Backing American manufacturing should come as a no-brainer for any citizen of our nation. Not only does it boost local industry, supply more jobs, enrich the market, and better impact our environment, but it also keeps our tax dollars within the US.
Our government has set standards in place for new infrastructure projects to utilize materials and products sourced in America first. Instead of importing materials from overseas, goods like iron and steel must come from American companies. This act was set into place in 1982 and known as the Surface Transportation Assistance Act, but more commonly referred to as the Buy America Act.
This “Made in America” law was strengthened by President Biden’s signing of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which included the Build America, Buy America Act in 2021. You can read our complete analysis of the Buy American Act here.
The Buy American Act
In summary, The Buy American Act states that infrastructure projects that are federally funded must use iron, steel, and manufactured products and materials that are American-produced. To say it in the simplest way possible: American tax dollars pay for these projects, so that money should go right back into the American market.
The Act sounds great, doesn’t it? It is…but that doesn’t stop the ominous loopholes from forming thanks to agencies and special interest groups. These loopholes typically take the form of waivers to the requirements set forth in the Act. The waivers are requested for issues such as cost, quality, and availability of materials. Yet, the problem is that the standards for issues are ill-defined and thus easy to get around.
These waivers act as exceptions to the rules – a way out of following those American-made requirements. Waivers can be appointed by the head of a Federal agency, like the Department of Transportation.
Here’s the wrench to throw into the gears, though…before that waiver can become active, it must be posted online for 15 days to give the public an opportunity to voice opinions and comments.
General Waivers to the Buy American Act
As stated, a waiver would allow a company to “loophole” through the American-made requirements and source products from overseas. Some are considered General Waivers, a wide sweep that applies to all projects, and not considered on a case-by-case basis. Currently, there is a general waiver in place for all manufactured goods needing to be American-manufactured, aside from steel.
The Federal Highway Administration has kept this waiver in place since 1983. That’s forty years of missing out on bolstering American supply chains.
This isn’t good news for our economy. With nonspecific waiver requirements, it is easy for companies to work their way around the system. In the end, US manufacturers, and the people that work for them and depend on them, are the ones to suffer.
Support America, End the Outsourcing Loophole
Here’s where democracy can make a difference. As an American citizen, you have the opportunity to join in support of the Buy American Act and shut down these outsourcing loopholes. Recall that waivers must be posted online to allow the public a 15-day comment period before they can become active.
So far, there are over 3,000 comments on the General Applicability Waiver of Buy America Product Requirements for Manufactured Products.
You can help support American industry by telling the US Secretary of Transportation, Pete Buttigieg, that you are for the Buy America Act and reject the waiver at hand. Add your comment to support documents, and let your voice be heard. The comment period is open from March 17, 2023, to April 17, 2023, so waste no time supporting American made!