Should The Stimulus Bill Contain A "Buy American" Clause?

Your answer to the above question will tell you something about how you think of the stimulus bill. According to the NYT, the hurting steel industry wants Obama’s stimulus plan to make a priority of buying American when it comes to infrastructure:

The (steel) industry itself is turning to government for orders that, until the September collapse, had come from manufacturers and builders. Its executives are waiting anxiously for details of President-elect Barack Obama’s stimulus plan, and adding their voices to pleas for a huge public investment program — up to $1 trillion over two years — intended to lift demand for steel to build highways, bridges, electric power grids, schools, hospitals, water treatment plants and rapid transit.

“What we are asking,” said Daniel R. DiMicco, chairman and chief executive of the Nucor Corporation, a giant steel maker, “is that our government deal with the worst economic slowdown in our lifetime through a recovery program that has in every provision a ‘buy America’ clause.”

The standard thinking is that this would be idea. Governments and companies should be free to choose the best purchasing option out there, regardless of a product’s national origin. If the infrastructure part of the stimulus bill is really about rebuilding our ageing infrastructure in the best possible way, then it shouldn’t make a difference where the supplies come from. On the other hand, if the point of the plan is just to make work for American companies, then it makes a difference. It doesn’t do much good if all the goods come from overseas. If such a clause makes it’s way into the bill, that’ll tell you what Obama’s real purpose is.

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