- The Washington Times - Monday, September 2, 2002

Columnist peddles products of questionable quality

Pete du Pont's Aug. 15 column "Paying a price for steel tariffs" grossly overestimates the costs of the recently imposed steel tariffs and vastly understates the benefits.
Although the prices of some steel products have increased since the tariffs went into effect earlier this year, average steel prices today are still lower than they were in the mid-1990s. The tariffs have only partially reversed the collapse of steel prices in the late 1990s, which was caused by the combined effects of global oversupply and an overvalued dollar (which makes imported steel artificially cheap in U.S. dollars). Before the tariffs were enacted, steel prices had fallen so low that many domestic steel producers could not cover their costs.
The number of jobs potentially saved by the tariffs is surely much larger than the estimate of 5,000 to 9,000 cited by Mr. du Pont. Taking into account all the jobs at stake in bankrupt or financially vulnerable steel companies, jobs in sectors dependent on steel, and jobs sustained by steelworkers' spending in communities, I have estimated that as many as 325,000 U.S. jobs could be saved by protecting domestic steel production.
American steel producers have sought protection under U.S. trade laws because this is the only legal avenue open to them to save their industry. Yet, Mr. du Pont is right that temporary tariffs are not the best way to help the steel industry recover.
The root causes of the steel crisis must be addressed. This would require pressuring foreign exporters to abandon unfair trade practices that have resulted in excess capacity and depressed prices in global steel markets. It would also require macroeconomic stimulus policies to revive growth in major steel exporting areas (e.g., Europe, Latin America, various Asian countries) so that they would buy more of their own steel.
Finally, it would require lowering the value of the dollar much more than it has fallen thus far this year, so that imports do not receive a substantial discount when sold in U.S. dollars. Lowering the dollar is especially important because it would help American steel consumers along with steel producers to be more competitive in the global economy.

ROBERT A. BLECKER
Professor of economics
American University
Washington Pete du Pont's plea for a greater transfer, not just of income but of the means of producing income, to the Third World was very disturbing ("Lessons up close for summit in Africa," Commentary, Wednesday). Plus, it seemingly contradicts previous statements he made about trade policy.
He wrote: "Exports of subsidized crops increase poverty in developing countries. Crop subsidies allow developed countries to flood poor countries with cheap imported food. Farmers in developing countries cannot compete domestically or on the world market with their subsidized competitors." Yet, two weeks earlier in the Wall Street Journal, Mr. du Pont attacked President Bush for acting against the subsidized flood of cheap imported steel against which American workers cannot compete. Cheap food, bad; cheap steel, good?
Mr. du Pont's views can be reconciled at a higher level, though. He endorses any policy that aids foreign producers, farmers or workers while opposing any policy that helps American producers, farmers or workers.
He has adopted the mood of the U.N. World Summit on Sustainable Development, which is not just to blame America first but to harm Americans first.

WILLIAM R. HAWKINS
Senior fellow
U.S. Business and Industry Council
Washington

Hard hats deserve their day off

The Washington Times covers the contributions of our community's working men and women, and on this Labor Day, we would like to highlight the efforts of a group of individuals who, for the most part, do their jobs without any recognition or fanfare. These are the craft professionals of the U.S. construction industry.
Construction has always been the catalyst of a vibrant U.S. economy, and the history of the construction craft professional parallels the history of our nation. From the earliest days of our republic, construction has been vital to our nation's progress.
Construction is among our nation's largest industries, employing more than 6.6 million individuals in 2001. These professionals build the homes, offices, schools, churches, restaurants, sports arenas and highways that are central to our everyday lives.
Today, more than four out of five U.S. construction craft professionals choose not to join a labor union. Instead, these workers thrive in a free-market environment. Most of them enjoy working in a competitive marketplace where they can succeed based on their own talents and skills, knowledge and determination. Construction professionals are masters of their own destiny and thrive in this environment. Today's pipe fitter may be tomorrow's business owner.
The history of the construction craft professional in the United States is to be celebrated on this Labor Day. Let's publicly acknowledge and thank all of the men and women who build America. Theirs is a noble profession worthy of our admiration and respect.

JAMES A. RUSS
Chairman of the board
Associated Builders and Contractors of Metro Washington
Calverton

Is it bad that many home-schoolers are overqualified?

Wednesday's letter from Robert B. Harris, "Home-schooling shortcomings," illustrates the weak arguments of home-schooling's most ardent opponents. Mr. Harris, a counselor at a community college in California, bemoans the fact that many home-school students are enrolling at his school because "they have reached the limits of their parents' abilities."
Because higher education, by definition, is intended to provide instruction beyond that offered at the secondary level, how come home-schoolers using higher education are any different from public school graduates who do the same.
The difference with home-schoolers is that they typically are able to take community college courses a few years sooner than public school graduates because they often finish their intermediate and secondary school material at a faster rate. Mr. Harris does not quite explain why the academic success enjoyed by home-schoolers is a bad thing, other than that it appears to inconvenience him and perhaps other community college counselors who, he says, agree with him.
Mr. Harris also provides a predictable dismissal of home-schooling because, from his experience, the "vast majority" of home-school parents are not "motivated, gifted and qualified" enough to teach their children at home. Such a compelling statement is difficult to rebut, but allow me to offer a few contradictory facts.
Home-school students have debunked academic objections with consistently high scores on standardized tests. An Aug. 20 article in the Chattanooga Times Free-Press, among many others, cited glowing reports from admissions counselors at public and private universities about home-school graduates. Even the myths about home-schoolers not being well-socialized are being debunked, one family at a time.
Some may deem it their role to sit back and lob bombs, but the rest of us will work diligently and provide our children with a principled, robust education. The real results show it works, and considering the status-quo alternative, we are quite prepared to deal with any perceived shortcomings ourselves.

ROBERT A. ZIEGLER
Director of media relations
Home School Legal Defense Association
Purcellville, Va.

Where's the beef?

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan's advisory panel has determined that the U.N. World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg should result in "strong commitments and practical steps towards achieving the common goal of sustainable development."
To meet this end, President Bush said the U.S. delegation to the summit is proposing four "key development priorities," namely "clean water, modern energy, good health and productive agriculture" ("Bush to send Powell to U.N. summit," Nation, Aug. 20). But Mr. Bush overlooked an issue that bears on them all: meat production.
Not only is the consumption of animals linked to heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, arthritis and other health problems, but it has far-reaching global effects.
In 1996, U.S. factory farms produced 1.4 billion tons of animal waste 130 times more than humans did. A large portion of that more pollution than came from all industrial sources combined went into our waterways and maintained the 7,000-square mile "dead zone" in the Gulf of Mexico. Glass of water, anyone?
Do we need more rainforests destroyed, displacing the Earth's primary source of oxygen for cattle ranches? More elimination of plant species worldwide, an ongoing bio-catastrophe in which livestock grazing is the single largest contributing factor? More Western rangeland (currently 85 percent) destroyed by overgrazing?
The world summit should include a plea and a plan for a vegan planet. This is not a "fringe" or "lifestyle" issue. It is what needs to be done to achieve anything remotely resembling sustainable development.

ANDREW CHRISTIE
Writer
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals
Norfolk


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