Free Minds & Free Markets

Trump Considering Huge Tariff Increase on Steel, Aluminum With Weak 'National Security' Rationale

Tariffs are an unnecessary step that will hurt American manufacturers and increase prices on a wide range of products, from cars to beer cans.

Imagine China/NewscomImagine China/NewscomThe Trump administration is trying to sell its plan to slap tariffs on imported steel and aluminum as necessary for national security, but the import taxes are an unnecessary step that will hurt American manufacturers and increase prices on a wide range of products, from cars to beer cans.

Last week, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross formally submitted to the White House a proposal for 24 percent tariffs on all steel imports. Alternatively, the plan calls for a 53 percent tariff on steel imported from 12 nations, including China, with import quotas on steel produced in all other countries, capping possible imports from those locations at 2017 levels. The proposal also calls for a tariff of 7.7 percent on aluminum imports from all countries, or a 23.6 percent import on products from five countries (China, Hong Kong, Russia, Venezuela, and Vietnam) with a quota on all imports from other places.

The tariffs are necessary because relying on imported steel and aluminum "threatens to impair the national security," Ross said. The theory is that, because American weapons of war depend on steel and aluminum supplies, domestic producers must be protected from international supplies that could be cut-off in the event of a conflict.

That rationale is "weak," according to a collection of libertarian, conservative, and nonpartisan think tanks—the American Legislative Exchange Council, ALEC Action, the R Street Institute, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, FreedomWorks and the National Taxpayers Union—that wrote an open letter to the White House on Friday opposing the tariffs. In the event of a conflict, the Pentagon has specific deals with American allies to continue supplying steel and aluminum.

"The national security case to restrict steel and aluminum imports is thin and the toll such restrictions would take on the economy is considerable," the groups say. "Steel and aluminum tariffs or other import restrictions would hurt downstream domestic manufacturers."

Despite that, Trump appears to be favoring most severe tariff option—24 percent on all steel imports and 7.7 percent on all aluminum imports—Bloomberg reported Friday, citing unnamed sources in the administration.

According to the Commerce Department's report on the proposed tariffs, a 24 percent tariff on all steel imports would be expected to reduce imports by 37 percent.

Domestic manufacturers are eager for more protectionism from the White House. In February, executives from the largest American steel companies wrote a letter to Trump encouraging "action to stop the relentless inflow of foreign steel."

While those American steel manufacturers would benefit from the tariffs, a far larger slice of the economy would be hurt. According to 2015 Census data, steel mills employ about 140,000 Americans and add about $36 billion to the economy, but steel-consuming industries employ more than 6.5 million Americans and add $1 trillion to the economy.

The last time the federal government imposed sweeping steel tariffs—during George W. Bush's tenure in the White House, when tariffs ranging from 8 percent to 30 percent were set—the higher costs for importing steel dealt a $4 billion hit to the economy and led to 200,000 job losses, the six groups who wrote to the White House argued. Those tariffs were intended to remain in place for three years, but were withdrawn just a year after they were imposed.

According to the U.S. International Trade Commission's Harmonized Tariff Schedule, most steel products are not subject to general tariffs when imported. Most aluminum products have tariffs set between 2 percent and 4 percent currently. However, there are more than 150 already existing antidumping rules and other specific duties that restrict U.S. imports of 18 different kinds of steel from 29 countries at huge costs to downstream industries, according to Daniel Ikenson, director of the Cato Institute's Center for Trade Policy Studies.*

The Trump administration has already slapped tariffs on solar panels (30 percent) and washing machines (ranging from 20 percent to 50 percent) in the name of protecting domestic manufacturers.

Those tariff weren't created in the name of national security. And, when you get right down to it, the proposal for tariffs on steel and aluminum aren't about national security either. It's just protectionism, and it leaves almost everyone worse off.

* This post has been updated to clarify the extent of existing tariffs on steel.

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  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Manufacturers like higher production costs?

