- The Washington Times - Friday, August 22, 2003

Land of the free

I would like to take issue with William Murchison’s Op-Ed column on William R. Hutchison’s book “Religious Pluralism in America” (“Different strokes for different folks,” Tuesday).

Mr. Murchison decries the deepening of religious disagreements among Americans because of an influx of religions from the East and “who-gives-a-flip-anyway secularists.” Let me assure him that such secularists, as well as their equally uninvolved religious counterparts, aren’t the source of disagreement. Disagreements result from people who care, including involved secularists (called humanists) like myself.

Yes, there are new religious disagreements afoot in our land: exciting new dialogues, challenging thoughts. This is the sort of free marketplace of ideas that made America great. Our current age of “dissent and dissension,” as he terms it, is providing the intellectual electricity necessary to keep us ahead of the curve into the future.

The alternative would be to banish discussion, adopt an illusion of certainty and thus slumber away into some medieval fantasy of settled belief. No thank you.

Our flag flies best amid the winds of change.



Reading your rights

Monday’s Commentary article by Edgar H. Brenner, “Risky Patriot Act exemptions,” wrongly accuses 129 members of Congress of sponsoring legislation that would jeopardize this country’s national security. In fact, congressional action to curb overly broad powers granted to the FBI in the U.S. Patriot Act should be lauded, and efforts to impose reasonable limits on the unconstitutional and overreaching powers granted to the federal government in the wake of September 11, 2001, should be hailed as truly patriotic.

Mr. Brenner likens government surveillance of library patrons’ computer use to legally allowable “surveillance of the suspects walking the public streets.” His misinformed analogy highlights a key problem with the Patriot Act that the Freedom to Read Protection Act seeks to remedy — the Patriot Act takes away the rights of ordinary citizens by making it legal for all Americans to be treated by the government as suspected spies or terrorists.

Legislation such as the Freedom to Read Protection Act would not prevent or even impede the FBI from investigating the activities of suspected terrorists or spies. What the legislation would do is prevent the FBI from secretly monitoring the reading habits of ordinary, law-abiding citizens. Surely, it is not wise to jeopardize our most fundamental constitutional rights in the name of ill-considered “patriotism.” To do so would be un-American.


Executive director

American Library Association


Saving the steel industry

I and all steel-consuming manufacturers take strong exception to your Thursday editorial, “Don’t buckle on steel safeguard,” which advocated maintaining the steel tariffs, despite the clear facts that indicate the benefits in terminating the tariffs.

Particularly inaccurate was the criticism of the Consuming Industries Trade Action Coalition (CITAC) study on steel tariffs. Contrary to the claim in your editorial, the study has not been “debunked,” except in the minds of a few steel producers and one reporter at the Financial Times, who accepted as fact deliberately misleading allegations by the steel industry lobbyists. The CITAC study has been validated by economists who have read it. It is accurate, and next month, we expect the International Trade Commission to issue its own study that will also demonstrate that the steel tariffs cost jobs in American steel-consuming sectors.

It is also wrong to state that, before the tariffs, the United States had “one of the most open markets.” By 2001, more than half of all steel imports were already covered by anti-dumping and countervailing duty orders, a favorite tool of steel protectionists. The 30 years of tariffs, quotas and other trade restrictions granted to protect the U.S. steel industry is a case study that protection does not work. Economics 101 teaches that if you place a 30 percent tariff on a product, the domestic market price will go up. If an American company’s global competitor can purchase the product at a lower price or under more favorable terms, the American company is at a disadvantage. This is, indeed, what occurred as a result of the steel tariffs.

Finally, your editorial ignored a third criterion in revoking the tariffs: That changed economic circumstances are undermining the effectiveness of the relief. It’s this factor that the president can apply to terminate the tariffs.

In continuing the steel tariffs, steel workers and their companies would receive very little benefit, but the 13 million workers in steel consuming industries will suffer. It is time to stop the tariffs on steel.



Consuming Industries Trade Action Coalition Steel Task Force


Precision Metalforming Association

Independence, Ohio

Thank you for Thursday’s editorial, “Don’t buckle on steel safeguard.” You presented factual support for continuation of the steel tariffs and exposed falsehoods in the Wall Street Journal’s argument calling for their elimination.

People who are not directly involved in this vital industry cannot be expected to understand the technical elements of international trade and how our so-called trading partners have continually and deliberately violated our trade laws. However, common sense is a powerful and persuasive weapon in the battle for fairness and understanding of this complex issue, so before you decide who is right and who is wrong in this debate, ask yourself the following question:

Is it reasonable to believe that European and Asian nations can use the vast amounts of energy required to melt steel from scrap metal, refine it, roll it into various shapes, transport it to an ocean port, insure it, ship it to a U.S. port, unload it onto trucks or rail cars and deliver it to U.S. customers cheaper than the American steel mill located 50 miles away from that same customer? Of course not. So, how do they do it?

As your editorial correctly points out, they do it with government subsidies. Some nations also manipulate the exchange rate between their currency and the U.S. dollar so they have yet another advantage.

Years ago, those of us earning our living in the steel industry coined a phrase to describe the millions of tons of cheap steel arriving from foreign mills; we called them “social tons.” Foreign governments facing high unemployment rates at home saw an opportunity to put people to work rather than support them through social welfare programs. They subsidized their steel industry to enable it to compete against American mills. With U.S. dollars flowing into their treasuries, it was a lower-cost alternative that helped sustain their nations. Of course, it was in direct violation of our trade laws, but when we complained they called us “protectionists” or anti-free traders.

U.S. companies, on the other hand, must earn profits to pay shareholders and generate much needed capital for reinvestment in plant and equipment. They must also meet government-mandated environmental and plant safety rules and provide health care benefits to their workers. Many of our foreign competitors do not have to bear these costs. It comes down to individual American steel companies trying to compete, not against individual foreign steel companies, but against an alliance of foreign steel companies and foreign governments determined to win at any cost.

That’s what has happened and that’s what the International Trade Commission found when it investigated complaints. President Bush acted appropriately by imposing the tariffs, and he should see them through to their conclusion, no matter how many steel consumers distort the facts to get them removed.


North Olmsted, Ohio



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