We're still days away from the opening ceremonies, but China's already won some gold that should have been here at home.
When the Games open July 27, the United States' 530 athletes will be in London garbed in uniforms designed by Ralph Lauren that carry our nation's colors -- red, white and blue. They'll also carry labels that say "Made in China."
That, of course, sparked an election-year flurry in Washington, where politicians rushed to say how appalled and outraged they were.
"I think the (U.S.) Olympic Committee should be ashamed of themselves," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said. "I think they should be embarrassed. I think they should take all the uniforms and put them in a big pile and burn them and start all over again. ... If they have to wear nothing but a singlet that says USA on it painted by hand, that's what they should wear. We have people in America in the textile industry who are desperate for jobs, and I think what the Olympic Committee's done is absolutely wrong."
Reid's counterpart in the House, Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, showed that, at last, Washington politicians of both stripes could agree on something this election year, though he didn't urge anyone to take matches to the garments. "You'd think they'd know better," he said of the U.S. Olympic Committee.
Why Reid, Boehner or anyone else at the Capitol was surprised and/or outraged by the Chinese-manufactured uniforms is hard to say, since the 2008 U.S. Olympic team was also outfitted in uniforms that were not made in the United States. Those, designed by Ralph Lauren, were also made by China, which is where the Games that year were held, which may explain why there was no uproar then, if any of the politicians even noticed at the time. Oh, and since the USOC is an organization that was given its authority by Congress in 1978 to oversee U.S. Olympic matters, here's exactly what it would take to guarantee that the U.S. team uniforms are made here at home -- Congress ordering it.
And certainly Congress can't be surprised that clothing is being outsourced, with various sources estimating that only 2 percent to 5 percent of the garments sold in the United States are produced here, a figure that was at 95 percent a half-century ago.
This is symptomatic of what has happened in America. We have stopped making things. Per-unit costs are cheaper overseas, so goods can be sold cheaper with healthier profit margins. All that would be great, except that, as a result, far too many good-paying U.S. jobs have evaporated more quickly than a shallow mud puddle on a July day in Southwest Georgia. And it's not just textile jobs. Look at the labels on everything you buy, from the automobile to the pain reliever you take, and see where it's manufactured.
Ralph Lauren, stung by the criticism and the bad press that could cost it these uniforms that it sells for around $1,000 each, has promised to outfit the next team in U.S.-made clothing and "to lead the conversation within our industry and our government to address the issue to increase manufacturing in the United States."
While we certainly would prefer that our athletes wear U.S.-made clothing when representing us overseas, that is the bigger issue -- getting back into that game. Somehow, we have to figure out ways to put our fellow Americans back to work, creating, sewing and building things that we and people in other nations want. We've proven in the past that we can do just about anything that we throw our minds and hearts into, from winning our freedom from the most powerful world power of the time to placing our footprints -- and ours alone -- on the moon.
If we set fire to anything at all, it needs to be the rekindling of the American spirit.
-- The Albany Herald Editorial Board