Ninety dollars for a single wine glass. One hundred fifty-five dollars for a pair of khaki pants, and $245 for a single shirt. A $3,630 wooden rocking chair. Sound expensive? Welcome to “made in America” manufacturing, as touted by presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
Clinton has been out on the campaign trail attacking the Republican candidate, Donald Trump, for licensing his name to clothing, furniture and barware made overseas.
During a recent campaign stop in Colorado, Clinton said, “When Donald Trump is asked about where he makes things, he makes them anywhere else but America. His ties, his suits, his shirts, his furniture, his barware — made all over the world. Bangladesh, Turkey, Slovenia, Mexico. And when asked about that, he said, ‘Well, we don’t make that stuff in America.’ Well, I’m here to tell you: Donald, you’re wrong.”
The Clinton campaign released a television commercial attacking Trump on the outsourcing issue. It also unveiled a website, hillaryclinton.com/makeithere, claiming, “It didn’t take us long to find over 100 examples of U.S. manufacturers and businesses ready and able to produce the same goods he makes overseas.”
It’s with that list that the problems with Clinton’s line of attack on Trump start to show.
Clinton’s “made in America” list includes Hamilton Shirts of Houston. The website lists a shirt for $245. The Clinton-approved clothing list also touts Bill’s Khakis, now based in Beacon Falls, Conn. A pair of its trousers is priced at $155. The list includes Thomas Moser furniture of Auburn, Maine, which sells the $3,630 rocking chair, and Simon Pearce Glassware of Vermont, which makes the $90 wine glass. It includes Hickey Freeman of Rochester, N.Y., which sells a suit for $1,695.
These prices may be within reach for Goldman Sachs partners paying Clinton her hundreds of thousands of dollars in speaking fees, for hedge fund managers bankrolling her campaign, or for Hollywood stars who performed at the Democratic National Convention. But for ordinary Americans? Forget it.
“It costs more to make a tie in the United States, there’s no doubt about it,” explained Elizabeth Smith, sales manager at Beau Ties Ltd. of Vermont, a company that appears on Clinton’s list. She estimated about $10 a tie more.
Price is just one reason that Clinton’s attack on Trump is flawed. The other is that nearly all the manufacturers on Clinton’s “made in America” list use fabrics from other countries.
Those “made in America” Hamilton shirts from Texas? “We use only the finest fabrics from Italy and Switzerland,” the company website says. Hickey Freeman suits? “Fine Italian wool,” according to the Hickey Freeman website. Just Madras, another tiemaker on Clinton’s list, describes itself as a “Connecticut-based Company that makes its entire collection in America of imported authentic madras from India.”
“We source fabrics from all over the world,” the creative director and brand manager of Bill’s Khakis, Peter Baker, told me; about half is from the United States he said.
Ms. Smith of Beau Tie explained, “All of our fabrics are imported, because there is no silk made in the U.S.” The company did once make some ties for the U.S. House of Representatives; they were sourced here, she said, using “a woven polyester.”
Trade agreements advanced by Bill Clinton in the 1990s made it easier and less expensive for American consumers and manufacturers to buy these imports. Technological advances have also eased international shipping and communication.
If Hillary Clinton personally wants to open a silk business and compete with China, a madras cotton business and compete with India, or a woolen business and compete with Italy or Great Britain, good luck to her. But as a campaign issue?
The one genuinely made-in-America item in this whole situation is Hillary Clinton’s own pricey and xenophobic political fantasy. It won’t do middle-class American shoppers any good.
Ira Stoll is editor of FutureOfCapitalism.com and author of “JFK: Conservative.” His column appears Sunday.