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    If it supports their monopoly, yes. In this case, although car manufacturers get stuffed, they probably expect imported cars to also be hit withtariffs, so they don't have to sweat it so badly.

  • markm23||

    There have been times that tariffs or quotas were imposed on materials, without an equivalent restriction of imports of finished goods, to the great disadvantage of American manufacturers. In the 1980's, US manufacturers of memory IC's (RAM) filed a complaint that Asian countries were dumping RAM at below cost. This case dragged on in court, until there were no major US manufacturers of RAM left - but the government agency kept on and in the early 1990's finally imposed harsh import quotas on RAM IC's, but not on electronic devices containing RAM. So US manufacturers of computers and other electronic devices could not obtain the RAM needed to complete these products, and those same countries that could now displace US manufacturers in the market for finished goods.

    Sometimes there was a work-around. A popular import was cheap, usually defective, memory expansion boards for PC's. But the IC's were generally OK. I worked for a plant that manufactured control boards for various machines, and were were pulling the IC's from these boards to install in our products and discarding the boards. That was hand work; it was expensive but workable for products that did not need much RAM.

    PC's at that time had around 50% of the motherboard covered with DIP sockets for these little RAM IC's, and if they were getting the RAM the same way we did, filling those sockets would price them out of the market.

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    Every time Trump does something good, like his judicial picks, he comes right back with this pig-ignorant trade war stuff. All I can do is grit my teeth and be thankful it isn't Hillary, who might not be quite so bad on trade but would be absolutely horrendous on judges, and probably be far more ready to pick wars around the world.

    Small consolation.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    It's not worthwhile taking that consolation. It's never worth dwelling on what could have been.

  • ||

    But what if it was?

  • Brian||

    Judges last a long time.

  • Sevo||

    "Every time Trump does something good, like his judicial picks, he comes right back with this pig-ignorant trade war stuff. All I can do is grit my teeth and be thankful it isn't Hillary, who might not be quite so bad on trade but would be absolutely horrendous on judges, and probably be far more ready to pick wars around the world.
    Small consolation."

    I watched what I thought was an artifact of some reporting error on 11/9/16 and went to bed. I awoke to find the hag HAD LOST!!!
    So, I hoped we wouldn't suffer a hag-SCOTUS appointment. I've been pleasantly surprised since then but. But. BUT!!!
    I'll take it...

  • TLBD||

    This is obviously aimed at China. They are the top exporters of both metals.

    China is incredibly protectionist, and has been doing real damage to many markets for years for their own benefit. What is your solution? Continue to stand by idly while a communist country with a "mixed economy" (read just mixed enough to take advantage of capitalist countries) corners market after market?

  • TLBD||

    Remember when SA and OPEC crashed oil prices in an attempt to squeeze competitors out of the market? Yes, they failed somewhat this last time, but this is the exact type of stuff China does and will do whenever they get the chance.

    That is not free market, that is incredibly damaging to the free market.

    China is dangerous, they can and will pervert the markets for their own ends. So what is the solution?

  • Sevo||

    "China is dangerous, they can and will pervert the markets for their own ends. So what is the solution?"

    Let China subsidize my purchases; that's the solution.

  • Iheartskeet||

    Agree. I think this will be the first really significant blunder of his presidency, or at least the one that does the most long term damage. Perversely the damage will be subtle and dispersed, and the benefit small but concentrated, making it politically challenging to undo.

  • XM||

    A real bad idea for an economy on the rebound.

    Incidentally, GM is planning to close a plant in South Korea, which has alarmed that nation. Canada is a bit nervous about the future of NAFTA. I think a lot of people abroad blew off some of his campaign rhetoric as move designed to appeal to white working class, but Trump might be serious inching towards protectionism.

    I kinda expected the GOP to pass massive spending bills, but the consequences of a trade war can't kicked down the road.The donor should remind them not to bite the hands that feed them.

