Tariffs and trade barriers are complex matters that have plagued U.S. industry, especially steelmakers, for a century and a half. Citizens do not realize that imposed restrictions can have negative impacts elsewhere in a national economy and are always “manipulated favoritism.”
Technological changes drive this regulatory system. From 1870 to 1965, open-hearth furnaces were most popular. Basic-oxygen-type furnaces came along in 1952, and they accounted for 50% of production by 1970. And, while they existed in 1880, electric-arc furnaces came along with mini-mills, which make 60% of all domestic steel today in the U.S. In 2015, U.S. steelmaking employed 147,000 workers, with labor productivity improving from 10.1 labor hours per ton in 1980 to 1.9 in 2016. Today, global steelmaking capacity is 700 million metric tons more than demand. But wait … government has re-entered the picture.