Transcript: Thom Hartmann: The Big Picture: Republicans have destroyed The American Way. 1 July '11

What you see here is not just the carnage of 9/11 - but also some of the last remnants of American manufactured steel - a dying industry in our nation today.

Those mangled steel beams sticking out of the pile of rubble that used to be the World Trade Center were made right here in America - at a 100-year-old steel plant in Allentown, Pennsylvania known as the Allentown Metal Works.

Today though - ten years after 9/11 - that steel plant is the poster child of an America in decline.

It was there that back in 2009 - President Obama used the plant to tout his economic stimulus program. The plant was supposed to be a symbol of the American economy roaring back.

Unfortunately - one year later - Allentown Metal Works shut down.

And now - it's being used as a symbol of the failure of President Obama's policies by one of the lead Republican candidates for President - Mitt Romney.

Take a look at this startlingly effective campaign ad that's just now hitting the airwaves:

President Obama: It's good to be back in Pennsylvania. I just came from Allentown Metal Works, where I had a chance to visit with workers there.

President Obama: I just came from Allentown Metal Works, where I had a chance to visit with workers there.

Video Text: 1 Year Later

Anchor: The Allentown Metal Works … is set to close its doors on Friday. … was hailed as a symbol of hope by President Barack Obama last year when he promoted his jobs plan.

Video Text: “Over 100,000 Pennsylvania Jobs Lost Since President Obama Took Office”

Video Text: 39,800 Manufacturing Jobs Lost Since 2009

Video Text: 470,774 People Looking For Work

Video Text: June 2011 Allentown Metal Works

Video Text: “Obama Isn't Working”

So what REALLY happened in Allentown - why is the American steel manufacturing industry collapsing?

Slate columnist Dave Weigel explored the issue in a column published yesterday in which he gave one reason why Allentown Metal Works shuttered its doors.

Weigel wrote:

The owners of Allentown Metal Works expected to get more business from stimulus spending on construction etc. It didn't happen. [Allentown Metal Works's] only chance for survival was an infusion of capital from the government into local projects, something Romney opposed. Its collapse was classic creative destruction -- there simply wasn't business for the plant to do anymore.

As to why there wasn't any business for the plant anymore - Allentown Business columnist Edward Carter offered an explanation at the beginning of the year - writing that the closing of the plant represents:

“A bygone era of when manufacturing was king of the economy in the Lehigh Valley and around the country…Unfortunately, the manufacturing cycle has seen its boom in America, and while not necessarily in the bust phase of the cycle, the landscape has changed drastically for American manufacturers… More than likely it will be used by some sort of Service Company, which is currently in the boom phase for the local and US economy.”

In other words - we don't build things in America anymore - we're now a “would like fries with that?” kind of nation - a service economy - and not a manufacturing economy.

So it doesn't matter how much stimulus money President Obama gave Allentown Metal Works - if no one was building anything in America - there'd be no demand for steel - then the plant was bound to go belly up.

So what happened between the 1960's when there was a demand for American steel to build the World Trade Center - and today when all that demand is now dried up?

Well, here's what happened. We abandoned “The American Way”. For 200 years - from our first President George Washington all the way up until the swearing in of our 40th president Ronald Reagan - our nation operated under an economic plan known simply as “The American Way”.

It was based on an 11-point plan to foster American manufacturing created by America's first Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton. It was literally called "The American System".

And for two hundred years referred to as “The American Way”.

The American Way was built on three basic tenets:

One - tariffs - or import taxes - to make foreign-made goods more expensive here and thus protect American industries'


Two - A strong national bank to facilitate commerce.

And three - loads of federal spending for infrastructure projects like roads, railroads, airports, bridges, ports, even canals - that help American industries easily and cheaply transport products around the nation.

This is the type of economy that ruled America through 40 presidencies and turned our fledgling newborn nation into an economic superpower unlike any the world had ever seen before. It worked flawlessly.

But then - in 1981 - with the Presidency of Ronald Reagan - our nation embarked on a radical new experiment of so-called Free Trade and small government - and we said good riddance to The American Way.

Over the next twenty years, we got rid of our tariffs - we handed regulating our commerce to the banksters - and we cut government spending on infrastructure - completely dismantling The American Way.

Which is why now - we just don't build a damn thing in America anymore.

And the last high-profile American politician to tell the truth about this was Ross Perot - and his blunt honesty on the topic got him 20 percent of the vote in 1992.

...first thing you ought to do is get all these folks who've got these 1-way trade agreements that we've negotiated over the years and say fellas, we'll take the same deal we gave you. And they'll gridlock right at that point... We have got to stop sending jobs overseas... There will be a giant sucking sound going south.

He was right. And just like we outsource US jobs and manufacturing plants overseas now - we've even outsourced The American Way itself.

Once we dropped it - nations like China - India - Brazil - and South Korea picked it up. And guess which economies are booming.

In a few years - China will surpass the United States as the top economy in the world. In a few decades - India will surpass us too<./p>

The BRIC nations - that's Brazil - Russia - India - and China - all nations that now employ “The American Way” - currently account for 1/5 of the world's economy - and represent 45% of all the economic growth on the planet.

We're being left behind by nations that are beating us at a game we invented - beating us at The American Way.

There's no better example of this economic shift than this tale of two bridges.

Yesterday - China opened up the world's largest bridge over water. It's a 26-mile long behemoth that stretches across a giant Bay in China - and it was constructed by Chinese workers with steel made in Chinese factories.

Oddly, the same can be said about a new bridge stretching across San Francisco Bay.

The new half-mile long bridge that will connect San Francisco and Oakland will not have a “Made in America” sticker on it. That's because it was mostly made in China.

Later this month - the last four segments of the bridge - four massive steel skeletons - will be shipped over 6,000 miles from Shanghai to be put together like Lego pieces here in America.

And you wonder why Allentown Metal Works couldn't sell their steel in this new American economy?

The point of all this is we've lost The America Way.

And if we don't find it soon - if we don't reclaim what Alexander Hamilton and George Washington gave us at the birth of our nation that nurtured us into an economic superpower - then one day we're all going to wake up and realize that the age of America as a first-world nation is over.

Is that what we want to bequeath to future generations?

Let's let Allentown Metal Works serve as an example - a rallying cry to bring back The American Way before it's too late.

The fate of our nation hangs in the balance.

That's The Big Picture.

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