Say goodbye to U.S. manufacturing jobs

The Sun article describing Rep. Steny Hoyer's initiative to bring manufacturing back to Maryland was a bit late ("Hoyer to pitch manufacturing plan with emphasis on entrepreneurship," June 13).

Bethlehem Steel's Sparrows Point plant was the world's largest steel mill in 1965, employing 30,000 highly paid workers and many times that number providing coal from Pennsylvania and iron ore from the Mesabi Range in Minnesota.


The company slowly disappeared into the ashes of an ill-advised free trade policy that strangled and hollowed out the nation's industrial base — now the rust belt — from the East Coast through the Midwest as the U.S. began to import low-cost foreign cars in the 1970s.

At the same time dominant U.S. television manufacturers — Motorola, Magnavox, Zenith and RCA — moved their manufacturing facilities to the low-cost factories in Mexico and Taiwan, making well paid U.S. consumer electronics manufacturing employees redundant. Those U.S. brands were quickly replaced by low-cost Sony and Panasonic products. As Japan's labor force demanded higher wages their products were replaced by even lower-cost Korean products from Samsung and LG.

Today Samsung and LG compete with U.S. brands Apple, Dell and HP, which are produced by subcontractor Foxconn in China, the world's largest manufacturer of consumer electronics.

There was a mass movement of U.S. companies to Mexico after NAFTA was signed in 1994. Approximately 10 percent of the automobiles sold in the U.S. are assembled in Mexico — one of the major factors in the demise of Detroit.

Massive outsourcing of entire industries to China has accelerated in the last 15 years. Simplistically renaming Sparrows Point as Tradepoint Atlantic will not return manufacturing jobs paying $20 per hour from countries practicing mercantilism and paying $4 per hour. The Trans-Pacific Partnership will add to our distress.

Ten years ago Warren Buffett recognized that our free trade addiction was destroying the U.S. manufacturing base and crushing the middle class. He proposed a novel approach to return jobs to the U.S., which was converted into legislation by Sens. Russell Feingold and Byron Dorgan and called the Balanced Trade Restoration Act. But it was blocked by the free trade crowd.

We are currently transferring over $400 billion per year of national wealth to other nations along with jobs in return for low-cost products. Until the Beltway crowd accept that our trade policies are ruinous, all the hype generated about solving our jobs problem is an exercise in futility.

Charles Campbell, Woodstock