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Charting a course for ourselves.

I don't understand our federal government. More to the point, I am disheartened and frustrated by some of its actions.

These actions aren't the ones you read about on the front page of the newspaper. In fact, these actions barely would end up on anyone's radar. The problem is that these types of actions often are the ones that shape our present and future.

The first action involves the U.S. Dept of Energy (DOE) and its U.S. Council for Automotive Research (USCAR) program. DOE has sponsored and overseen the USCAR program the last 13 years as a means to develop new technologies and components to increase the fuel efficiency of automobiles. This is a great program that has led to many advances, including those in metalcasting.

Three months ago, the DOE announced its intention to continue the program for another five years, repositioning the metalcasting portion solely to magnesium. During its decision process on whether to continue the program, DOE and USCAR developed a draft vision for the U.S. magnesium industry (including metalcasting) to ensure its success in further supporting the U.S. auto industry. While having a plan in place is a great move (and, as a whole, this document is technically sound), my frustration arises with one of the sentiments in this vision--the idea that U.S. research and development funds should be used to develop other country's manufacturing industries. The idea being that the future of U.S. manufacturing is dwindling, so we need back up suppliers.

I understand the basics of a global economy. I know our federal government believes the more we help develop the "world's next great economies" the more we will benefit 20 to 50 years in the future. But, what is the cost in assisting with this development? As asked in the Letterbox (p. 13) section of this issue, doesn't it make more sense for our R&D funds to support U.S. manufacturing rather than foreign manufacturing? These funds are all we have to develop manufacturing's future, and without them, we will be lapped time and time again by foreign competition.

In response, U.S. magnesium metalcasters decided to develop their own roadmap (p. 39) to support the U.S. automakers and military. They decided to control as much of their own future as they could.

The second act that frustrated me occurred during a recent visit to Washington D.C. in which 15 metalcasters sat with their respective members of Congress to discuss the recent findings of the U.S. International Trade Commission Section 332 report on the state of the U.S. metalcasting industry. During one of my meetings, I had the opportunity (along with two other metalcasters) to sit with a member of Congress. Although our discussion first centered on how our industry has been harmed by foreign competition, it ended up taking a sour turn when we brought up the possibility of import taxes (through the Section 421 trade statute) being placed on Chinese castings imported into the U.S.

The Congressman's opposition was based on the idea that if we put import taxes on products coming from China, Americans will be outraged because they will have to pay more for their products at Wal-Mart. Even though this is not a new argument (Americans, as a whole, would opt to buy less expensive goods from China instead of more expensive goods from the U.S.), it fails to address the jobs we are losing to China. If our workers continue to lose jobs that aren't replaced by equal- or higher-paying positions, they won't have money to buy anything, including less inexpensive goods from Wal-Mart.

I know I am simplifying this argument in the same way the Congressman did, but I still can't believe this "soundbite" is the answer from someone governing our nation.

These two scenarios, more than ever, tell me we aren't able to rely on anyone but ourselves for our future success. While we must continue to passionately market our needs to our government to help ease the restraints holding us back (we must continue to be in their face so they know we exist), we can't expect anything in return. We must look at any support we receive as gravy.

I am not defeated. In fact, I feel somewhat relieved, enlightened and empowered because I now know the truth many of you already understood. Our future is what we make of it, and this is all anyone can ask.

Alfred T. Spada, Editor-in-Chief
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Title Annotation:EDITORIAL; federal government actions
Comment:Charting a course for ourselves.(EDITORIAL)(federal government actions)
Author:Spada, Alfred T.
Publication:Modern Casting
Article Type:Editorial
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 1, 2005
Previous Article:Question of the month.
Next Article:Intermet reorganization plan receives court confirmation.

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