  • Agammamon||

    Its a bad idea - period.

    All tariffs have ever done is benefit a politically influential minority at the expense of the majority. There's never been any justification for them - national security certainly has never been a viable one. If your country is so shite that you're seriously in danger of *every other major country in the world* withholding supplies from you - then maybe your foreign policy isn't all that successful.

  • Palin's Buttplug||

    I kinda expected the GOP to pass massive spending bills, They did so because they have no opposition party.

    I know the conservatives here want total GOP control but we are far better off with the gridlock of a Dem POTUS and GOP House.

    Any libertarian or classic liberal will agree.

  • Agammamon||

    You didn't.

  • silver.||

    Oh you bet I prefer gridlock. This all-GOP government is legitimately outspending Obama, et al. and they had a trillion bucks in stimulus spending. What the hell?

    The only time Congress slows down in violating the American people is when they've locked horns over some dumbass social non-issue like gay marriage.

  • Palin's Buttplug||

    BTW, Peanuts, there are more guilty pleas today from the Trump Criminal Team. Rick Gates charged with 23 new felony charges.

  • Brian||

    As a real libertarian, I am forced to reject them all due to their impurity, unlike some partisan democrats around here, who always suck Clitary Hilton.

  • Sevo||

    Palin's Buttplug|2.23.18 @ 9:07PM|#
    "BTW, Peanuts,"

    BTW, Fuckace,
    Go fuck your daddy; it's the only hope you have for becoming a worthwhile human being, turd.

  • Echospinner||

    For anyone planning a retirement it is time to circle the wagons. This last little jittery dip in the market was just a warning of a bigger storm coming. Trade wars are bad for everyone. Any idiot should know that but at least one of them either does not know or does not care.

  • silver.||

    The 08' recession was leveled out with the stimulus money, but it was just a cup of coffee to artificially suppress fatigue. The body still desperately needs sleep. When the crash hits it's going to be a shitshow. At some point the student loan "bubble" will have to collapse, too, but I have no idea if that $1.5 trillion is enough to really matter at this point. I certainly think a new budget with a deficit of nearly a trillion was stupid beyond belief, but it's an election year, so they had to buy votes with our credit cards.

  • Cy||

    Don't pull out of the SP500. Whatever happens next, the market is going to be the place to be. If things go bad, they break out the printing press and we might finally hit hyper inflation, stocks soar. If things go good, your companies continue to make money stocks keep plugging along upwards.

    I can't think of a scenario, outside of austerity, where dollars are more valuable than stocks on a ten year time line.

  • Sevo||

    Echospinner|2.23.18 @ 9:44PM|#
    "For anyone planning a retirement it is time to circle the wagons. This last little jittery dip in the market was just a warning of a bigger storm coming. Trade wars are bad for everyone. Any idiot should know that but at least one of them either does not know or does not care."
    Oh, good!
    Someone capable of predicting the future and timing the market!
    Date and number, or fuck off.

  • MikeP2||

    There has been an active trade war for over a decade. We just werent fighting back before. It would be better if there wasnt a trade war, but acting like this is something new is just ignorant.

  • Telcontar the Wanderer||

    In the event of a conflict, the Pentagon has specific deals with American allies to continue supplying steel and aluminum

    And how much of this allied steel-producing capacity is accessible by land routes...?

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    And how much of it is actually necessary?

    And what are the odds of actually needing it?

    Just as with all resources, everything is scarce and must be allocated. You can rely on markets for efficiency, or you can rely on cronies for inefficiency and sporadic delivery.

    The more you distort the market for ill-considered wet dreams of improbable potential future emergencies, the more you ruin present day base growth which makes those future rarities even less likely.

    Think of you setting up your own mining, smelting, and manufacturing system in your basement for manufacturing ammo, just in case nuclear winter brings on TEOTWAWKI. You would certainly be assured of ammo for that remote possibility -- but you'd be far better off investing all that time and money and effort in more useful present day endeavors which allow you to stockpile ammo now instead of making it later.

