One way to start making stuff here in America again is to put tariffs on the cheap foreign crud that floods our retail shelves. If the company that off-shores its production has to pass along a decent tariff to the consumer, Walmart and Target will stop carrying their junk -- why would consumers may about the same price for junk as for quality?
A separate path is one I haven't heard discussed before, but is crucial to pull back the veil about what exactly it is they're buying. Most people don't realize how shoddy the product is because, even if they search for the country of origin (and most of them do not), a tiny label reading "Made in China" gets lost on them because of the Western branding.
After all, the company making it bears a Western name, and so does the particular item. It's the Peckham model shirt from the Applecart and Morrow company, so it doesn't matter if the label says "Made in China". The worst is branding that is specifically American -- the All-American model power drill from the Uncle Sam Tools company, whose logo is a red white and blue flag -- oh btw, MADE IN CHINA.
These companies should not be allowed to fob off cheap third world crud on us, while deceiving us with Western branding (names, symbols, etc.). Hypothetically, consumers can inspect the country of origin, but again most do not, and in the cognitive dissonance between the tiny print on the label and the cleverly designed branding, their minds favor the razzle-dazzle over the strict facts. We might wish the human mind worked differently, but it does not, and we must base policy on how things really are.
I also don't see this coming from consumer protest groups, because again the consumers go through cognitive dissonance and resolve it in favor of the branding -- perceiving it as cheap third-world junk would undo their resolution and bring back that anxious feeling all over again. So leaving it to individual consumer demand would not do the trick either.
That leaves it, unfortunately, to some federal agency to regulate the presentation of consumer products. I wish nobody needed to do that, but then I wish we didn't have to enforce laws against dumping toxic waste into our water supply.
It would be akin to the regulation of food marketing by the FDA -- for example, you can't market or brand something as "chocolate" unless it has cocoa butter, the key ingredient. If the company uses a cheaper lipid like generic vegetable oils, they can't fob it off on the public as "chocolate" but "chocolate-y" or "made with chocolate" or "tastes kinda like real chocolate". True, the ingredient list would show consumers that cocoa butter isn't in there, but it requires too much effort to do a mini research project every time you want to inspect a common consumer good. Just summarize it so we can tell at a glance.
Country of origin is no less important of a summary for the quality, reliability, and durability of a consumer good. There's a simple reason why the maker off-shored the manufacturing -- to cut costs by paying for crappier labor and inferior materials, while charging the same price back home, with the consumer none the wiser -- or at most, apathetic, cynical, and passively accepting.
I don't see how an agency within the industry could do the regulating. Usually the insiders only regulate branding to protect native stuff and emphasize its quality. Here the goal is the opposite: to reveal foreign junk as foreign junk to dissuade consumers from wasting their money. No industry insider body would want to do that. Some kind of government agency seems to be the only sort of solution, a la the FDA regulating food companies from marketing "pink slime" as minced ribeye steak.
I'm also not committed to one way or another of regulation. The idea that sprang to mind was to make the branding names be consonant with the country of origin, or at least region. This is easy to tell in practice -- a shirtmaker that has everything made in Vietnam has to brand itself with a Vietnamese or Southeast Asian name. Not necessarily in the Vietnamese language, which we wouldn't understand, but something like "Vietnamese Elite Tailoring" or "Ho Chi Minh Clothiers" rather than "Rumptree and Cork". Likewise with imagery, no Union Jack flag logos allowed for something made in Vietnam.
Mega-corporations are at this point running a shell game with consumers about what product was made where, always making sure that the shells themselves look culturally familiar. It amounts to fraud and ought to be stopped.
More importantly, though, it would wake consumers up to just how much of the stuff that retailers stock their shelves with is simply third-world crap. Even without a tariff imposed on it, this would shift a lot of their purchases toward authentic Western producers. Compounded with a tariff, it would wipe out the retail junk market overnight. Pay more for lower quality? Pass.
Such a regulatory system would resemble the protected designation of origin laws for foodstuffs produced in Europe, where only authentic Asiago cheese can be labeled as such, protecting its makers from having some lower-quality imitation stuff benefiting from the original's reputation, which it did not create or cultivate, but is merely latching onto like a parasite. Similarly, Chinese tools that look like American tools should not be allowed to benefit from their reputation and prestige by being branded with American names and symbols.
The third-world junk on retail shelves does not come right out and say it's American -- in fact, in fine print on a small label, it says it's from Malaysia, Nicaragua, or wherever -- but the level of insinuation and deception with its branding makes it amount to the same as outright fraud.
Again putting the tariff issue aside, even if American consumers wanted to buy these things, they should be doing so without being misdirected by marketing sleight-of-hand. Aside from being wrong in the abstract, this kind of fraud is incredibly widespread -- it's hard to think of any manufactured good that it does not apply to -- and keeping American producers from making and selling the real, good stuff.
That the American makers of furniture, hardware, clothing, electronics, and all the rest of it, have been put out of business and their workforce either on the dole or working crappy service jobs, just so some liar with an MBA can get rich with their marketing shell game, is one of the most appalling disgraces of the modern era.