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Mind Your Business: The Real Jobs Plan is 'Made in America'

Mind Your Business: The Real Jobs Plan is 'Made in America' Credit: Photo Credit: Karl Tate

I have news for you, America: The odds of Washington solving this country's jobs problem are about the same as China getting out of the export business.

No politician, left, right or center, holds the key to unlock the job creation vault. Only American consumers can do that, and so far they've been unwilling to rise to the challenge.

Contrary to popular belief, the lack of jobs does not stem from a lack of viable businesses that need employees. To the contrary, America is filled with enthusiastic, eager, brilliant, motivated entrepreneurs and business owners who would love to embark on launching, growing and expanding their businesses.  Small business have traditionally employed 44 percent of this country's non-governmental workforce.

And, in spite of what you hear from politicians, tax credits are not the thing that's going to allow them to do it. It's not high taxes or government regulations that are keeping most small businesses from hiring . It's a lack of customers.

Until American consumers decide that buying from American companies is more important than getting the cheapest price, we will never return to the boom times we remember.

This jobs debate is like the modern day version of "The Emperor's New Clothes." Everyone goes along with the rest of the crowd, pretending that the jobs issue is a political one and can be solved with legislation and government intervention. Until Americans start worrying more about reviving the U.S. economy through their own actions and less about saving a couple dollars on a sweatshirt from Walmart, we are doomed to wallow in our current state.

In the last decade, America lost one third (5.73 million) of its manufacturing jobs .  Where do you think those workers used to buy their groceries, get their cars fixed and go out to dinner? In your town. And, now, they are not. The impact of those job losses on the small business owners who depended on those employed workers to spend their money and help them pay their own employees is immeasurable.

Manufacturing jobs didn't disappear. They moved away. In the last decade Americans have continued to consume more and more goods. As manufacturing jobs moved overseas, products became cheaper (because foreign companies are not always required to pay their employees fairly, offer benefits or adhere to environmental regulations). Cheap goods meant that Americans consumed more and felt prosperous.

We are now paying for all those short-term savings.

Unemployment is lowest among the best educated and among skilled trade workers. It's hard to outsource college professors, doctors, lawyers and plumbers. Until we start treating manufacturing jobs with the same respect and collectively decide to pay more for our goods and services so that American companies can afford to pay a fair wage, offer fair benefits and operate within reasonable environmental regulations — all to our collective benefit — the U.S. job market will continue to flounder.

In recent months, we've seen battles between private sector workers, demanding that public service workers — teachers, police officers, healthcare workers — give up their benefits and stability. The mantra is: "I don't have that kind of job security, why should you?"

We are undermining ourselves with this kind of thinking. Rather than wrestling on the ground over the scraps while big corporations continue to improve profitability by sending American jobs overseas, we should be demanding that they return their manufacturing, design, assembly and creative jobs back to the U.S. Rather than ask our public workers to take less, we should demand — by voting with our dollars for American-made products — that privately-held American companies give their workers more.

And those demands can't be made on the backs of small business. Until small business owners have enough customers willing to pay for their services, they will not be able to hire more or pay their existing employees better. Ultimately, the power to bring back American jobs lies with every American armed with a credit card and a conscience.

Jeanette Mulvey

Jeanette has been writing about business for more than 20 years. She has written about every kind of entrepreneur from hardware store owners to fashion designers. Previously she was a manager of internal communications for Home Depot. Her journalism career began in local newspapers. She has a degree in American Studies from Rutgers University. Follow her on Twitter @jeanettebnd.