Alan Tonelson, a long-time source of topics for Machine Design commentaries, recently noticed a lapse in logic in a letter to the New York Times justifying the purchase of Chinese, rather than American, steel for refurbishing a bridge in New York.
The letter came from the head of the New York City-area Metropolitan Transit Authority. He claimed his agency’s decision to refurbish a bridge with Chinese steel epitomized excellent stewardship of taxpayer dollars. Tonelson, a Research Fellow at the U.S. Business & Industry Educational Foundation, noticed a couple of problems right off the bat with his argument.
Tonelson writes that "The MTA chief insisted both that he couldn’t 'identify an American fabricator ready, willing and able to supply the steel deck panels in the quantities needed' and that buying Chinese saved the taxpayers 'up to $100 million.' But if American producers simply couldn’t come up with enough steel to repair the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, then choosing imports wasn’t a virtue. It was a necessity. More important, if American-made product was indeed available, then the use of imports entailed much more cost than benefit."
Tonelson goes on to point out that the "savings" was, in fact, a subtraction of $100 million-worth of U.S. economic growth that would otherwise have resulted. Tonelson goes on to make several other points about the use of Chinese products, but we particularly like his conclusion: "If America ever could afford to be penny-wise and pound foolish with public funds, those days are clearly over."