept at jumping into petty minutia, but cowardly when it comes to tackling real issues confronting the future well-being of this country.

To conform to Senator Reid’s wishes, the standard bearer leading the U.S. delegation into the opening ceremony in London should wear nothing (made in China); just a G-string with made in USA label emblazoned to the extent possible.

Such a spectacle will convey several concurrent messages to the worldwide viewers: Washington kingmakers have no clothes and no statesmanship, and America is a poor country in more ways than one.

Dr. Koo is a retired business consultant and a board member of New America Media.

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July 19, 2012  Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.

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