BURLINGTON, Vt., Jan. 19 - As Chinese President Hu Jintao arrived in Washington, D.C., for a state visit, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) questioned why the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History gift shop sells busts of American presidents that are made in China.
Sanders called the symbolism both "extraordinary" and "pretty pathetic."
"It appears that a museum owned by the people of the United States, celebrating the history of the United States, cannot find companies in this country employing American workers that are able to manufacture statues of our founding fathers, or our current president," Sanders wrote in a letter to Brent D. Glass, the history museum director.
The museum sells bronze-colored, made-in-China busts of U.S. presidents from George Washington to Barack Obama.
"Given the state of the American economy, I would urge the National Museum of American History to do its very best to find American companies to manufacture the products that it sells," Sanders said.
He called himself a fan of the world-class Smithsonian museums and singled out for praise the National Museum of American History, saying it "does a great job." But the senator said the history museum and others could set a better example if the gift shops stocked more merchandise made in America.
"As a nation, we have all got to be aware that one of the major reasons that the unemployment rate in this country is so high is because it is increasingly difficult to find products
in our nation's stores that are manufactured in this country. Our national museum should do its best to be a model in helping us address that crisis situation," the senator wrote.
Some 42,000 U.S. factories shut down since 2001, and more than 5.4 million good-paying manufacturing jobs were lost in this country,
Sanders noted. "In fact, today, the United States currently has fewer manufacturing jobs than it did in April of 1941, about eight months before the attack on Pearl Harbor. This clearly is one of the factors contributing to the substantial shrinking of the middle class that we have been seeing in the last several decades," Sanders said in the letter.