What Big Steel Wants From Washington
January 21, 2002
Threatening the collapse of the domestic steel industry if it doesn't get what it wants from Washington, U.S. Steel has submitted its list of must-have favors.
As detailed by company chief executive Thomas J. Usher, the demands are stunning in their scope:
- First, $12 billion in government aid to pay for employee retirement benefits that are now the obligation of the steel industry.
- After that, antitrust clearance to allow U.S. Steel to acquire a raft of steel makers for practically no cash -- giving the company a near monopoly among old-line steel makers.
- Tariffs on imported steel of up to 40 percent -- which would raise the price of every refrigerator and automobile sold in America and threaten thousands of jobs in steel-using companies.
- And Usher demands that it all be done in the next few months.
Usher admits that his proposal "is ugly." Others in the industry agree. Some companies have taken out newspaper advertisements denouncing some elements as "corporate welfare" - although one, Nucor, has since signed on with the proposal.
Observers report that U.S. Steel has wide access to, and sympathetic ears in, the Bush White House. The company has doubled its lobbying budget -- spending $2.7 million in the first six months of 2001.
Source: Leslie Wayne, "Parched, Big Steel Goes to Its Washington Well," New York Times, January 20, 2002.
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