Another Slap Across the Face

Ever since this recession of ours began we’ve been linking shipbuilding with employment – and unemployment. In fact, this so-called recession didn’t begin in December of 2007, as our leaders would have us believe, nor did it begin in the Spring of 2006, as Mr. Bernanke unwittingly admitted.

This economic downturn began ‘way back when we decided to rely on cheap foreign labor to build the ships we felt we’d need for our international commerce. Shipbuilding, you know, is dirty work. It’s beneath us. We’ve since come to the painful realization, though, that cheap foreign labor isn’t restricted just to shipbuilding, and our early stupidity and arrogance has cost us dearly.

We’ve painted ourselves into a corner and not a single one of our elected and unelected luminaries know of a way to get us out. Recent job losses have spotlighted the links between shipbuilding and unemployment, and as obvious as it would seem to be, our decision makers still don’t get the connection. Here’s a story that appeared in West Coast newspapers two days ago:

“NASSCO-General Dynamics. the last major shipbuilder on the West Coast – and one of the “Big Six” shipbuilders – laid off 290 of its 4,100 workers in San Diego on Monday because of a downturn in business and fluctuations in the repair work it does for the U.S. Navy.

“The company, which is among San Diego’s 20 largest employers, also eliminated the jobs of 270 subcontractors …

“The overall impact will be higher than 560 jobs, because of the ripple effect of the money that the workers spend on local goods and services, as well as housing …” –

That announcement appeared in the papers just two days ago. Yesterday, we read in Marine Log about the troubles in still another of the “Big Six” shipyards:

“Louisiana seeks potential buyers for Avondale – Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal yesterday pledged an all out effort to keep Navy shipbuilding at Avondale, but said the state has already begun discussions with potential buyers and tenants for the shipyard. Governor Jindal yesterday met with Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding President Mike Petters to discuss the future of the company’s shipyard at Avondale and how it can be secured.

“Northrop Grumman executives recently informed the Louisiana Department of Economic Development (LED) that the future of the Avondale is in doubt due to Navy procurement changes that directly hurt the shipyard.”-

See? If the country can no longer direct “make-work” Navy construction to the “Big Six”, then we’ve come to the end of the road. Two down, and the other four will inevitably follow.

[Of course, there’s always our patented container ship …]