The U.S. Census Bureau put out some alarming statistics recently, giving the impression that many American flags fluttering over July Fourth celebrations this week were stitched together in low-cost Chinese factories.
Using data from its Foreign Trade Division, the bureau reported that $3.6 million worth of American flags were imported into the U.S. last year. “The vast majority of this amount ($3.3 million) was for U.S. flags made in China,” the bureau reported.
Country-by-country, the import numbers look like this:
China, of course, is the leading source of imported goods into the U.S. But the idea of the Stars and Stripes being produced primarily in a Communist country is the sort of thing that gets tongues wagging on talk radio and generates headlines like “Don’t buy Old Glory made in China,” which appeared in a South Carolina paper last month.
But fear not. While the nation’s trade gap tops out at more than $700 billion – with 40 percent of that money flowing to China – American flags are still overwhelmingly a U.S.-made product, one expert tells me. The problem with the Census Bureau’s statistics is that its Foreign Trade Division is, not surprisingly, interested only in foreign trade. So while the “vast majority” of the flags counted by the Census Bureau were indeed produced in China, the bureau didn’t count the huge number of flags made domestically.
No one does, as most of the American-made flags are produced by private companies under no obligation to reveal their numbers. But James Giraudo, owner of Pacific Coast Flag in Sacramento, Calif., and president of the National Independent Flag Dealers Association, estimates that U.S. producers roll out $50 to $60 million worth of American flags every year – dwarfing the $3 million and change produced in China.
Adding domestic flags into the mix gives a decidedly more U.S.-centric look:
Still, that 6-percent figure is too high for some. Dan Boren, a Democratic Congressman from Oklahoma, has introduced a bill in each of the last three sessions that would ban the importation of foreign-made American flags. The bill. however, has never made it out of committee.