[In response to James A. Jones' Aug. 5, Page 6 Mailbag, “Taxes, tariffs route seems to be simplest”]: Speaking as the “true American” Mr. Jones seeks, I agree with him ... to a point.
True, many elements of manufacturing plastics in the U.S.A. today are not “fair” — lower labor, environmental, dumped raw material and government-subsidized costs elsewhere, combined with varying exchange rates, make competing from within the United States a sometimes impossible chore.
Now, past that point. As Plastics News might attest, I'm not one to “give up,” and I'm not willing to “let the chips fall where they may.” However, many of us in manufacturing businesses have made the critical mistake of believing our mission is to run machinery at whatever cost rather than to satisfy our customers via whatever source. As the old truth goes: If railroads had focused on customers instead of running trains, today we'd be flying the Baltimore & Ohio Airline Co.
Our industry is full of examples. Cellophane, paper, and burlap bags, turned out and under by plastics, are just a few. Some of today's flexible packaging makers first made those older products.
But, how many started from scratch in plastics and buried their competitors who were committed to running cellophane, paper and burlap bag machines? What about the glass, metal and other paper companies that fell to plastics? To those traditional material firms, it really didn't matter whether the plastic onslaught came from our own shores or overseas. The challenge came from paradigm-shifted suppliers. Same for all of us in the U.S. plastics industry today. A lot of it ain't fun or fair, but no one ever promised it would be. Innovative plastics manufacturers are adapting to the changes required — internally, externally and fraternally.
Government will not protect, let alone bail out, the U.S. plastics industry. It's too small, too fragmented and too bereft of political clout. Taxes and tariffs are not a simple thing. Our customers' demands and how we source for them are the only fork in the road we can take.
George A. Makrauer
Treasure Island, Fla.