U.S. BACKBONE OF STEEL HAS TURNED BRITTLE
“Steel is power. Any nation that expects to project strength and resolve must produce steel. Throughout US history steel has been an irreplaceable underpinning of our economic and military might.
It’s why Abraham Lincoln insisted on building steel plants to supply the biggest infrastructure project of his time: the transcontinental railroad. Eschewing cheaper British imports, the 16th president insisted that the Union, even after winning the Civil War, would not prosper without a robust iron and steel industry.
During WWII, Franklin D. Roosevelt knew that becoming the Arsenal of Democracy would not happen without eliminating gaping steel shortages. As Arthur Herman documents in “Freedom’s Forge: How American Business Produced Victory in WWII,” domestic steel output had hit a 20 year low in 1939, plummeting to less than half the 63 million tons forged in 1929.
A nation at war,” the historian noted, “was going to need at least 80 million tons.”
The country would meet the challenge; wartime production totaled 434 million tons.
America finds itself in an eerily similar place today as we face a generation long conflict with Islamic jihadists-as well as Chinese and Russian rivals who are aggressively building their respective military-industrial complexes. Yet the nation and Pennsylvania in particular have suffered a Depression like contraction of steel production.
After peaking at 141 million tons in 1969, the nations annual output has rarely hit 100 million tons since 1990; it was a puny 87 million tons in 2013, just 11 percent of China’s 779 million tons. Globalists, environmentalists, financiers and free traders welcome this emasculating deindustrialization. We have transcended industry, they claim. But to world powers and especially our enemies, this retrenchment signals weakness.
In spite of the sector’s wrenching consolidation in the face of global overcapacity and the rise of innovative specialty companies and mini-mills like Nucor in place of the old vertically integrated giants like Bethlehem and US Steel, domestic steel capacity nowhere near satisfies demand for US transportation infrastructure-bridges, tunnels and highway over passes-or defense needs, from carriers and submarines to armored vehicles and other weaponry.
Instead America lies vulnerable to foreign competitors that not only maintain national steel companies at our expense but also dump subsidized products into US steel markets. That steel often suffers in quality. Faulty welds yielded massive construction delays and cost overruns on the 12 year replacement of the eastern span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge after California outsourced the job to a state owned Chinese steel fabricator. More recently, New York City fell into the same trap with restoration of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, the country’s longest suspension span.
The Keystone State is especially reeling from the failure of America’s ruling class to value steel as a foundation of national strength. Half the state’s steelworkers lost their middle class livelihoods during the 1980’s and primary metal manufacturing jobs were cut in half again between 1990 and 2010. That’s a staggering reversal of the previous century when Pennsylvania was the steel capital of the world and US and Bethlehem Steel became America’s No. 1 and 2 steel producers.
The latter forged girders for the Ben Franklin, George Washington and Golden Gate bridges. In 1943 its shipbuilding division was outfitting a warship a day. Today that prime industrial property in Bethlehem hosts the Sands Casino Resort.
How can a country that trades steel making for a parasitic industry defend itself much less call itself a superpower? Indeed Loren Thompson reports in Forbes that only one plant in the country, the old Lukens Steel Co. in Coatesville Pennsylvania-ironically owned by ArcelorMittal, the European multinational that also holds the remaining Bethlehem Steel assets-had the capacity to produce the high-quality steel to build armored vehicles needed for the 2007 Iraq war surge.Even then, the Pentagon had to wait in line because the facility was at overcapacity. This is no way to run Lincoln’s railroad, much less maintain the Fortress of Freedom that conquered the Axis menace and consigned the Evil Empire to the ash heap of history.
To reverse course, both political parties must ensure that all defense and transportation infrastructure projects employ only steel forged at home by American firms using US workers-and that no subsidized steel enters US markets. Until America redevelops a backbone of steel, our cherished independence remains at risk.”
This Article was written by Robert W. Patterson for the Philadelphia Inquirer
and re-printed in the Cleveland Plain Dealer 10/8/2014.
Mr. Patterson served in the administrations of George W. Bush and Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett.
The Compounded Costs of Foreign Steel in America
When I got my first taste of the steel business in the Cleveland area back in 1969, the town and surrounding areas were FULL of steel producers: US Steel, Jones & Laughlin Steel, Bethlehem Steel, Timken Steel, Crucible Steel, Republic Steel, Bliss & Laughlin Steel, Cuyahoga Steel & Wire and more. Some still exist, but many are now owned by foreign concerns.
There were machine shops everywhere from small mom & pop shops to fairly large and extremely large (Warner & Swasey for example) manufacturing plants. In my view, what he writes rings true.
We cannot and should not let other countries dump their steel products here, for several reasons: this country needs the strength of vibrant steel producers, they fuel our military might, they create jobs in the mills, they create jobs in machine shops, trucking, rail and a host of other industries too numerous to list here.
Foreign products ARE inferior to American made products, both the imported steel and the imported finished parts. Look what happened to the bridges referenced above. Awarded to the cheapest bidder, they are falling apart, buying foreign has caused delays in construction and huge cost overruns.
Less than 4 weeks from now: DON’T FORGET TO VOTE ON NOVEMBER 4. It really is time for a change.
US raw steel production dropped to a five month low last week as mills operated at an annual capability utilization rate (ACUR) of 75.9 percent. In the corresponding week last year mills operated at an ACUR of 77.3 percent. Thus far this year mills have operated at an ACUR of 77.2 percent up from the 77.0 percent ACUR in the same period last year.
Fast & Furious-providing weapons to criminals leading to a loss of American life. No one held accountable. The president was unaware.
The loss of 4 American lives at our embassy in Benghazi, Libya. No one held accountable. The president was unaware.
The IRS targeting conservative political groups for tax-exempt status. No one held accountable. The president was unaware.
The National Security Administration eavesdropping on the phone calls of American citizens. No one held accountable. The president was unaware.
The software program created for the Affordable Healthcare Act, at a cost of $1 billion (thus far) and 3 ½ years to “perfect”, has been unusable to the American people. No one held accountable. The president was unaware.
Spying on our Allies, specifically Angela Merkel of Germany. No one held accountable. The president was unaware. (Although these things go on knowingly between countries all the time, the fact that our president denies knowledge of this is just another sign of his incompetence as the leader of the most powerful country on the planet).
“If you like your current insurance plan you can keep it. Period” Barack Obama
“If you like your doctor, you can keep him. Period” Barack Obama
Have a great weekend and….
Hug your children and grandchildren, tell them you love them.
Buy American made products whenever you can.
Hire a Veteran: they are patriots, honest, hard working, disciplined, loyal…. and …. They need and deserve our support.
God Bless America