Saturday, December 13, 2008


"Please,please,please,please me......"

As the Detroit auto executives do their best James Brown imitation to Congress, it seems that everyone has an opinion about whether Congress should bail out the Big 3 or not.

Now first, I have a true confession: I have owned only one A-merry-can made car in my entire life. But still, that doesn't mean that I don't understand the importance and the significance of the A-merry-can auto industry. And before you start with me, don't even bother; I know that I am a hypocrite, and that I helped to contribute to the demise of the auto industry, so I should be one of the last people advocating for it.

But how can you blame me? I have mad love for Michigan. My first experience with A-merry-ca was as a very young child in East Lansing. I was there with my family while my father attended school and finished up his graduate studies. Michigan was where I first experienced snow, where I first forged friendships with people of other races, and where I was first introduced to A-merry-can games such as football and baseball (to this day the Detroit Tigers is my favorite baseball team). The first car I ever drove was my father's Cutlass by Oldsmobile. (I think they made them in Lansing) So it hurts to watch Michigan die a slow economic death as the auto industry struggles to survive. It hurts to watch rethugs demagogue this issue and try to score political points with their base while auto workers face the prospects of losing their jobs and their way of life. (Whatever happened to helping Main Street and not Wall Street?)

Now look, I know this is a tough call for some people. (Not rethugs, they are going to be against the working man no matter what)The executives at these companies have done a less than stellar job for the past 40 years. They have been slow to adjust to change, and their business model has not exactly been one that we could hold up as a shining example for our B school students all over the country. Flying to Washington in private jets was just plain stupid, and it shows just how out of touch they are. But Jim Press, VP of Chrysler, is right when he says that an auto failure could "trigger a depression" because of the "fragile nature of the economy". To ignore that fact would be just foolhardy. Come on field what's wrong with letting them go bankrupt and file for Chapter 11? They could finally try to be more innovative and restructure some of those UAW contracts. Let them go the way of Studebaker, Packard,Hudson and Nash; it's capitalism at work, make a better product and we will buy it. That's a fair point, and I would almost buy it. Almost. But there is just too much at stake with these companies. They employee far too many people who could lose their jobs. Way too many service industries who rely on them could go under, and the domino effect it would create could be devastating. Homes would be lost, tax bases would dry up, and entire communities would become extinct. It would be devastating to the state of Michigan and cities such as Detroit, Lansing, Saginaw, and Flint. And it could be devastating to you. I don't care where you live.

But do the rethugs care? Of course not. The Bogey Man to them in all of this is the UAW, and they want to teach them a lesson. After all, don't all the car manufacturers down South (where there are no union shops) do just fine? Why can't the Big 3 eliminate these UAW folks and start paying their workers closer to what the average Chinese and Indian worker gets? I will answer that: Because they aren't down South, and because they have kids in college and mortgages to pay. And because most of these people with there so called high wages support communities by spending where they live, that's why.

"For decades, Republicans have supported corporate efforts to earn profits without accountability to working Americans. Profits and bonuses rose before the decline, often by eliminating domestic production — and jobs — while switching operations overseas.
Yet when some of our biggest domestic employers need help — employers that actually produce something tangible, unlike Wall Street — Republicans choose to preach rather than do something constructive. Their actions betray American workers and sabotage an already fragile economy.

Yes, the automakers have a lot to learn, but surely not at the expense of our economic viability. It is almost inconceivable that Republicans would risk destroying some of the nation’s few remaining manufacturing giants just to teach the unions a lesson. "

~Barry Moskowitz, Opinion letter in the New York Times~~

Well said Barry, let's hope that there are some rethugs who stop watching FOX long enough to actually read the "Times".

So what do we do? We give the Big 3 the money with some strings attached. We demand accountability and we damn near Nationalize all three of those companies. (Field, you are such a Socialist. I know. But think about it. If there was a National Health Care Plan we wouldn't even be having this discussion, because the Big 3 wouldn't even have to worry about paying billions in health benefits to their employees) The Management culture has to change at these companies as well, and they have to rethink how they do business. (Design a car that the field might want to drive damn it!) And I am with the O man on this one; they have got to go green. In fact, some of the money we give them should be earmarked for environmental outcomes. And they have to do a better job of marketing their cars. They have to create better incentives to buy, and come up with more creative ways of financing the product. If people don't start going to the Big 3 show rooms we will be right back in this position in the very near future.

