Big Steel's Long, Long Wish List

December 11, 2001

The nation's old-line steel makers are pressing the federal government for special treatment granted to almost no other industry, critics assert - adding the industry is almost certainly overreaching.

Here is a partial list of their demands:

  • They want trade protection from low-priced imports.
  • They want the U.S. to pressure other nations to scale back their steel-making capacity.
  • They want billions of dollars in taxpayer money to help pay health and pension benefits.
  • And they want the assurances that their proposals to merge many of the American industry's biggest companies into a bigger, more efficient competitor will not run into antitrust problems.

But such favors don't have industry-wide support. A new and smaller class of steel companies called mini-mills are opposed to the giants' pleas. The mini-mills are usually far more efficient than the older companies.

As so many other industries are doing these days, the big steel companies are wrapping themselves in the cloak of national security.

But Brookings Institution economist Robert W. Crandall calls such national security claims "absolute baloney." One or two steel mills, he says, could provide all the steel plate needed for armor or ship building.

Source: Richard W. Stevenson, "Big Steel: An Invalid that Can Roar in Washington," New York Times, December 11, 2001.

 

Browse more articles on Economic Issues