Reporter Skirts Truth about 1970s Steel Industry Collapse

A journalist from Pittsburgh named Salena Zito got accolades for traveling to small-town and rural Pennsylvania during the presidential campaign of 2016 and reporting on the enthusiasm for Donald Trump that took him to the White House.

This passes as daring and dangerous work since most journalists today never venture into ‘enemy territory’ where conservative white people live and work.

Zito now is being praised for a story in the New York Post called The day that destroyed the working class and sowed the seeds of Trump, about the fall of the thriving US steel industry in and around Youngstown, Ohio, just west of Pittsburgh.

It started 40 years ago today on September 19, 1977 when Youngtown Sheet and Tube, a major company in the industry, furloughed 5,000 workers in one fell swoop. Mass layoffs followed throughout the region. Zito breathlessly writes:

Within a decade 40,000 jobs were gone. Within that same decade, 50,000 people had left the region, and by the next decade that number was up to 100,000. Today the 22 miles of booming steel mills and the support industries that once lined the Mahoning River have mostly disappeared — either blown up, dismantled or reclaimed by nature.

OK, we know the story, but like a good left-wing journalist Zito twists herself into a pretzel emotionally portraying the heroic workers suffering through the layoffs and then she even wastes some of the article praising a left-wing activist who ingratiated himself into the area to take advantage of the situation with the usual hollow activism (i.e., blame the industry, blame capitalism, blame big business, demand government help, etc.).

In other words Zito wrote it from a liberal point of view. Naturally Zito skipped over the big point in that she never really explains why those jobs were destroyed in the first place. So let Nikitas3.com tell you about it.

Zito does mention, but only barely, two major forces that tore apart the steel industry when she wrote:

… a plan was endorsed to send petitions to President Jimmy Carter encouraging him to stop steel imports and put an ease on regulations that were hurting the industry.

This one sentence is extremely important yet you would never know it from this passing reference. Here is why it is so significant:

Regulations, and more critically ‘green’ regulations over the last 50 years, have been a major factor in outright destroying, or preventing the creation of tens of millions of good jobs. US manufacturing peaked in 1979 at 19 million jobs. Today, with a much larger population, there are only 12 million.

We could write a book about this. This over-regulation is precisely what president Trump is talking about when he addresses the regulatory blob in Washington.

Then look at what else Zito casually mentions about those steel imports, as if it were another throwaway thought:

At the time, newer plants in China and Japan, which had better technological capabilities, were outstripping American production.

There are two things about this one sentence that Zito never expounds upon in her shallow commentary:

First, American steel companies in the 1970s were being forced to pay their workers outrageously inflated union salaries, more than twice what they are paying today. This was great for the workers and this is why Youngstown was riding high.

But this left the steel companies with little cash left over to modernize their plants. This also happened to the railroads which fell into disrepair and decay in the 1950s and 1960s after being held economic hostage by the unions for many decades.

So the “better technological capabilities” in China and Japan in newer steel plants is an understatement and obviously would give those nations a huge advantage.

In addition, liberals always support higher and higher business taxes which drew enormous amounts of capital out of the steel industry that could have gone for modernization.

Worse, communist China and socialistic Japan were heavily subsidizing their steel industries with government dollars and then “dumping” steel on the United States market, under-pricing US producers. This is a socialist tactic that gives one nation a huge advantage over another.

But Zito commits the ultimate journalistic malpractice when she fails anywhere in her article to mention the labor unions and their shocking wage demands, strikes, violence, confrontation and ridiculous work rules throughout the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s that played the leading role in bringing down Big Steel. Zito only writes:

According to a study done by the Midwest Center for Research the average salary of a steel worker in the late 1970s was $24,772.80.

This sounds innocent enough but if you account for inflation and convert $24,772.80 in 1977 to today it would be $100,000 in annual salary for a shop-floor steel worker with a high-school education, or less. This is about what unionized auto workers were earning when GM and Chrysler collapsed.

So imagine that you ran a steel company today and had to pay $100,000 a year plus full benefits and pensions to every unionized shop-floor employee. It would be impossible to stay in business. And this, friends, is how the unions slowly, surely and incrementally destroyed the steel industry over 30 years after the end of World War II, along with those other three forces from the socialist left – massive over-regulation, high business taxes and subsidized imports.

Unionized longshoremen in Los Angeles today are making about $100K – and arguing over who is going to plug in refrigerated shipping containers – and this is leading to the falling financial viability of the port there.

This is why workers in the Southern US today are voting overwhelmingly to keep the unions out. They have seen what unions do and want no part of it. They are happy with their prosperity and the peace that they have without union thugs slashing their tires or knocking on the door at 2 in the morning.

We all remember how Mitt Romney was savagely maligned as an evil capitalist in the 2012 presidential campaign. Yet back in 1993 he helped to finance and guide the startup of a Fort Wayne, Indiana company called Steel Dynamics.

Steel Dynamics today has 7,500 employees and is one of the new generation of steel producers that is bringing the industry back to the United States. Metallurgists at Steel Dynamics earn $65,000 to $70,000 and computer programmers earn $82,000. These are called ‘sustainable’ wages that won’t put the company out of business. Obviously shop-floor employees earn less, but that precise figure was not available on the internet. Nikitas3.com estimates that it is $40K and up, plus benefits and pension. Even a ‘safety clerk’ earns $40K.

But if the regulators, taxers, environmentalists, socialists and unions had their way they would tear Steel Dynamics apart, chew it up and spit it out in little pieces, just like they did to Youngstown. And just like they did to my Nikitas3.com hometown in Massachusetts where the unions drove out General Electric with decades of horrible behavior, leaving a shattered city behind.

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