The 50

A foreign government acquires a technology that puts them at a military and manufacturing advantage to the US. The normal protocol of allocating and appropriating from the Congress and the DOD won't work because no commercial market for the industry output exists. A combination of political pressure, subsidies and tax breaks produces a deal and $350M is budgeted to launch the public/private venture.

Ten massive machines are built and the program is scaled back to $279M. The year is 1950 and the gambit is called the Heavy Press Program. The operation ran for 7 years. Eight of the presses remain in operation today. The largest is Alcoa's 50,000 ton forging press, nicknamed The 50. The machine is so big that the plant had to be built around it after. A public/private partnership for an industry that didn't exist facilitated by public money and oriented to private risk and profit. The ability to advance a program even marginally as risky as the Heavy Presses today is virtually nil. The deficit would be held against it and confidence in the government is too low. And yet, there is the 50. A gigantic pounding example of fiscal policy success most of us had never heard of.

For more on the story and a picture of the monster see The Iron Giant here: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2012/03/iron-giant/8886/

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