Sad. Just sad

Recently there was a news item which showed that there are now only about 170 US-flagged merchant vessels. This in the country which at one time could crank out Liberty ships at the rate of one every 36 hours. For comparison, China has over 7,000 merchant ships. And yet the DC Swamp Creatures somehow think they are in a position to mobilize resources to cross the wide Pacific and save little Taiwan from big bad China?

Oh well! Ships are so 20th Century. But then there is this, about a little-noticed recent action by Our Betters:
Dances With Bears » US HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES PASSES DEPLETED BRAINS & BLACKOUT BILL FOR BANNING IMPORTS OF RUSSIAN URANIUM (johnhelmer.net)

Key quote:
"Once upon a time, the United States was a leader in nuclear energy and, along with the Soviet Union, controlled most of the sphere of uranium enrichment and fabrication of nuclear fuel. But the situation has been different for a long time.

According to the World Nuclear Association, 17 thousand tons of uranium are required annually for the operation of American nuclear reactors, but uranium production in the States themselves last year amounted to less than 100 tons. Only one uranium enrichment plant in New Mexico remains operational in the United States, and it belongs to the European consortium Urenco (Great Britain, Germany, The Netherlands). All raw materials are imported."

Sad. Just sad.

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The pessimist’s view of the world is that it can always get worse … and maybe those pessimists have a point.

The news today is that a Japanese steel manufacturer has bought out US Steel.
Storied US Steel to Be Acquired for More Than $14 Billion by Nippon Steel (usnews.com)

Oh well! Maybe it hardly matters that the once dominant US is becoming a largely de-industrialized also-ran with some branch plants far from the places where their foreign owners do most of their R&D and investment. Take a look at global steel manufacturing in 2021:
World Steel in Figures 2022 - worldsteel.org
China - 1,033 Million Tonnes
India - 118
Japan - 96
USA - 86
Russia - 76

Well, our Political Class can take comfort that the Good Old USA still (barely) beats supposedly-collapsing Russia – but the US does not produce even 10% of China’s output. Yeah! Let’s pick a fight with China … that will work out fine.

Future historians will be unsurprised about what happens next. An economy which produces real goods & services is inevitably going to crush an economy which offers full employment only to politicians, lawyers, and bureaucrats who produce very little of genuine value.

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Japan’s Nippon Steel Corp. will go from ranking 4th to 3rd largest producer of steel globally, based on 2022 production values .
In 2022, Nippon produced 44.37 Mt , and U.S. Steel 14.49 Mt.
The U.S.'s largest steel producer Nucor Corp. NYSE:NUE (which I own, and is less than 10% of my retirement holdings), remains ranked 16th worldwide producing 20.6 Mt in 2022.

Tonnage is expressed in million tonnes (Mt).

Source Top Producers - worldsteel.org

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Isn’t that really the point? None of the Top 10 global steel producers is based in the US … not a single one. 6 of the Top 10 producers are Chinese. Even if we expand to looking at the Top 20 steel producers, only 1 of those is US-based – and it (Nucor) produces little more than Iran’s top steel company.

There was a time when people realized that the ability to make real products mattered. In 1954, when Darrell Huff wrote “How To Lie With Statistics”, one of his examples was a heavily-advertised graphic about steel production. Now our “elites” consider that making steel is a dirty job which should be dumped onto less-enlightened countries, and it does not matter that this country has consequently thrown away much of the necessary plant and (more importantly) the highly-skilled labor force.

Well, that loss of the physical capability to manufacture an essential component of civilization will not matter … until it does. And then it will be much too late to do anything about it.

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True.

One reason to remain optimistic is that except for “progressive paradise” states (examples are New York and California), there are still many, many steel plants in the U.S.
See them with this mapping tool Tracker Map - Global Energy Monitor

Second, if China loses its most favored nation status, this could spark a building boom throughout the West. Repealing China’s Most Favored Nation Status: What it Means for U.S. Manufacturers and Workers - Coalition For A Prosperous America

As a note, many steel corporations own less than 10 plants. Only 9 steel corporations own 10 or more facilities:

However, Nucor, ArcelorMittal SA and other conglomerates. ArcelorMittal SA (based in Luxemborg) owns the most plants with 34 and Nucor owns and operates 18.

Corporation Number of Facilities Owned

ArcelorMittal SA 34
Nucor Corp 18
Gerdau SA 16
China Baowu Iron and Steel Group Co., Ltd. 14
Nippon Steel Corp 11
Cleveland-Cliffs Inc 11
Beijing Jianlong Investment Co., Ltd. 11
JFE Holdings Inc 10
Riva Forni Elettrici SpA 10

Source: Global Steel Plant Tracker - Global Energy Monitor
https://globalenergymonitor.org/

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That is an interesting article. Unfortunately, any plan to impose tariffs on imports from China will go nowhere in our bought-and-paid-for Congress and Administration. But let’s assume that the US could indeed put tariffs on Chinese imports – What would be the consequences?

The author of the article admits: “Some other countries like Mexico and Vietnam will likely be huge beneficiaries.

Exactly! No jobs for Americans and tax revenues for the US Government. And the reason for that would be the huge legal, regulatory, & administrative barriers which would prevent building the required new factories in the US. And then there would be the additional massive problem of training the necessary US workforce, given the low educational level of the young people who have been let down by our government schools. Notice that it has been necessary to bring in Taiwanese workers to build those new computer chip plants in Arizona.

History tells us that the kind of (effectively one-sided) “Free Trade” implemented by the DC Swamp Creatures is a proven path to ruin. The decline of the British Empire is a classic example.

But history also tells us that the Big Wheel Never Stops Turning – eventually, North America (maybe not with the current USA structure) will re-industrialize and move forward once again. That process might take a generation or two, as it did in the case of Germany & Japan after their war-driven de-industrialization. On the other hand, it might take 20 generations, as it did in the case of Imperial China’s decision in the 1400s to turn its back on progress (leading eventually to a “Century of Humiliation”).

The productive industrial base is critical to the continued prosperity of a nation – but no-one in authority cares.

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