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Sen. Sanders Spurs Return to ‘Made in America’: Says U.S. Future Depends on It

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Another bad sign for U.S. manufacturing on Wednesday. Factories on the East Coast — New York and parts of New Jersey and Connecticut — slowed unexpectedly in June, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York's latest regional economic index.

The contraction is indicative of the impact Japan's deadly tsunami and earthquake are still having on the U.S. economy.

But take a step back, way back to at least a decade before that natural disaster hit in March, says Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and you'll see that the U.S. manufacturing sector has been struggling for quite some time.

"In the last 10 years, 50,000 factories in America have shut down" due to free trade policies like the North American Free Trade Agreement, says Sanders. "Millions of good paying manufacturing jobs have been lost," resulting in a middle class that has all but collapsed.

This is certainly not breaking news: 'Made in the U.S.A' has been in jeopardy for years, but the fact that Senator Sanders has chosen to do something about this reality, certainly IS news.

He convinced the Smithsonian's Natural History Museum to open a gift shop with 100% American-made goods and he did it without passing any legislation.

Senator Sanders pushed the taxpayer-funded museum to turn its attention to U.S.-made gifts after he was "embarrassed" to discover last Christmas that most goods in the shop were made elsewhere, he tells Aaron in the accompanying interview. He thought it was "pathetic" for a museum whose mission it is to talk about U.S. history, culture and greatness had a gift shop filled with foreign-made goods, including the little statuettes of Presidents of the United States.

The Price of Freedom Gift shop re-opened just last week with shelves full of items made here at home.

According to the Senator's website, "Smithsonian executives told Sanders that so far 19 new American companies have been added to the list of vendors this year and altogether 62 new American-made goods are on sale, including U.S.-manufactured versions of the presidential busts that first stoked Sanders' concern."

The Smithsonian is now making an aggressive effort in all of its 18 other museums to expand the number of products made in America despite the fact that U.S.-made goods might cost just a little bit more.

"The U.S.-made products may [cost] a little bit more, but the extra price many be well worth it to know that your neighbor has a job as a result of that," say Sanders. "I think if you are aggressive in trying to search out and find American companies, you can, in many instances, find competitive prices."

The real hope for Sanders is that this small initiative to buy and sell U.S. manufactured goods will spread to other federally funded agencies, organizations and contractors where large amounts of U.S. tax dollars are spent.

For Sanders, this is really all about reviving the country's fractured middle class. And the way Senator Sanders sees it, the best way to do it is through a revamped U.S. trade policy. However, even before that can happen, the U.S. must rebuild its manufacturing sector by buying goods "Made in the U.S.A."

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