My comment on the above link on the Facebook page of The Christian Left:
I live at ground zero of the rust belt. Bethlehem PA. 4 generations worked at “the Steel,” dozens of them, uncles, cousins, aunts, even both my grandmothers. It is no more. Workers here begged Reagan throughout his administration to protect the industry from cheap imported steel being dumped here. He refused to act. There is a lot of speculation as to why, from wanting to bust the unions, seeing the steelworkers as the key to breaking the movement as a whole, to wanting to break the industrial strength of the nation upon which our middle class had risen. The latter is hard to fathom, but conspiracists might believe it was to strengthen the position of Wall St and the 1%, the investor class, the ‘owners’ and shareholders (unless you owned steel stock), who in the end were the ones who benefited while our workers, and thus our general population’s lifestyles diminished as the ripple effect of job losses, excess labor forces, and lower wages spread across the economy.
When the Steel went under, 10,000s lost jobs and eventually pensions. Many other factors have been cited to blame: bad management, union demands, but once it was gone, it was gone forever.
Tariffs on steel when there is no more steel being produced here, not at the levels it once was capable of, only hurt those who buy the steel and the jobs related to those projects or goods, and eventually those who pay for those projects and goods, usually the tax payers or consumers.
Round and round and round it goes…
generated this reply from the page admin:
This TCL admin (who also wrote the article) lived in Bethlehem from 1996 – 2005. A key inspiration for my progressivism was the quote posted by the canal at Sand Island of Joseph A.Lum, who said of working as a mule driver on the canal, “You didn’t have to worry about insomnia, because you worked from 4am-10pm, six days a week.” That shocked me into taking an interest in the history of labor and industrial tyranny. Pennsylvania got the worst of it, and people from other parts of the country often know nothing about that level of suffering. In fact, younger Pennsylvanians aren’t too familiar with it either.
I listened well to my elders as they told the stories of their hardships and the fight to unionize. I still can’t fathom that so many former workers turned away from the Democrats and started to vote for Republicans, especially the Reagan Democrats. They helped bring about their own demise.
I know a lot of it had to do with adverse reaction to both the civil rights movement and the anti-war movement. The latter is not often cited but I think it was much more of a motive, as racism is not something I have observed among the “old timers” they having learned to get along with immigrants of all kinds. (see the clip at link below).
I was one of those kids marching against the war, and I remember how upset our elders were, they saw us as unpatriotic, and perhaps they also knew their jobs rested on the US industrial economy continuing to be driven in large part by the military industrial complex…along with railroads, automobiles, and large construction projects. The end of the Viet Nam war brought a huge hit to that economy, as well as railroads ceasing to be our main transportation of goods, and many other simultaneous factors such as the oil embargo. And the Republicans were ready and eager to capitalize on it with a massive organization of think tanks and media manipulation (propaganda to call it what it was) as detailed in the Powell Memo to demonize both Democrats and minorities as well as the New Deal itself and social democracy that had in fact been such a big part of us being for a brief moment in time ‘the greatest country in the world.’
Re. Bethlehem Steel: My dad, in fact wrote a brilliant one man show about the glory days of the Steel for me to perform when I told him I wanted to be an actor. It blew me away, for not only had he told me I’d never be any good at anything else I’d said I wanted to be (the old reverse psychology approach of his generation, altho they didn’t know to call it that) but parents are supposed to discourage kids from being actors! LOL
Anyhow, I did manage to perform it for him in 2004 at the Ice House on Sand Island. I hope you had the chance to see it. It closed quickly as almost no one came despite great publicity in the local media, as I believe the pain was still too great and few were ready to be nostalgic for the ‘good old days’ yet.
There are a couple clips on YouTube and a page here on my site about it if you are interested: