Buy American?

[Submitted/published State Journal-Register]

Well, I’m certainly no legislator or state official, but I’ll respond to Joe Bartolomucci’s Feb. 18 call for a “buy American” policy for government-procured equipment as a citizen and Caterpillar stockholder.

First, the state wastes plenty of our taxes without overspending based on where final assembly of something occurred. Almost everything manufactured anywhere in the world these days is comprised largely of components made somewhere else in the world. Like it or not, it’s a world economy. So, sold by a U.S. company doesn’t automatically mean American jobs.

I wish Caterpillar would’ve had the best deal for the state this time but too bad. Cat is an excellent company with 40 percent of the world market versus 20 percent for Komatsu — they can compete without taxpayers subsidizing their bid. Lord knows, we’re subsidizing everything else these days.

Second, Caterpillar does more than 60 percent of its business outside the U.S. It has facilities in 23 other countries, including Japan. The funny thing about other countries is, when we decide to legislate “buy American,” they tend to legislate “buy Japanese” or “buy French” etc. So, if everyone decides to just play in their own sandbox, Cat loses two-thirds of its market.

The part that was growing, by the way. Prior to the current government-sponsored economic fiasco, Cat was growing 12 percent annually in international markets while staying flat here.

Getting locked out of international markets with this century’s version of the Smoot-Hawley Act won’t help workers in Peoria.

Finally, Komatsu is also international, with seven manufacturing plants in the United States (including Peoria). As a matter of fact, the wheel loaders in question are manufactured in Komatsu’s Canadian plant. So technically, we did “buy American.”

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