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   Free Trade is Killing our Industry

National Commentary with a Baltimore Twist:

Free Trade is Killing our Industry

by William Hughes

Who killed off Sparrows Point? The Free Trade ideologues did, that’s who!
One of my memories of growing up on Locust Point in South Baltimore during World War II was driving by Bethlehem Steel’s ship repair facility. It was located on the Key Highway and spanned 35 acres. I can still recall the thousands of workers leaving the plant when the quitting time whistle blew. Then, it was the largest ship repair facility in the United States. Today, it’s history. The victim of a killer disease: Free Trade!

Dump that cheap foreign-made steel on America! Let our foreign competitors suck up their government subsidies, create surpluses, and be shielded in their sanctuary markets from any cut-throat international competition. Who really cares? Certainly not the U.S. Congress, and no presidents either, since Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

For decorative purposes, Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D-MD), will serve as one of the pallbearers for the industry. She will issue fiery press releases bemoaning steel’s decline, but will do little substantively about it. Anyway, the Free Trade sham makes those fat cat lobbyist law firms in Washington D.C., who represent those predatory foreign importers, even fatter. And, there is nothing Congress likes better than those well heeled lobbyists, who religiously fill up their campaign coffers every election year.

Today, where the Key Highway ship repair yard once stood, you will find a luxurious high-rise condominium (where NAACP’s honcho Kweisi Mfume just happens to have a pad) along with townhouses that sell in the $300,000 range, and up. Also, you will get a spectacular view of the harbor from the top floor. No evidence of that historic site’s working class origins remain. (By the way, does anybody know what Mfume’s position is on the coming war with Iraq?)

Back to Bethlehem Steel. It also operated in South Baltimore its Buffalo Tank Division, then one of the largest producers of storage tanks. Near that spot, it also had a huge reinforcing bar fabricating shop, whose material were used in laying foundations for bridges, piers and highway pavements. Like the Do-Do Bird, both of these factories have also disappeared.

In fact, when Mfume looks out his window, and east towards the Chesapeake Bay and its confluence with the Patapsco River, he can see what remains of another fading industrial icon, Bethlehem Steel’s Sparrows Point Plant. The sprawling 3,000-acre site was once a jewel in the steel maker’s production juggernaut. At its apex, it was the largest steel-making tidewater plant in the world and employed over 30,000 employees. It was also, then, the largest private employer in the state of Maryland.

Today, Bethlehem Steel is in bankruptcy, faltering desperately on the ropes, and the Sparrows Point Plant is up for sale. It remains only a shell of its former glorious self. Thousands of the plant’s retirees are also understandably worried whether their medical benefits and pensions will be protected in any future transactions by the company. Who killed off Sparrows Point? The Free Trade ideologues did, that’s who!

During WWII, the lethal war machine of either Japan or Germany would have just loved to have destroyed America’s renowned steel industry. It was one of the key manufacturing arsenals of our democracy, and a pillar for the emerging middle class and the growing trade union movement. It supplied countless ships, tanks, planes and bombs to the war effort that finally brought the Axis powers to their knees.

Washington showed its gratitude by letting globalist schemers, under the guise of a phony Free Trade doctrine, bring the steel, and other important native industries, to the point of extinction. Check out Dr. John Coleman’s magnum opus, Conspirators’ Hierarchy: The Story of the Committee of 300, for details of how these intriguers are pulling off this coup, which calls for a “post-industrial zero growth” for America.

The United Steel Workers response to this continuing menace is on target: “We believe in ‘Fair Trade,’ that works for working class families. We believe in a global economy, but not the kind created by NAFTA and other trade agreements, which serve only Wall Street, Bay Street and giant multinationals. The individual rights of citizens and countries are rapidly being eroded in the name of trade. NAFTA and other treaties are creating a new environment, putting capital firmly in control. The individual rights of countries to control their economies, protect their environments, and protect the health and safety of their citizens are being lost.

Sparrows Point isn’t alone in its misery. Cities, such as Gary, IN; Bethlehem, PA; and Youngstown, OH, to name just a few, were also once-proud components of our legendary national steel-making apparatus. They, too, have been sentenced by the Free Trade gurus to rust away for all of eternity, like some damned souls in Dante’s “Inferno.”

As I write, over one-half of the U.S. steel Industry has declared bankruptcy. Even LTV, the nation’s third-largest integrated steel maker, has begun to liquidate its vast holdings. Recently, the Bush-Cheney Gang stopped its war planning psychosis against Iraq to impose temporary protective tariffs to give the steel industry some breathing room. As soon as it did, however, it began granting exemptions to those same foreign vultures to resume, without mercy, their unfair dumping practices.

Now, let’s get all of this straight. The Congress, and the Bush-Cheney Gang, will do nothing about stopping the Free Traders from killing off the nation’s steel and other important industries. Recently, however, they did create a new monster national police agency, “Homeland Security” (Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman’s brainstorm), and enacted a “USA Patriot Act” that they say will “protect us.” Gee, thanks guys!

You know, I think we’ve have enough “protection” from Washington, so much that the Republic itself is at risk.

© William Hughes 2002

William Hughes is the author of Andrew Jackson vs. New World Order (Authors Choice Press) and Baltimore Iconoclast (Writer’s Showcase), which are available online. He can be reached at

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This story was published on January 8, 2003.
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