    That's what steel and aluminum tariffs will do. They make everything more expensive now, reducing economic growth, reducing what other goods can be bought because less money is available after buying more-expensive steel goods, reducing how many workers are employed building cars because fewer are sold, reducing how many other workers are employed in non-steel industries because people have less money to buy their products .... on and on the snowball rolls. It's a utopia only a socialist could thing well of.

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    Industrial growth, specialization, comparative advantage -- they all go hand-in-hand. Goods become cheaper due to scales of economy, freeing up workers for other industries. People buy more for less money, improving their lives, while also having more money freed up to buy other life-improving products.

    It started back in the stone age, if not before. Grok was better at flinting arrowheads than throwing spears, Urk was better at harvesting berries and fruits than chasing mammoths, and clans were better off than if each person made their own arrowheads, pots, clothes, and shelter, and hunted their own mammoths and collected their own fruits and nuts.

    If you really believe there is a limit to how far this specialization and comparative advantage can go, you are simple-minded but could learn. If you also believe that, by rare coincidence, that happens to be right now, and not ten or twenty years ago, then you are delusional and incapable of rational thought.

  • Sevo||

    "If you really believe there is a limit to how far this specialization and comparative advantage can go, you are simple-minded but could learn. If you also believe that, by rare coincidence, that happens to be right now, and not ten or twenty years ago, then you are delusional and incapable of rational thought."

    And if you think all this progress is somehow an accident or a result of benevolent government, please go boil up some rock stew with lichen for dinner. It is what you deserve.

  • Telcontar the Wanderer||

    All true.

    All things that I already knew.

    None of which is going to magically stop being true at any point in the future.

    And precisely none of which applies to situations in which all that comparatively advantageous, specialized, industrial grown goodness overseas is suddenly and probably without warning rendered inaccessible by a fucking submarine fleet.

    And given that a modern war could easily be over in a mere few months, rapidly building up terrestrial industrial capacity is not a reliable solution.

    Also, enough with the Ad Homs.

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    Your fucking submarine fleet is as outdated as your thinking, and as unlikely as you ever seeing reason.

    Preparing for the extremely unlikely at the expense of the very likely is as stupid as it gets.

  • Telcontar the Wanderer||

    No, they aren't outdated.

    No, it isn't extremely unlikely.

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    And if your future war is going to be over in a few months, then you don't need a domestic industry. Does your pea brain have any concept of how long it takes to mobilize industry?

    Fucking maroon.

  • Telcontar the Wanderer||

    If your ships are taken out in the first week of fighting, you might be able to build new ones in the space of 3 or 4 months.

    If your shipyards are already fully developed and available.

    We repaired an aircraft carrier in a few days during WWII, you know.

    And seriously, enough with the Ad Homs.

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    You don't know much if you think so much shipping will be sunk by torpedoes in the first week.

    A Russian carrier barely made it to the Mediterranean under its own power, and was so inept at launching and landing airplanes that they left all the planes on shore. What makes you think their unseen submarines are in better shape?

    Submarines typically carry only a couple dozen torpedoes. By the time the sub gets into position, finds targets, attacks them, and gets back home, that's at least a month, not even one ship per day. Considering their general military reliability, I doubt all their torpedoes will actually work.

    US submarines trail most Russian submarines, and if a Russian submarine attacks a merchant ship, it probably won't survive to attack a second one.

    Do you really think the sign of readiness is idle shipyards waiting for wartime repair jobs? Forcing US merchants to buy and run expensive US ships once again shows you are ignorant of the unseen, putting more people out of work for a net loss.

    As for that precious quick-turnaround carrier repair in W II, it was the USS Yorktown, and if you knew anything other than the myth, you'd know it was a patchup to restore watertight integrity which left great chunks of the interior damage unfixed. The car equivalent of slapping bondo on and leaving the interior burnt.

