By Dennis Free
Part of the great economic recovery includes efforts to bring manufacturing back to the United States, a direct strategy of the Trump administration to reverse the long flight of American manufacturing jobs to foreign soil. Encompassing tax reform for individuals and businesses, trade renegotiation, stopping unfair trade practices, and rolling back onerous regulations, it includes bringing back American steel making.
Steel making in the United States has two components: creating new steel and recycling scrap steel into new products. Both aspects of this industry are showing signs of growing and, as a country, we should adopt policies that favor the continued growth of both. United States Steel, Republic, Nucor, and GFC Industrials have all announced either the opening of new mills or the restarting of shuttered mills.
American steel can be slightly more expensive. Cost estimates are that a $35,000 vehicle will cost about $175 more per vehicle. This trend may or may not continue but a slight increase in the price of products is a burden that we as a country should not be unwilling to shoulder.
Briefly, this is why we should support American Steel:
1. Like oil, steel is a strategic material. The indigenous production is necessary for the defense of our county. During and before World War II, Japan was not capable of meeting its steel needs and was forced to rely on importing scrap steel from the United States. When this source of steel was cut off right before and during the war, it was a strategic weakness in the Japanese economy and defense industry that they could not overcome that contributed to their eventual defeat. Our nation wants to keep the capacity to make steel instead of relying on other nations who may not have our best interests at heart.
2. American steel employs our fellow citizens. I am willing to pay a little more to help our neighbors. Getting our citizens working is the key to a robust economy. We can pay a little more for the products they produce or pay a lot more in social welfare to support out-of-work steelworkers.
3. American steel helps revitalize the hollowed out Rust Belt. These communities have long suffered, a trend we want to reverse.
4. American steel production cascades through the rest of our economy, helping other Americans find work. For example Virginia and West Virginia coal is metallurgic, meaning that it is used to make steel. As more steel is made locally, this helps the coal industry in the western part of our state and West Virginia.
5. American steel is made in accordance to strict environmental standards. The same cannot be said of steel made elsewhere. While these strict standards do contribute to increased cost, this is a price we should be willing to pay for the well-being of the planet.
6. American-made steel has a clear line of product liability while steel made elsewhere does not have as strong a link to such liability for defective products. For example, about eight years ago the housing industry was rocked when defective Chinese drywall was imported and used in homebuilding. The drywall destroyed homes due to sulfur emissions emanating from the drywall. Over 100,000 homes were affected. The people who lost their homes had no way to compensate themselves for this injury. Even today the defective drywall is still being discovered in homes.
Rebuilding America is a process, one that will require a commitment over time. Our steel industry is one part of a great tapestry of a recovering American economy. Let us unite to keep it going.
Dennis Free is Republican Chairman of the 2nd Congressional District of Virginia.