So that is my two cents. I am with Ben Stein of all people on this one. Let's bail out those suckers. Let's help the people of Michigan like we did the people of New York City. They deserve that much. Besides, I am sick of hearing these auto executives beg.


Anonymous said...

My first job out of art school was working in Detroit on the Ford Motor Company corporate adverting account.

After my two years in the US Army in the late 60s I returned to California and worked for 7 years on the Datsun account.

All I can say is the Japanese got it, Detroit never did.

In 1970 a survey of American car buyers, the large majority felt American made automobiles and motorcycles were superior to those produced any other country. By the end of the decade the numbers had reversed.

Detroit could have seen $3+ gas coming and prepared for it. But instead they went for maximum profits. There is no profit in small fuel efficient automobiles.

And now they have no profit.

I feel very sorry for the workers, who in reality earn about $25 per hour and not the $70 per hour Detroit quotes. But as far as all those big shots who live in Gross Point and the other mecas for the mega wealthy execs, I feel nothing. They have brought this upon themselves.

Ann Brock said...

Field the truth of the matter is all the foreign car makers have already gotten their share of the money years ago when our Government paid them all big bucks and gave them free land along with all the tax cuts they could get.

Alabama gave up a lot to attract Honda, Toyota, Mercedes, and Hyundai. So, I don't get it how are you going to bring the competition in then complain about the competition. Didn't they no that this would hurt America one day?

Anonymous said...

I know thisn probably belongs to the previous thread, but still, here is a nice post on 'BLACK WOMEN AND PUBLIC SPACE: Michelle Obama.

Anonymous said...

It's sad that some auto workers will lose their jobs and benefits due to poor decision making by the upper management. We all will pay for it in one way or another.

How can the Senate not help out the autoworkers? If this were another country hit by disaster, America always seems to come up with aid ($$$) But you can't help your own fellow American?


rainywalker said...

That trillion dollars was not passed by Congress for the big three. Who's next the milk man? The president will give them the cash and it will be gone before father time dies on 31 December.

Anonymous said...

Here is the thing field. I just don't think the bailout will help them. The problem is how their business is run. First of all american cars do not have a good rep overall, second they need to fall to learn how to build themselves back up. Let's face it if we bail them out it will only help the execs because in their own plan they will lay off plenty of workers. Plus, we see how those "poor" banks are using there $$$. This is the very definitin of insanity. Doing the same thing and expecting a different result. We would be insane to bail out yet ANOTHER FRIGGIN INDUSTRY!

Bob said...

Honda, Nissan, & Toyota pay nonunion American workers just enough to dissuade them (narrowly sometimes) from voting in a UAW shop. These Japanese automakers in effect reward their workers for not unionizing. So the UAW sets the bar for the entire auto industry, union & nonunion. The UAW must walk away from any bailout requiring that union wage & benefit packages be lowered to nonunion levels. It would destroy organized labor. The antiunion right calculates average hourly wages by adding in the costs of retiree benefits currently being paid out, which is NOT what the union worker sees in his or her own paycheck.

Christopher said...

These 18 senate Republican douchebags voted in favor of the $700 billion bailout of Wall Street crooks and criminals, but against the $14 billion emergency bridge loan package to keep the ailing U.S. auto industry from collapsing:

Bob Bennett (R-UT)
Richard Burr (R-NC)
Saxby Chambliss (R-GA)
Tom Coburn (R-OK)
Norm Coleman (R-MN)
Bob Corker (R-TN)
John Ensign (R-NV)
Chuck Grassley (R-IA)
Judd Gregg (R-NH)
Orrin Hatch (R-UT)
Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX)
Johnny Isakson (R-GA)
John Kyl (R-AZ)
Mel Martinez (R-FL)
John McCain (R-AZ)
Mitch McConnell (R-KY)
Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)
John Thune (R-SD)

These Republican lawmakers are unpatriotic and un-American.