  • Telcontar the Wanderer||

    It isn't shipping being sunk in the first week that's the problem, it's any and all military materiel being destroyed- including ASW ships, carriers, aircraft, and whatever vehicles might be lost on the Eastern European mainland- that are. You need to be able rapidly replace any material lost, on any front, and while submarines will take their toll on any material being shipped by water, requiring it to be shipped to America as raw steel before being shipped out as finished product: doubling the number of chances the enemy has to destroy it.

    And if you really knew anything about military history, you'd know that relying on our own capabilities, or enemy incompetence, is asking for catastrophe. When we got our hands on Russian MiG flight helmets after the Berlin Wall fell, we discovered they were actually more advanced than ours. And of course then there's the Norden bomb sight, AA guns on the HMS Repulse and Prince of Wales, the M16A1... an actual tactician ALWAYS assumes the worst of their own gear and the best from their enemy's.

    And given that A, I said a few months, not 3 days, and B, shipyards are a little more advanced than they were 70 years ago, my Yorktown example is still perfectly valid, TYVM.

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    And then you think submarine warfare sinking merchant ships is how the Russkies will cripple us? You are living in a past that is beyond comprehension. There are far better ways to sink ships than a few submarines with a few torpedoes each. Your fevered war dreams are as obsolete as your trade policies.

    Submarines! Good grief.

  • Telcontar the Wanderer||

    No, there aren't. Aircraft with cruise missiles require radar, satellites or eyes-on to locate the target ships. Which means you need intact satellites with no cloud cover- not reliable, ocean weather being what it is- or aircraft within a certain distance, which is not easy to do against a nation several thousand miles away.

    Nuclear attack submarines, by contrast, have near-unlimited range, are highly difficult to detect, and are aided by the vast size of modern cargo ships, which can easily be taken out with a single supercavitating torpedo that creates an air cavity beneath the ship's keel, causing it to break under its own weight.

    They aren't obsolete in the slightest.

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    Can't have it both ways, idiot. If airplanes have trouble finding ships, submarines have even more trouble. If merchant ships' vast size makes them easy for submarines to find, it makes them even easier for satellites and airborne radar.

    Your description of that supercavutating torpedo leaves off the fact that it is so fast that it is unguided and short range and hard to actually aim, strictly a defensive last resort weapon.

    You also ignore that huge modern ships are harder to sink precisely because of their size. Did you see about that tanker that burned for several days, so hot that fire fighting boats and tug boats couldn't get near? Tankers and container ships are just big empty shells where one hole will sink them; they have to be compartmentalized just to keep the contents from sloshing around or sliding around. I bet one torpedo would be very unlikely to sink a modern 200,000 ton ship.

    The ignorance, you have so much, it's hard to answer all of it. But keep spouting off, it shows how wrong you are.

  • Telcontar the Wanderer||

    Congratulations, you have caught me in my first and only error in this thread: "supercavitating" is not the correct word to describe the kind of torpedo I was referring to.

    Here's what I actually meant (which was actually fairly clear from what I wrote):

    The torpedo is designed to detonate under the keel of a surface ship, breaking the ship's back and destroying its structural integrity

  • Telcontar the Wanderer||

    Can't have it both ways, idiot. If airplanes have trouble finding ships, submarines have even more trouble. If merchant ships' vast size makes them easy for submarines to find, it makes them even easier for satellites and airborne radar

    Ad Hominem, and you completely misunderstood my point. Aircraft and subs have similar sensor problems, but subs have better range- because they don't need refuelers, and they're stealthy. Russia doesn't have stealth aircraft (and planes are too expensive to keep secret), other than the PAK FA that may not work and doesn't have the range- meaning that, by and large, no Russian (or Chinese) aircraft could get close enough to US shipping routes to do much damage before the USAF, RAF and USN carrier planes detected and destroyed them. But submarines could, especially if the Russians have secret tactics for evading our ASW that they've been keeping on the downlow... And as I mentioned above, we had better assume they do.

