The Black Friday Challenge: Buy One American-Made Item

Thanksgiving is a uniquely American tradition. We (over)eat food that is mostly grown or raised here, share time -- sometimes a little too much -- with family and friends, and reflect on the things for which we are the most thankful -- like NFL football games and the fact that political ads have now vanished from the airwaves.

The day after Thanksgiving, "Black Friday," is also an American tradition, albeit a more recent one. Shoppers sometimes maim and maul each other to find bargains at big box stores and shopping malls. It's ugly. And in a way, it represents the very worst of America.

Black Friday is also the most visible symptom of what's really dragging down our middle class: we consume too much from overseas, and we don't produce enough here to make up the difference. That burdens us with debt, and leaves us fewer options for jobs.

There is a solution, and it may sound quaint, but it's never been truer than it is today: this Black Friday: Buy American.

We know the concept is politically popular: The American factory was the most ubiquitous non-human feature of political advertising in 2012. In fact, 87 percent of voters support a preference for American-made products when the government is building infrastructure or buying goods and services. A strong majority of Americans believe the quality of American manufacturing is on the rise. Americans have warm feelings towards American-made products, and decidedly negative views of "Made in China."

But that doesn't stop us from buying those electronic gadgets, smartphones, plastic toys, and clothes all made in China. I'm not here to point fingers at why we got where we are today--big box stores, China, outsourcers, bad policy, etc. Believe me, there is plenty of blame to be shared.

I'm asking you to do one simple thing on Black Friday: Buy just one American-made product.

There are plenty of options, even in shopping malls. And there are scores of options online. But you'll have to do a bit of research either way, and you'll have to look for items other than electronic gadgets, smartphones, or the latest fad toys.

There are options for hipsters, locavores, organizers, preppies, fashionistas, interior designers, jocks, and kids -- we've got the entire Breakfast Club covered, and then some. And there are countless resources to help get you started. We have many of them here.

Buying American sends important signals to the folks who have helped ruin our economy. To the outsourcers, it says "bring those jobs back." To Capitol Hill, it says "if you can't pass a jobs bill, we'll take matters into our own hands." To retailers, it says "we prefer American-made products." Those signals, taken alone, won't bring Made in America all the way back -- but we'll be headed in the right direction.

Some advice: don't try to be pure. It's virtually impossible. And it will drive you crazy. Sometimes, the choice just doesn't exist. But, we can all do better. And we must. Our middle class depends on it. And so does our collective future.

Black Friday can be a force for progress if we paint it red, white, and blue. Can we count on you?