Scandia -- January 06, 1900A Subsidized Fleet (Editorial)
The Republicans in Congress are bent on passing a law appropriating some million dollars a year in subsidies to American shipbuilders or to American steamships in foreign trade. Heretofore most of the American shipping to Europe and other continents has been done in foreign vessels; these are cheaper to build and cheaper to operate; they can therefore accept lower rates than American ships. This is the reason why American goods have been carried by European ships; it is cheaper. American shippers who are not in business for their health alone will not pay American steamers higher freight rates than European. If the American steamers accepted the same freight rates, they would sail at a loss; but for the pleasure of seeing American goods shipped in American vessels, Congress will pay the difference. American steamship owners are told: go ahead and accept the same freight rates as European ships; you will lose by it, but never mind, Uncle Sam will foot the bill. The people at large will 2have to pay some millions more in taxes (as they always do, to help capital) in order to see more American steamers employed in foreign trade.
A few years ago, Captain John Anderson, of Chicago, president of the American Steam Barge Company, in order to show the necessity of subsidies, pointed out that a steamship which costs $500,000 to build in the United States can be built in Great Britain for $300,000; the American ship therefore costs $15,000 a year more in interest and insurance.
Then Captain Anderson, who certainly knows what he is talking about, asserted that while an American tramp steamer of 4,000 tons needs 34 men, he has seen English 6,000-tonners that can get along with 26 men; and each of these men receives smaller wages and poorer fare than the Americans. While it costs 75 cents a day to board the sailors on American steamers, the English sailors are satisfied with fare that costs about 35 cents a day.
In order to establish a few American steamship lines and enable them to compete 3with European lines, Captain Anderson wants something like $5,000,000 a year.
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