The Rotting Corpse of American Industry

Robert G. Makin

My recent trip through the northeast drew me past haunting images. The once vibrant entity American industry once was, has become a rotting corpse. In Johnstown Pennsylvania, Buffalo New York, Rochester, New York, Syracuse New York, the once thriving steel mills, manufacturing plants, packaging plants and warehouses are rusting in abandonment.

Bridges that once carried freight from these places in the days when they flexed their muscles for the world, huge metal buildings that once housed jobs and production now rust empty, ignored, abhorred, but remembered. Where are the men who fed their families from these fonts of wealth? They are flipping burgers and sweeping streets. Many have fled the ensuing, inevitable hard times. Some are in Atlanta. Some have gone to Texas where there is still work. A few left with their companies when American Business and Industry began fleeing the country’s repressive taxes, regulation becoming almost whimsical in the caprice of its serendipity, government supported Labor Unions demanding and achieving such a large demands as to make business no longer feasible. Grand old buildings once housing corporate offices are now mostly empty. These industrial towns are fast becoming ghost towns. The once bustling corporate offices are turning into museums of the relics of the past.

Johnstown (Pennsylvania) High School in 1965 graduated a class of nearly one thousand. In 2010, the class was under two hundred. The Steel Unions in concert with environmental regulation succeeded in doing what the Johnstown Flood failed to do. They have wiped out the town. Smelting iron ore was too dirty for the EPA. The Open Hearth was closed and replaced with electric furnaces that couldn’t get hot enough to melt the ore. The Unions were so demanding that in 1965, Bethlehem Steel had not re-tooled since 1910. Bethlehem is gone from Johnstown, but there are fish in the river again. Maybe by the time the last people have left the valley, the beaver will return, then beaver trappers and the whole thing will start all over again.

I was glad to be in Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse. They are grand old towns, but dying just like Johnstown. The streets aren’t very busy – not many people live there any more, compared to how it once was – before the industries fled kicking and screaming from government inflicted pain.

The grossest irony is that the government is still the people. The voters inflicted this upon themselves and continue to do so. Worse yet, now that the Unions are gone and Industry is no longer there to be bled, we now turn to government, thinking that it’s some how an independent entity separate from ourselves and we bleed that instead. Stupidly, we are bleeding ourselves.

I mourn for Johnstown and for Buffalo and Rochester and Syracuse. I don’t know if the voter there will wake up in time to bring back the amazing prosperity their families once experienced because of polluting industry, because of hard work unfettered by the greed and power-mongering of politicians.

Was it envying that drove us to this mess? Did we hate and envy those who were more successful, those that gave us the opportunity to work and achieve? If that’s what it was, our hate has certainly been successful in driving away what we all had in these wonderful industrial cities – enterprise, production, hope.

The rivers have their fish back, but those fish are not plentiful enough to replace the usefulness of what still lies in the ground in North American – iron ore and coal.

The iron ore can still be smelted there in the Northeast, but not until the voters determine it is so. There is still plenty of work in the Northeast, but until the people in that place determine they want to work and get rid of the impediments in government that prevent it, they cannot do so. I mourn for Pennsylvania, for New York and their lost greatness. I wonder what those people will do next.

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