An Economic Story with an Important Lesson by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths
I received a package from the U.S. the other day. My package arrived the traditional way among immigrants in Israel…a family member in the U.S. bought a desired item that’s unavailable or significantly overpriced in Israel, passed it to a friend who was visiting Israel, who carried it in their suitcase. Israel lost tax revenue, business income and profit because the combinations of that tax and profit made my item expensive enough in Israel that it was worth the hassle and wait to have it brought in via the immigrant family-friend network. But that’s not the focus of our story today.
My package arrived in a lovely black paper bag. The bag was from Brooks Brothers, an upscale business men’s clothing store chain in the United States. Befitting their image as an upscale chain of top quality goods, the bag was heavy coated paper that felt almost plastic with a gold embossed company label and logo. It was pretty and fancy and classy…yet still just a disposable paper bag meant to be used once in carrying a purchase home.
It’s a status bag, yet in ultimate purpose being no different from the cheap plastic bags used to carry home groceries. (Pictured above, though the picture fails to capture the embossing and line-pattern on the black of the bag. Much classier in real life.)
It was an impressive bag for it’s purpose.
But as I picked up my bag I noticed something on the bottom…in gold..embossed…
So I thought for a moment and said, let’s tell the story of this little bag.
The U.S. is a top exporter of lumber and it’s byproducts, such as wood pulp. My paper bag was clean bright white on the inside, and strong, so it’s likely it had no recycled paper but was original wood pulp, possibly from Washington State.
The raw materials, wood pulp, was shipped from Washington State to China via a seagoing transport freighter. It was received in a Chinese port, unloaded and transported to a Chinese paper factory. The Chinese paper factory processed the wood pulp and produced different grades of paper, including the high weight (possibly with some cotton content) paper used for my page.
A roll of paper was shipped by truck from the Chinese paper factory to a Chinese paper-bag making factory. There they did a two color printing with heavy ink, producing the plastic-like feel, ran it through embossing, then through folding and gluing. Then they added the rope handle, which may have been a manual process.
The bags were boxed in boxes manufactured at another Chinese factory that specializes in shipping boxes. The boxes were loaded onto pallets (produced at another Chinese factory using low grade wood – often infested with local beetles that are an invasive species in the U.S.), which were loaded back on to trucks headed back to the port.
At the port they were loaded on to a transport freighter headed to the port of Long Beach outside of Los Angeles. On arrival at the port they were unloaded and placed on trucks for delivery to regional Brooks Brothers distribution centers throughout the United States.
On arrival to the distribution centers the boxes were removed from the pallets and individually re-shipped to the individual Brooks Brothers stores found in many upscale U.S. malls and other upscale locations.
My bag was taken out of it’s box by a store stock clerk, who stacked it under the cash register for use.
So for Brooks Brothers (and you can assume all similar businesses) it was cheaper to buy printed disposable paper bags that were created from wood shipped from the U.S. to China, shipped around China, shipped back to the U.S. and re-shipped out to individual stores, than it was to have them made locally in the U.S.
Meaning the United States of America can’t compete in making a PAPER BAG even including the cost of literally shipping the source material and resulting bag around the whole planet. A paper bag who’s only manual steps (and therefore labor costs) might be attaching the handle and loading the finished boxes onto trucks.
Need more be said? This is the economic problem that must be solved. Stimulus won’t help, even a focus on education won’t help. Jews of America, if this problem is not being solved then (b’derek teva, according to the natural path) the future of the United States of America can only be bleak and continue it’s slow-to-moderate decline.
Without a solution here, and almost NO ONE is even paying attention at this level, the Golden Age of America is past.
That saddens me, but it would be foolish to ignore it.