    And the point about merchant ships' vast size wasn't about detectability: it was about how that means you don't need to take out as many, because even losing one is a bigger loss than a WWII merchant ship.

  • Telcontar the Wanderer||

    Not one bit of which would matter if Russia invaded Estonia, NATO decided to invoke Article 5, and all of a sudden we had the Russian Navy's 46 attack and cruise missile submarines sweeping down the Eastern and Pacific seaboards. We came this close to losing the First and Second World Wars due to enemy submarine blockade- and the Russians have a longer memory than anyone.

    That is not an "ill-considered wet dream". It is not an "improbable potential future emergency". And it is not a "remote possibility". It is an entirely plausible future outcome of US foreign policy.

    You don't like that policy? Fair enough. Doesn't change the fact that it is our foreign policy, and without a seismic shift towards non-interventionism that is not going to happen even if it should, it will remain our foreign policy- with all attendant risks.

    You want to talk market distortions? This is a market distortion.

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    Your wet dreams are as improbable as everything else you spout. You have no more common sense than you have well-described scenarios. Why don't you throw in how the Japanese might have invaded Oahu or the West Coast, and it was necessary and proper for FDR to imprison American citizens because of their Japanese ancestry?

  • Telcontar the Wanderer||

    Why don't I throw that in? Simple: because I don't endorse completely unrelated wartime atrocities alongside my own arguments in order to help you build a strawman.

    And nothing in that scenario is improbable.

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    The Russians have longer memories than anyone else? Classic raise a boogeyman to scare people. They are just fucking humans. You statists creepizoids are so fucking predictable. You probably look for communists under your bed at night, because they are the worst threat to the world. Yet funny how they only kept their grip on Russia for 70 years. Some supermen! Some memory!

    Fuck off, slaver.

  • Telcontar the Wanderer||

    The Russians are rather notorious for stockpiling weapons from and celebrating the end of the Great Patriotic War (WWII in Russkie-speak) even today, so it seems fair to say that the events of that war are fresher in their national memory than they are in ours.

    I believe in drug legalization, gun rights, abortion rights, open immigration, abolition of non-defense government spending, and free trade in any commodity that does not have a vital national security interest, so I'm not feeling too concerned about the possibility of being a "statist creepazoid".

    No one said anything about communists but you.

    How long they kept their grip on power is hardly relevant to the threat they posed anyway.

    As regards "slaver", see paragraph #2.

    And enough with the Ad Homs.

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    You don't have a clue what is vital to national security, and you don't have a clue to what true national security is. You don't understand basic economics, industry, technology, or really much of anything, your military understanding comes from sorry imitations of Tom Clancy. In general you are full of fairy tales from who knows where that have no relation to reality. They really are wet dreams of the paranoid and ignorant.

  • Telcontar the Wanderer||

    It's remarkable how someone who is so allegedly superior to me in military knowledge nonetheless manages to go an entire paragraph without making any response beyond "you're, like, really dumb".

  • MikeP2||

    As if our allies produce anything. Lol.

    Australia is the only one of significance and they are half a world away.

  • gormadoc||

    If the Russian submarine fleet can easily defeat our merchant fleet and come out unscathed, why would we need more steel to build shit they'll destroy anyway? I can't imagine that we need to build extra ships, given how many we have.

    The US has far better capabilities in every avenue of war than the Russians, so it would be best to leverage those in assistance to our allies, if we take as a given that we somehow can't deal with submarines.

    None of this is even likely, as our fleet is both far bigger and better than the Russian fleet. Lock down their relatively few ports and wait for the subs to run down, if they are somehow an existential threat.

  • Telcontar the Wanderer||

    The steel would as much be to replace tanks and missiles lost in Eastern Europe as it would be to replace ships. Requiring it to be shipped to America AND out amounts to double taxation.

