Wednesday, October 26, 2011

On the good ship Emma Maersk/Wal-Mart deadheading to China

It’s another one of those misinformed emails forwarded around the world designed to inflame the population over an issue that really isn’t an issue at all.  The subject is the Danish built ship, the Emma Maersk, whose home port is Taarbaek, Denmark, and which is lauded as the largest container ship ever built.  The non-issue is that Wal-Mart fills this behemoth with goods in China that are eventually delivered in the U.S., and the ship deadheads back to China empty.

The inference of the email is that all we do is import from China and do no exporting at all.  This is not true.  Although there was a trade deficit with China in 2010 of $273 billion, we did export $92 billion in U.S. goods to China in that year, which was a 32.2 percent increase over the prior year.  The complaint of the email should have been that the U.S., both government and private business, aren’t doing enough to balance this deficit.  Nobody cares if the Emma Maersk deadheads back to its origination; that loss is borne by the shipping company.

The email I received said the message was the “ship” and was in no way meant to be a political statement.  The sender begged for recipients not to reply about this being “political.”  Then, after several beautiful color pictures with specifications on this monstrosity, the email ends with an “Editorial Comment” that drips with the political message we were promised in the beginning there wouldn’t be.  As usual, we are urged to forward the email, which I never do.

There is a tag line: BE AMERICAN ~ BUY AMERICAN.  I not only agree with this slogan; my wife and I also make a concerted effort to buy local from businesses in our area.  But I don’t feel un-American when I do buy foreign goods, like the Honda Odyssey we just purchased.  It was just what we wanted and had the best reputation of all the mini-vans on the market.  And it was probably built in this country using American laborers, and at least some parts manufactured in the U.S.

Now, more about that trade deficit of $273 billion.  There is one good reason, although it should not be a crutch not to insist on more exports to China.  The American public wants inexpensive merchandise, cheap if you will.  That’s why the most popular and profitable retail outlets are stores like Costco, Target, and, yes, Wal-Mart.  China can produce these products at a cost considerably less than U.S. business, and whatever you think about the overseas labor situation, there is an enormous market in the U.S. for cheap goods.

The editorial comment also blames the jobs crisis on “empty containers shipped back to China.”  This is absurd.  The current jobless situation was caused by the lack of regulation of the financial community by Geo. W. Bush’s administration, which laid the groundwork for the financial meltdown, and the decimation of the housing market.  You can also blame big business for its practice of outsourcing jobs overseas, which also took flight under GWB.  Not empty Wal-Mart containers headed for China.

The Internet created an uncalled-for monster when it developed email that allows misinformation like this to circulate freely.  Our forefathers might just groan a little in considering something like this 1st Amendment worthy.


  1. I agree with some of your comments, but to get us back to having more and better jobs in North America, we the people have the power as shoppers to even out this unbalance by chocing other countries besides China for our everyday goods. I realize that I have to purchase some things from China, but I as everyone else must spread out our purchases, and learn to read the labels on the items we buy.

  2. The Labor Unions in America destroyed manufacturing here. Don't get me wrong, I believe Labor Unions were necessary early on, they were able to establish good work environments
    and fair wages at the time they came into being. Then what happened? Workers went on strike for higher and higher wages. Enter manufacturing form around the world and quality products at lower prices. American's essentially priced themselves out of their own jobs because the economy in these countries was lower opening the doors for "free trade" and no tariffs on goods coming into America. This is a catch 22!

  3. How's that? You complain about the political message in the original and then trip out on giving us one of you own. If the original author's pot is black, then also with your kettle. And as for your economics, read Messis--Austrian school of economics. All else being equal, radial changes in a nations' economic circumstances are always--always--cause by government action; such actions always intended, so it is said, to make things better, but those make-things-better actions, as often as not, make things worse.



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