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Three little words that grate

Published April 13. 2013 09:02AM

We all know the power of three little words when those words are "I love you."

As the songwriter wrote: "Love changes everything."

Three little words can change lives.

Sometimes, though, three little words have a negative impact on me and, I believe, on the entire country.

Those three grating words are: Made in China.

At first, I refused to buy anything that was labeled made in China. But so many times I'm not aware of it until it's too late.

A few months ago while I was shopping with a friend in a favorite clothing store, I wasn't going to buy anything for me. I have enough clothes.

But as I was walking by a clothing rack, one blouse seemed to have my name on it. I stopped in my tracks and fingered the soft gauze.

It was the only blouse like it and it was my size. It was also appealing because it had all my favorite colors in it.

"Buy it," urged my girlfriend. "It was made for you."

I agreed it would be perfect for dancing. But then I looked at the price tag and walked away. I would never pay $60 for a blouse.

A few weeks later while I was in the same store, I saw the blouse was still there - and it was on sale for half price. Again, I walked away and forgot all about the blouse.

I'm a bargain shopper and always root through the clearance racks, looking for items marked 70 percent off.

I couldn't believe it when the coveted blouse was on that rack. With a coupon I had, in addition to the sales price, I got the blouse for under $3.

Thrilled with my purchase, I brought it out to show my friends when they visited. It was only then that I read the inside tag: Made in China. I was no longer thrilled with my purchase.

When I was growing up, my Aunt Rose bought the dress factory where she worked. The owner was going under and couldn't keep it open anymore. When Rose told him she wanted to buy it, he did everything in his power to make it happen because he didn't want to see his workers unemployed.

I'll tell you this about my Aunt Rose and that dress factory - it wasn't your typical workplace. She would do anything for "her girls" and they felt the same way about her.

Many of the workers were single mothers. Others were the sole support of their family after a husband lost his job.

I know how important those paychecks were to the women and town. I know because my own mother worked there. As a divorced mother with two kids and absolutely no support, that factory was our lifeline.

One day when my Aunt Rose had a headache, a worker gave her two aspirin. Only, the white pills weren't aspirin. Unknown to anyone until it was too late, they were penicillin pills.

Rose was severely allergic to penicillin. Before the ambulance got there, she was dead.

It was a time of mourning for our family and for all her workers. There was even more mourning a little more than a year later when the factory again closed - this time for good.

One by one, dress factories all over Pennsylvania were closing. Manufacturers could buy their products cheaper overseas.

The result: Towns that once had several dress factories no longer had any.

"Made in America" became a harder label to find. According to recent research, more than 90 percent of clothes and shoes sold in America are made elsewhere.

Appliances, parts, tools, sports equipment, televisions, toys - the list of products no longer made in America is endless.

I'm sure most of you read the newspaper story that said even most American flags are not made in America.

I'm not the only one bothered by this and I'm not the only one willing to pay a little more for a product made in America.

According to a survey by the Consumer Reports National research Center, 78 percent of Americans would rather buy an American product. Sixty percent said they would be willing to pay more for it.

Often, we are not given a choice.

Here's a little fish tale that blew my mind.

A few weeks ago I went to Cedar Key, one of Florida's few remaining fishing towns. It's a delightful place because everywhere you look, there's water-and fishing boats.

So we couldn't wait to sample what was billed as authentic, freshly caught fish. The restaurant meals were fabulous. Crabs, oysters and grouper were all freshly caught, as advertised. But a local sea captain warned us the other fish was frozen and imported from China.

Now, that's bizarre.

Why in the world would a fishing capital have to import fish? Everywhere I looked I saw fish jumping in the water.

According to the local fishermen, government regulations forced them to shut down, abandoning the only way they have of making a living.

"Now, our local restaurants have to import frozen fish from China while we can't earn a living," said one captain.

Fish from China? Here, in what we call the fishing capital of the world? That's the last straw.

One attorney told me I have a simplistic view of our trade regulations. He's right.

My view is simple. It's buy American, whenever you can.

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