They're hypocrites.

JP said...

I'd like to make a point here. Yes our car industry has made mistakes and at times make some bad cars. They also make some really good cars. The best car I've every owned as far as reliablity and behavior was my little Ford Escort with 5 on the floor. My dads Taurus gave us a 120K miles before it died. The American car industry quality is not nearly as bad as percieved. I would have no hestitation laying out for a Ford in particular.

Anonymous said...

The end game here, as Bob pointed out, is the destruction of organized labor by the cronies of the above Republican senators. The South must be unionized before the middle class in this country is safe, period.

Anonymous said...

We are all in the same boat so it doesn't really matter which end has the hole.

Things will change whatever happens, but it would be nice to have a soft landing. The businesses will change or die and unions will have to come up with some other ways of dealing as well. A brave new world....

I cannot think of how things will change I am ignorant of the workings of those businesses and unions, but the people who know will eventually come up with answers that will probably look like nothing we have ever seen before. Just look at the past 60 years--things change.

GrannyStandingforTruth said...

The Republicans seems to be scheming for cheap labor. While those at the top enjoy exuberant salary benefits. Sounds like the Republicans want America to become a serfdom. I wonder what they would say if all the middleclass and poor folks demand that those at the top take a big cut in their salaries. Say like for instance, bringing their salaries back down to coincide with their average workers. Now, that's what I would call a plan to solve the economy problem--disolving and dismantling greed all together. After all, greed is what got us into this mess, that and the war in Iraq.

Black Diaspora said...

One thing that's being over looked here is the repugnacant's zeal to punish those (the UAW among them) that supported a Democrat for president.

They're pissed, and they're gonna make them pay. And all the other reasons cited here only make it easier for them to do so.

And if repugnacants think that Elephants have long memories, they ain't seen nothing yet.

Because of their boneheaded move, the party of the Donkey is gonna dominate the government for years to come.

These repugnacant dummies will throw the whole country under the bus to satisfy their blood lust, and their thirst for revenge.

Anonymous said...

I'm against all the bailouts, worldwide, Field. Bank, stock market, trading firms, manufacturers, consumers, all of them. Specifically, no one is predicting that any car company in the world will do well during the next two or three years, and Detroit is supposed to sell very few vehicles if they continue to exist.
I say that the government send the employees a bonus and a long unemployment period of payments and forget the Big Three. If the employees want a job, let them buy the companies, they are very cheap right now -- no one wants to buy them.
All of the bailout money spent to date has resulted in making the problems far worse and extending the period of depression. Letting everything drop to the floor and starting over is the better strategy.
I note that you cite NO economic stats or processes in the post, nor do you face the music that a 60 year cycle is collapsing.
Quite certainly the Republicans have an agenda. But it so happens that just by coincidence, bailing out is the wrong path right now.
I do respect the Republicans that voted against all bailouts to date.
And that is a statement I rarely make. It's time for the US government to tell the public that we need a severe cancer excised and stop pretending that analgesics will make everything all rosy. Field, on this one I very much disagree with you.

Anonymous said...


field negro said...

"R.I.P. UAW!"

Damn you all are cold.

I love what jjbrock said about the Southern states enticing these foreign companies with all types of goodies, and yet we bitch and moan about spending a few billions to help the folks in Michigan.

Hell that's a month in Iraq.

I think there are options. We can't let such a large union die in A-merry-ca. Maybe we can strong arm them a little more to take lower wages, and soften the collective bargaining agreement a litte.But die? No. The working man is in enough dire straits.

But I respect the folks who disagree with me on this one. I understand the sentiment. As gwpriester said, The auto execs have been sleeping at the wheel for years. So now, what's that saying? "The chickens are coming home...."

Whatever happens, as someone above said; there has to be a "soft landing".

lutton said...

first a link that tells a tale about ours countries priorities:

SHARE OF NATIONAL INCOME GOING TO WAGES AND SALARIES AT RECORD LOW IN 2006: Share of Income Going to Corporate Profits at Record High

On the auto bailout, it's really a rock and a hard place discussion. In the end, I support measures to sustain he big three for a time. But there really do need to be some drastic changes.

