Our Military Deserves More Than One Brand of Shoe to Wear

Free trade gives our soldiers better boot options. That's a good thing.

By Jim DeMint Published on May 22, 2016

Sneakers, sneaks, kicks, tennis shoes, running shoes: whatever you call them, everybody has a pair. (I’ll die before I call them trainers. This is America.)

It seems that there are a thousand brands and types to choose from, whether for particular sports or just lounging around in comfort. But Congress is about to force men and women in the armed forces to wear just one.

To offer the best options to our troops, they’re given a voucher and allowed to pick from about a dozen qualifying shoes from three manufacturers, according to what suits their physical training regimen and their comfort.

That may soon change. The House Armed Services Committee recently adopted an amendment to the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act that would force the military to only buy shoes with every component made in the USA. As it turns out, only one brand has a product line like that: New Balance. And according to The Boston Globe, New Balance “has been the most outspoken proponent” of this measure. The Defense Department, for its part, is reluctant to reduce the availability of a variety of athletic shoes that could be preventing injuries.

You’d think everyone would agree that the needs of the troops should come before rank protectionism, but a lot of congressmen like to claim they’re helping American industry — an attitude conveniently absent when it comes to deregulation or taxes.

Quite frankly, it is absurd to demand that every product the government buys from an American company be assembled here. The entire reason we have a free economy and free trade agreements with other countries is so that Americans can conduct business and use their resources to their greatest advantage. The result is more competition, cheaper products, and a stronger economy. That benefits us all.

Rep. Mark Sanford, R-S.C., has been leading the charge against this misplaced protectionism. He’s drawn attention to the fact that sneakers are one of the few independent decisions military personnel are allowed to make: “An enlisted person in the United States military has very few choices. One of the few choices they have is they’re given a voucher for 70 bucks and they get to pick the training shoe of their choice. … This is about preserving a choice that works for them.”

This is to say nothing against New Balance in particular. I wish them the best of success. Most businesses in this country deserve a lot more room to innovate, hire employees and serve their customers than the federal government currently gives them.

But I’d also hope that every American company worth its salt can succeed without relying on protectionism and a domestic monopoly on military customers, courtesy of Uncle Sam and our tax dollars.

Professional athletes or movie stars can endorse whatever product they like. They’re private citizens. The U.S. government, on the other hand, shouldn’t have rules that only benefit one product line, any more than Congress should declare Doritos or Pringles to be our national snack. (I’d filibuster for boiled peanuts, anyway.)

Our men and women in uniform have enough challenges to overcome in the world without being told what shoes they can buy. American businesses have enough hard work to do without worrying if the government will punish them for imported shoelaces. Congress should give this ridiculous protectionism the boot and let everyone buy and sell what they want.

After all, this is America. Freedom is in our soles.


Copyright 2016 The Daily Signal

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  • Paul Burgett

    Yeah this is a great article Jim, except you forget one BIG point:
    According to this article, our service members are getting free shoes.
    There’s a whole lot of professions where you don’t get free PT gear. When I served in the United States Marine Corps I didn’t always get a chance to choose my shoes, but I guarantee you that I was comfortable and I was in shape. You can throw that baloney line out the window that somehow shoes prevent injuries. It is not being a fat-body and stretching every day that prevents injuries. I get what you’re saying regarding protectionism but there’s a lot better arguments to be made about a lot more important issues. Either you never served in the Armed Forces or if you did then you never learned how to get a big straw and suck it up. I am all for giving our soldiers sailors Marines and airmen-women the best possible equipment and gear. I am also for balancing our budget. I am also for turning boys into men and girls into women, immature kids into a disciplined fighting force. That’s what they do, Jim. They kilI people. That’s their job. You can paint it anyway you want and make it seem really rosy but that is what our military does. They carry the authority to take the lives of people who want to hurt us. When we start coddling this segment of our society we lose. On top of that we do a disservice to our servicemen and women by diverting their attention to trivialities and setting a very low bar with regard to qualifiers for good morale and general welfare. In plain English we make our soldiers into cry baby’s. Just saw two articles the other day; one complained about veterans benefits being taken to bring interpreters to the US from Afghanistan, and the other one talked about the terrible plight of an interpreter and his family that was being championed by an Army officer. Who’s right? This is the kind of argument, as is yours, that happens when incompetent leadership gets the country in such dire debt that we need to cut into ostensibly good programs.
    Our service members, God bless them, need good, reliable equipment that functions every time. They would receive that in New Balance shoes. No inflammatory article needed.

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