Getting back to work

World's largest retailer shoots for success where government is failing

Now here’s an economic stimulus plan America can get behind.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has pledged to buy $250 billion in American made-products during the next 10 years. The company is promoting the initiative in a series of ads broadcast during the Winter Olympics that featured narration from celebrity pitchman Mike Rowe, best known as host of the cable-TV show Dirty Jobs.

Unlike unsuccessful government attempts to stimulate the economy through pet projects, the Wal-Mart initiative has the potential to lift a wide variety of U.S. manufacturers through its massive global distribution network. The Boston Consulting Group predicts the $250 billion investment will create 1 million jobs.

In an era when there are as many disincentives to work than incentives, the ad’s pro-production narratives are uplifting.

“At one time, I made things,” the voice of Rowe says during the “I Am a Factory” ad that starts with the image of a closed manufacturing site, complete with a padlocked gate. “I was mighty and then one day, the gears stopped turning.

“But I am still here, and I believe I will rise again. We will build things, and build families, and build dreams. It’s time to get back to what America does best.”

The ad then closes out with the sponsor’s message: “Over the next 10 years, we’re putting $250 billion to work to help create new manufacturing jobs in America.” And that’s followed by Rowe saying, “Because work is a beautiful thing.”

It’s an encouraging sign that the world’s largest retailer is making such an enormous investment in the world’s largest economy, which, until overtaken by China in 2010, also boasted the world’s largest manufacturing sector.

Perhaps America could reclaim that title if more companies followed Wal-Mart’s lead and the government made it less onerous to make products on our own soil.

We simply cannot get by with a service-based economy alone. It’s Economics 101: A country that produces little of what it consumes eventually will lack the wealth to consume anything. As the saying goes, we all can’t press one another’s pants for a living.

Some of us actually need to make the pants.

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