Made in U.S.A

by Steven Hill

"It's a dog-eat-dog world out there," hollers Joe Kowalski, above the deafening clacks and screeches of the heavy machinery. "And if yer gonna compete you gotta have that competitive edge."

Mayor Flynt and his guest listen attentively to one of the city's premiere businessmen. Joe Kowalski is one of the best. He's an impressive young man, a real up and comer. He started his business right out of Wharton Business School, with a loan from relatives, snatching up at a bargain price an aging plant that needed to be upgraded and modernized. "Just need to find a product that's gonna sell!" proclaimed Joe at the time to all the naysayers, and there were plenty of them. But Joe Kowalski had a talent for distilling his Ivy League business school theory into common sense. "If you got something the public wants, you make a bundle. If you don't, you go down the tubes." Truer words have never been said. Joe Kowalski took the bull by the horns, and won the admiration of many.

"My high school years as a football star prepared me for what I do now," he shouts at the Mayor and his guest above the industrial din. "There isn't any better training for a young boy than high school football, if you ask me. That's because you gotta stay one step ahead of the other side; you gotta have Big Brass Ones to push it across that goal line, with a killer instinct to slam your opponent. You gotta always out run, out block, out smart, and out steal the opposition."

His guests strain to hear him above the roar of the machinery as they cross from one assembly line to another. At both lines, workers with earplugs are sweating feverishly to keep up with the torrid pace.

"Yessiree Ray, ya gotta stay one step ahead of the other side!" Kowalski yells again. "For instance -- my company, Import-Export Inc., we had a permit to import several thousand of those items there from China. But then Congress banned 'em, and I lost m y investment.

"One moment, they were legal, salable private property, gonna make me a mint. And the next moment, Bingo! -- me and my business partners are out seven figures. Just because of an arbitrary action by the government.

"They warned us at Wharton about government regulators. But that was ridiculous. So I said to myself, Joe Kowalski, are you gonna take this lying down? Nosiree. The Customs Service may have refused to release the products to me, but they did allow me to tear 'em apart and salvage some parts. I was able to salvage everything except the receiver, which is the trigger and firing mechanism.

"So now I've hired a company with state-of-the-art aerospace-type equipment to produce new receivers and put the rifles back together here in the States. I've checked with the Bureau of ATF and it's all perfectly legal. I'll be the first American compa ny to domestically manufacture assault-style AK-47 rifles. By doing it here, in this plant, I'm able to get around that liberal Congress' new ban on importing semiautomatics."

The Mayor and Mr. West nod, beaming their wholehearted approval.

"Just call it good ol' Yankee ingenuity, call it Big Brass Ones, call it an instinct for the goal line, whatever you want," hollers Kowalski. "Some of us got it, and some us don't. There's more than one way to skin a cat, if you know what you're doing, and there's more than a couple a ways to end run the Feds. But you gotta be smart and you gotta be quick -- one step ahead, ha ha ha."

Kowalski picks up one of the finished products and hefts it in his hands. The sulfurous industrial lights overhead scintillate off the dull black metal as he hands it to the Mayor. The Mayor fumbles with it in his pudgy hands, but manages to hoist the stock to his chest, grinning sheepishly.

"Let the Ruskies come. Go ahead, make my day. Clint Eastwood's got nuthin' on me."

The Mayor swaggers, pointing the barrel. He hands the gun to Mr. West, who flips it back and forth between his hands, testing its weight like a pro. He nods and smiles his approval. He snaps the stock to his hip, pretending to spray the assembly line wo rkers with semi-automatic fire.

"In fact," shouts Kowalski as a hydraulic drill gun snarls close by, "my version of the AK-47 is better than the Chinese version. It's equipped with military-type accouterments such as collapsible stocks so you can carry 'em or hide 'em in small places if you want to. Pistol grips and threaded barrels for silencers; flash suppressors that can hide the shooter's position at night; bayonet lugs, and even a large-capacity ammunition magazine. These babies are beautiful, something no gun enthusias t should be without.

"And what's more, I can sell 'em to the consumer cheaper and yet still make more profit. The original price was $498 each for nine or fewer, $449 each for 10 or more. But I've dropped both those prices by about $75 bucks. That's a premium price.

"And let me tell you Ray, the demand for these babies is hot. I can't produce 'em fast enough. I've only bought a few ads in various gun and outdoor magazines, and I'm taking orders faster than I can make 'em. In fact, I've added an overnight s hift at the plant, to go with the day and evening shifts. Now we're producing these babies 'round the clock -- we don't have to tool down or shut off the machines at the end of the day. Up goes productivity, up goes profit margins, and I've created over thirty new jobs for hard-working citizens to boot. Now that's a bargain for everyone! It's a win-win!"

Kowalski puffs up with pride as they exit the cacophonous din of the plant, entering the relative quiet of his office. He shuts the door behind them. Mayor Flynt breaths a sigh of relief at leaving the deafening noise behind them.

"Of course, why anyone would want to buy ten or twenty of these at a time is beyond me. But hey -- I ask no questions and they tell me no lies. It's better that way."

"Americans have a right to bear arms," says Mayor Flynt. "It's a freedom guaranteed by our Constitution and Bill of Rights. Amendment Seven, or something like that."

Mr. West still cradles in his arms the fresh piece of semi-automatic weaponry, hot off the line.

"Sure they do," agrees Joe Kowalski. "And I've got a right to sell arms to those people who want 'em, and to make a profit doing it. It's legitimate business, no matter what some pain-in-the-ass government regulator somewhere might think."

The Mayor and his guest nod enthusiastically.

"Hey, call it creative entrepreneurial initiative or whatever you want," says Joe Kowalski. "There's a loophole to be exploited and a dollar to be made. That's what business is all about. And that's what's made this country great.

"And stamp on it: Made in USA."

No sooner has Joe Kowalski's brash words flown past his lips than the Mayor happens to glance at his wrist watch.

"Oh, hey! Look at the time will you? Almost one. We've got to get going, I'm hoping we can make a few more stops before two o'clock."

"Yeah, and I've got to get back to work," says Mr. Kowalski. "Gotta keep those bucks rollin' in. Who knows how long this boom will last. But thanks for coming, it was so nice to meet you."

He nods to the Mayor's guest. "Come back any time."

As they prepare to leave the office, Joe Kowalski calls to them: "Hey, Ray -- I'll see you at the meeting next week, won't I?"

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