When Uncle Sam placed an embargo on munitions, we guess that everyone, with the probable exception of munition makers, thought it was a good idea.
However, he seemed to overlook a vital point when nothing was said about the exportation of scrap, which is about as important in the manufacture of war materials as TNT.
The other day, while talking to an executive of a steel company, he complained about the rising cost of billets. Only last week we read in the papers that eastern railroad lines have placed an embargo on scrap iron shipments to eastern ports because of the congestion existing in the seaport railroad yards, due to the large number of cars loaded with scrap awaiting ships to carry this material to foreign countries.
On March 4, B. C. Forbes, in his column appearing in the Hearst papers, took cognizance of a letter which M. Prussian, president of the Prussian Machinery Company, wrote to him along this same line:
“When the depression started, one of the first industries to really feel the effect was the machinery industry. As time went on, the machines were gradually wearing out, so the manufacturer would rob the parts from two or three machines to complete the fourth one. This resulted in large scrappage of machinery. This, together with the improvements made in machinery, added thousands of machines to the obsolescence list.
“In 1932 there were thousands of machines standing idle in the United States, and along came European countries and purchased the pick of the machines at unheard of low prices. They gradually took the surplus out of the country.
“Today machines 15 or 20 years old are selling for as high as 80 cents of the new dollar.
“Russia purchased all of the used machines of one make that were available in this country. England offered to take the entire output of a well-known Cleveland manufacturer for one year. And so on down the line.
“These machines are going to be used to manufacture, and within three or four years our competition in the outside world will be very keen.
“When this war scare is over, or the war is over, my opinion is that there will be more unemployment in this country than ever before.”
Now, this is food for thought for all of us, and regardless of what anybody thinks, or whether some of our so-called economists would consider this as only a trivial matter, we still think it has sufficient significance for all of us to check up on our patriotic viewpoints, and weigh them against how much money we can make to today by making it easy for unfriendly powers to compete.
We think, though, that those who are going to give matters of this kind first consideration are the men who spent a couple of years dodging German scrap iron while digging trenches, shining up 75’s, and a few hundred other odd jobs we didn’t bargain for. We don’t want our sons to get into a mess like that if we can prevent it.
We wonder if we are not foolishly paving the way for just such another fracas!