A Reuters-Ipsos poll released Tuesday suggests Americans want their government to buy American — even if it costs more.
According to a newly released Reuters-Ipsos poll, approximately 63% of Americans want the government to stick with domestic manufacturers when buying goods, regardless of the difference in cost. 62% believe this should even extend to novel coronavirus vaccines. A 53% majority, however, believes that ideal is not necessary when it comes to purchasing PPE.
President Joe Biden’s administration has committed to encourage revitalization of U.S. manufacturing. One of Biden’s first executive orders was aimed specifically at loopholes in the “Buy American” rules responsible for roughly $200 million of the $600 million in annual government spending on goods and services. At the time, Biden said he did not “buy for one second that the vitality of American manufacturing is a thing of the past.”
Even so, the often sharp difference in cost of domestic versus foreign goods remains an issue. Despite the country’s overwhelming support for a government focus on domestic production, Americans are wary of paying the premium themselves. According to the poll, “69% believe an item being U.S.-made is at least somewhat important,” but 37% of respondents said they would not pay any more for that assurance. 26% would be willing to pay up to 5% more, and 21% would stop at 10% higher than a foreign-made equivalent.
Teddy Haggerty, CEO and Founder of Defender Safety, is one of many U.S. businessmen who have decided the risk was too great. Just before setting up a new production line to provide protective masks, Haggerty changed course. Once the pandemic subsides, Haggerty said he “realized the hospitals will go back to buying at the lowest price,” and masks could cost him as much as 40% more to produce in the U.S. — instead, he redirected his investment toward a source in China.
“Most of the materials being used for things like masks and gowns are imported anyway, a lot from China,” he told Reuters, “even the machines being used (to manufacture masks) in the U.S. are from China. So at the end of the day, you’re just adding another step.”
Earlier in March, a group of 50 U.S. PPE manufacturers implored the president to provide “funding to support small-business manufacturers to increase production,” and “explore formal partnerships with American domestic manufacturers as part of continuing efforts to respond to COVID-19 and future pandemic preparedness planning,” via the Defense Department or the Department of Health and Human Services.