Steel Workers president wants second stimulus

Gerard’s union recently won a major victorywhen the White House imposed tariffs on tire imports from China in response to a petition from the union. The move earned praise from Democrats on Capitol Hill, but condemnation from some business groups and Republicans.

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A new stimulus package should focus more on rebuilding America’s infrastructure and less on tax cuts, said Gerard, who spoke at a conference sponsored by the Institute for America’s Future and the Alliance for American Manufacturing.

He said President Barack Obama has done a “masterful” job in handling the recession, but that his attempts to build a bipartisan consensus on the stimulus was not feasible and led to a package too heavy on tax breaks.

“I think he came into this pretty naïve. He put a hell a lot of it into tax cuts and he did that to get a, quote, bipartisan bill. We barely got 60 votes,” Gerard said.

Gerard was joined in his remarks by U.S. Steel President John Surma, who said Obama should focus more on rebuilding America’s industrial base in the wake of job losses. Since the recession began, manufacturing has lost 2.1 million jobs, including 51,000 in September, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Surma said U.S. Steel wants the government to do everything it can to free up private capital for investment in infrastructure. Credit markets have dried up, forcing companies to delay projects and put off hiring.

“Companies like U.S. Steel that have been around for 108 years ought to be able to get the same kind of access to capital that Wall Street got,” Gerard said. If U.S. Steel could have moved forward on the recent project, involving upgrades to a facility in Clairton, Pa., it would have created 2,000 jobs, Gerard said.

Both Gerard and Surma called for more tough action with China. Surma said allowing China to be the “banker” and “trade master” to the U.S. would

“lead to nothing but ruin for our country.”

China holds $2.2 trillion in foreign currency reserves, which is mostly believed to be in U.S. dollars.

Gerard also called for policies to ensure wind turbines and other steel-heavy “green” products are made in America, which he said could reduce the trade deficit with China.