One hears talk that Americans should buy U.S.-made goods to help get the nation's economy back on its feet. This raises a touchy question, though: What do Americans think of American products? A Politico/Allstate poll last month found decidedly mixed feelings.
A sizable minority of respondents took a dim view of American goods, regarding their quality as either "not so good" (23 percent) or downright "poor" (9 percent." Thirteen percent rated the quality of American-made products as "excellent," with another 52 percent saying it's "good."
Asked to judge "the innovation of American companies," just 4 percent rated it "excellent" and 29 percent "good"; 42 percent said it's "not so good" and 15 percent "poor." Notwithstanding the fulsome praise of American labor that's part of any political campaign, many respondents were unenthused about "the work ethic of American workers." While 7 percent rated it "excellent" and 39 percent "good," a majority said it's "not so good" (34 percent) or "poor" (19 percent).
Amid all their doubts about the quality of U.S. companies, the survey found respondents holding an expansive view of the responsibilities the corporate sector should fulfill. One question asked them to say which of two statements comes closer to their own opinion: "The only obligation business corporations have is to meet customer demands and earn a profit," or "Business corporations have an obligation to contribute to society, so that when a company does well, the country also benefits." Twenty-six percent subscribed to the former statement, while 70 percent preferred the latter -- including 57 percent doing so "strongly."
Along the same lines, 79 percent strongly agreed that "Business corporations have an obligation to not only make money, but also to care for their workforce and the community"; 67 percent said they strongly believe businesses "have an obligation to pursue actions that will help improve the overall economy." By contrast, fewer than half (48 percent) strongly endorsed the view that "It's easy to attack business corporations, but they are engines of growth and job creation and are a critical part of the American economy."
Just 16 percent agreed strongly that "Business corporations generally strike a fair balance between making profits and serving the public interest." No doubt this will sound like a cruel joke to companies that now see their profits dwindling to the point of nonexistence.