    And neither US technological superiority nor "locking down their ports" can be relied upon. Technology is fickle, and we "locked down" Germany's ports in both World Wars to no avail- if a ship can avoid ASW in the open ocean, it can evade a blockade too. Not to mention blockading Russian ports puts us in range of land-based missiles and aircraft- all of which would significantly outgun a carrier, just as land based cannons outgunned ships of the line in Napoleonic days.

  • Sanjuro Tsubaki||

    Well, we're overdue for a world recession, why not hasten it?!

  • TangoDelta||

    So does an 80% lower bypass the aluminum tariff if we call it a stylized paperweight? For that matter, can it come in with one hole drilled in it as a 0.5% lower?

  • Brett Bellmore||

    I lost my last job because Bush's stupid steel tariff combined with Lopez at GM meant my employer was losing money on every unit we shipped. I'd hate to lose this one the same way, I'm nicely settled in.

  • Michael Cook||

    I am not comfortable with a 100% capitalist free trade world for the same reason that I would fear a world in which the USA has 100% open borders and the world's most generous social welfare system. I don't think that our system of democracy and particularly our quaint idea of having a stable constitution can survive either.

    If steel and aluminum are the critical defense materials of the past, protecting our legacy metals industries won't change that reality. If carbon composites or something else is the real future, then Trump's protectionist program for steel and aluminum will actually be a kind of back handed way of encouraging that development here at home. Now I see that as a win-win.

    I suspect Trump's actual goal in all this is something else entirely. He senses that a certain group of global players is working the present rules in a cheating kind of way and he will shake them up. I trust him to discern our national interest more than the media or many posting here.

  • Michael Cook||

    Or to put it another way, Trump senses that this issue isn't about pure capitalism at all, it's about imperialism. I myself see the USA as rather in the position of Imperial Russia in the years 1897-1903 when Russia had just completed the trans-Siberian railroad with a magnificent and hugely expensive effort and had two deep water Eastern ports, Vladivostok and Port Arthur, the latter of which would secure Russian control of resource-rich Manchuria.

    The problem was, the czar had a rival in the region, Japan. Both Moscow and Tokyo knew that this war would be decided at sea, by battleships. Both nations could buy battleships much cheaper from Britain and Brooklyn much cheaper than they could build their own, but both did both.

    The real difference was that the Japanese were better engineers. The Russian aristocrats hired that work out to Poles and Germans, who absolutely despised them, to read their first-hand accounts of how the Russians lost Port Arthur. My Russian teacher hailed from there. He spoke Russian, Japanese, French (he was born an aristocrat) Chinese, and English, and spent most of his life dirt poor.

  • Michael Cook||

    Can we expect that Mercedes autos will soon be made mostly of Chinese metal, or is it only, once again, only the USA expected to sacrifice on the altar of principle? BTW, after we won the Spanish-American war and sent the great White Fleet on a tour around the world, American battleships built in Brooklyn were a hot trade item.

  • Michael Cook||

    Have been reading a bit more on the steel and aluminum going into the Mercedes recently. The real problem with these metals is that they take whole lot of energy to smelt, which in Europe either means a lot of coal or a lot of nuclear, as hydro is pretty much at max capacity and wind and solar are still so expensive per kilowatt when honest accounting practices are used that they won't support smelting.

    Consequently, Iceland is becoming a potential aluminum producing powerhouse because it can utilize geo-thermal energy to process bauxite economically and thus be rather environmentally pure at the same times (although a new wave of green fanatics can always come along and blow that up.) Unfortunately, Iceland does not have a large population base to supply foundry workers and it doesn't particularly want to import such.

    China can supply has lots of anonymous and unaccountable sources for kilowatts on its grid. The vast bulk of power generation is probably coal plants, but China will be able to make up nice lies while selling cheap steel and aluminum abroad and plenty of shills will take their money to spread any narrative.


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