I'm afraid John McLucas, in writing about the trade imbalance with Japan {letters, Feb. 17}, either has his head buried in the sand or hasn't done much shopping lately. He railed against people who buy Japanese-made goods when there are high-quality, competitively priced American goods on the market. In the case of the automobile, this may or may not be true, depending on one's needs. However, his blanket statement is patently ridiculous.

I wonder whether Mr. McLucas has tried buying a television set or videocassette recorder lately. Or perhaps a good 35 mm camera or stereo system. In buying these and countless other items, the only kind available is made overseas -- in Asia, South America or Europe. The blame should not be put on the consumer, but right where it belongs, on the back of the American business community. U.S. businesses have allowed this to happen, and even fostered it in many cases, simply because they have abdicated their original raison d'e~tre: to provide high-quality goods at a profit. Instead, they have become mass distributors of foreign goods. Just check the labels on items sold under famous American brand names, including textile products, and see how manywere actually manufactured in thiscountry.

By giving in to greed, U.S. firms have lost the ability to compete in many fields; they have closed their own plants and have done absolutely nothing to maintain or upgrade any manufacturing capability. When they opted to become giant cash machines, they took the first step in making this country dependent on other nations. Unless something is done soon, they will have put us on an irreversible treadmill to economic oblivion. These firms' giving up, claiming they are unable to compete with the rest of the world, is a cop-out -- one that will come back to haunt us in the future. EDWARD L. BARROW Arlington