MELBOURNE, Fla. -- Nothing screams USA pride more than a skimpy red, white and blue bikini.
But does it matter that the $32.98 swimsuit mentioned above, and sold at Target, actually was made in Cambodia and not the United States?
As the nation prepares to celebrate its 238th birthday, "Buy America" efforts are still going strong, though emotions on the subject tend to fluctuate depending on the state of the economy.
But what about products, ranging from toothpicks to towels, with specific patriotic motifs? Or the U.S. flag itself? Should those products, which are marketed with an Uncle Sam sentiment in mind, be made in the United States?
"It doesn't really matter to me," said Luis Rodriguez, a retired postal worker who last week sat on a picnic table in a Satellite Beach park wearing a postal carrier union T-shirt with the famed red-white-and-blue eagle — the Postal Service's mascot.
"What I do is make sure the correct number of stars and stripes are being used," Rodriguez said. "If not, then I have more of a problem with it. But I'm not really too concerned about where it's made."
Vietnam War veteran and former Marine Corps infantryman Chip Hanson disagrees. He believes in a "buy American" philosophy. Patriotic items — including items that will be used in July Fourth parties this week — should be manufactured in the United States, he said. That includes plastic forks, paper plates and napkins.
"Most definitely it should come from our country," he said. "If you look at what's happening in our country, we've slipped into a situation where we are depending on other nations for our primary items."
Retailers aren't tone deaf to patriotic emotions when it comes to buying American. Wal-Mart, for example, pledged last year to buy $50 billion over a decade in American-made products.
Still last week, many of the products sold with patriotic themes were made in places such as the Dominican Republic and China. And how's this for irony? Wal-Mart sells U.S. flags for $34.72 with the label on the package proclaiming "Made in the USA." However, a pole and bracket set sold along aside it are imported from China.
Thank some of the dichotomy to a global economy where cheap foreign labor and low-cost, offshore manufacturing practices make it more difficult for cost-conscious consumers to routinely purchase American-made products.
"People have become extremely price sensitive," said Steve Kirn, executive director of the University of Florida's Miller Center for Retailing Education and Research. "It's hard to have these extremely low prices — and price is king right now for the vast majority of consumers — with low production costs coming from Asian countries, and now, African countries."
That's changing, somewhat, as labor costs in places like China rise, Kirn said. A number of U.S.-based textile and clothing manufacturers, for example, are seeing new life because it's become more cost-effective to manufacture domestically.
"Some of the textile mills in the Carolinas are reopening, and I think there is an appeal to that for a variety of reasons," he said. "You control the supply chain, you know what the raw materials are and you know what you're getting. And you're closer to the place where you're ultimately going to vend it."
Wherever you stand on the issue of prices versus patriotism, Florida "Buy American" advocate Roger Simmermaker said July Fourth is a good time for citizens to take stock about how they are spending their money whether they're going to support jobs in the United States or outside the country.
"We have a Declaration of Independence, not a declaration of interdependence," said Simmermaker, an author of two books on buying U.S. made products.
"Buying American is about more than just American-made products and U.S. jobs," he said. "We're less of an independent country to the extent that we rely on other nations to supply our wants and needs."