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Dying Steel Towns

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The steel industry in the United States declined for reasons a bit more complicated than a lot of other industries. It wasn’t so much that steel manufacturers moved overseas so much as the U.S. decided to encourage the importation of cheaper foreign steel from Asian factories to undermine the United Steelworkers of America strikes of the 1940s and 1950s that inconvenienced employers. But the U.S. had no plan at all to deal with the steel towns and it never has. For those designing the American economy, planning for the messiness of what to do with these old sites of industrialization is simply not important because it’s hard. Better to throw tiny amounts of money at the towns and stay planning from 30,000 feet. And there is some value of course in large-scale planning. But the government must have plans for these communities if it going to encourage industry to move. It never has. That leads to the slow death of cities like Aliquippa, Pennsylvania, detailed here in the photographs of Pete Marovich, whose mother is from there. The photographs are not only sad but infuriating because this fate was not inevitable. Yet for the cities around Pittsburgh, which has recovered, there is just nothing.

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