LETTERS : Kaiser Story Reflects U.S. Industry's Plight

The Times' excellent article on the failing Kaiser empire (Aug. 4) is really the tip of the iceberg in a much larger and tragic story. We were the pioneers and world's unquestioned leader in virtually every industrial and technological field. We are fast becoming a bumbling giant and our economic wealth is sifting through our fingers like sand.

We are converting to a service economy but in doing so we are casting aside all our tools of generating economic wealth. What can be the end result of full conversion to a service economy? Will we all become the maids and butlers for the citizens of some powerful nation?

If the magnitude of Henry Kaiser's accomplishments in building the steel mill in the early years of World War II could be conveyed to a modern reader, it would surely seem like a fairy tale. Today more time would be spent obtaining environmental and various agency permits and fighting the inevitable court battles than he spent erecting those great works.

That great mill he built is now largely being cannibalized by the scrap dealer's torch to be sent to Japan and returned to us as import automobiles. The story of that mill, its lore, its triumphs and tragedies, and its ultimate failure is a story that is crying to be told. If the American people could only understand that such failings signal the end of all we have built and all we pin our future hopes on, they would demand to know why it failed.

In answering why it failed and ultimately assessing blame, we must single out three entities: management, government and the union. Management must be cited for its blunders, its lack of backbone and its faulty organization. Government must be cited for its indifference, its stupidity and, in the end, its outright hostility. The union must be cited for its unbridled greed.

It is a pernicious and persistent parasite. First it breaks the heart and spirit of the host with its work rules. Then when the host is in a feeble and vegetative state, it proceeds to suck its veins dry to slake its unquenchable thirst for wages and benefits.

I know. I was there--and it's all very sad.


San Bernardino

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