Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Economics of Cliff Stoudt

ESPN has this piece on a new book I guess I have to go read:  "The Ones Who Hit the Hardest: The Steelers, The Cowboys, The '70s and the Fight For America's Soul".  For a book link click on the picture on the left.

Why I really noticed is this quote from the author in there talking about Pittsburgh of course:
"The sheer volume of people who were out of work at the time was astounding. Steel mills, which for so long had been the engine that drove the American economy, were shutting down at such rapid rates, which meant hundreds of thousands of men who assumed that would be all they did their entire lives had to rethink their life's plan"
OK..  I've been through this and there are things we can debate some of the contemporary psychology at the time... but there is a disconnect between our Steeler memories of the 1970's and what came afterwards.  Remember, the 4 Pittsburgh superbowls were coming out of seasons played mostly in 1974, 1975, 1978 and 1979.

Now consider that manufacturing employment in the Pittsburgh region did not go down between 1971 and 1979.  I'm serious.  In 1971 Pittsburgh MSA manufacuturing employment = 290K.  1979 manufacturing employment = 288K. OK, some loss.  Maybe those 2,000 net job losses begat 2,000 really fanatical fans?  But the monstrous permanent job losses in manufacturing? The belief that steel was about to implode?  Not the issue for Pittsburgh in the 1970's.  Yet the great mythos of all those permanently unemployed steelworkers feeding the fan frenzy of the 1970's from the long cold unemployment lines is indelible history.  Now we have a whole book based on the myth. 

There were things going on within the decade.  Not one, but two oil/energy crises.  Not one, but two national recessions; both of which had big cyclical impacts on the regions manufacturing base. Inflation/stagflation and all sorts of other things.  It was also a time of some pretty serious wage increases in the steel industry..  so inflation or not, most local folks saw their purchasing power sustained if not increased. I think people conflate some of the other big national economic stories of the 70's with the Pittsburgh miasma that followed. 

Nonetheless, the whole story of the steel industry collapsing and the permanent structural employment the quote above seems to refer to are stories that would really only begin as Superbowl XIV finished.  Then right as XIV ended, all hell breaks loose for sure.  Bradshaw would be gone though.  As the jobs disappeared for good the region's fans would not be rooting for Bradshaw, but for Cliff Stoudt.

Maybe the book will explain it all to me?


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