$14 billion is 2% of what we're offering up to wall street. Hell, there's at least $9 billion that just dissappeared into oblivion in Iraq -

I don't see any grandstanding in the senate about that!

In one sense though - if the White House does come through with a bridge to the new congress/administration...if - I might actually be glad this proposal died in the senate. Because the democrats absolutely collapsed and capitulated to GOP demands.

One furthur point about spending money to keep the big three solvent--does anyone think letting them fail will be without tremendous costs? I mean, besides the macro economics, if hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of people suddenly find themselves on the unemployment line and without health care, who is going to pick up the pieces? The government - meaning the taxpayers - that's who.

Would it be $14 billion dollars? Maybe not, but it certainly wouldn't be nothing...

Thanks field; always enjoy your stuff.

Anonymous said...

JP said, "My dads Taurus gave us a 120K miles before it died."

Maybe that's just lowered expectations. Our Honda Accord, I think it was a late 80s model, turned over 200,000 when we moved to New Mexico in 2000. We sold it to a college kid from UNM who is probably still driving it.

Anonymous said...

JJbrock thank you! People don't realize exactly what Honda and Toyota get for building plants in these southern states that are desperate for jobs....Alabama, Tennessee and South Carolina have gotten on their knees more times than Karrine Steffans.

Until we get answers on this, I don't see how anyone can righteously say the auto industry doesn't deserve a "hand out" - if we can glefully give away trillions and don't know to whom or for what than maybe we just have it to give like that.

Anonymous said...

Its not just Michigan. It is all over the country, including the south.

I am under the impression that the goal may be to shut them down totally.

I agree to bail them out with mighty strings (ropes) attached. But I also believe that the congress needs to readdress the financial bailout and add the same rules or jail the bastards for fucking with our money.

Christopher said...

I drove a Toyota for 12 years. A tiny Tercel. I loved the car. It was agile and fuel efficient and parking was always a breeze.

But times change and after 12 years, I wanted something bigger and more comfortable. I'm 6'2" and 220lbs. Jim is 6'0" and 200lbs., plus we have a dog. So the tiny Tercel was just too small for our family, so I bought a Ford Escape -- Ford's smallest SUV. It's fuel efficient, built on a car chassis and it looks pretty damned good too.

Under the hood, it's designed just like a Japanese car with all the parts on the top and easy to reach. The interior is well made and after 2 years, it rides just as nice as the day I first bought it.

Bottomline: Detroit does build high quality cars, if Americans would just give them a chance.

JP said...

Yes some Honda's and Toyota can run up to 200K, but that's rare even for them. I suppose my old man was willing to drop a new tranny in the Taurus it could have run longer. If you buy a new car I think 120K is decent expectation. That's 10 years at 12K year,

Anonymous said...

I drove a 1996 Accord with 260,000 miles on it, replacing the front hubs/disks one time (and general maintenance other than that). I bought it at 150,000 for $2500 and sold it for $2700 two years ago.

The person still drives the car today (about 1.5 years) having only repaired a leak in the freon system. Still an excellent car with over 300,000 miles on it.

I now drive a 2001 Nissan Maxima (bought new) with 165,000 and I got my first "check engine" light recently (gas cap was not tight).

I expect to at least double the mileage, unless someone introduces an exponentially higher mileage (electric, hybrid, whatever) vehicle in the meantime.

I will say that I own a 1994 Ford Ranger 4WD pickup (bought new) that has been a great vehicle (at around 180,000 now).

Jody said...

It pisses me off when there is nary a peep out of these corporate whores who fund war and bail out corporations and banks. But NOO, fuck the workers! And these SOBs blame workers who have fought forALL of our worker rights when in fact it is the fault of CEOs in these industries. As far as I am concerned, time to get out the pitch forks and torches and go after these rich fucks!

field negro said...

Sometimes it's the luck of the draw with cars. I know folks who have Japanese cars and swear by them. On the other hand, my father in law would not be caught dead driving something that's not American. Of course he only drives pick up trucks, and I still believe that the A-merry-can made models are always best when it comes to pick ups. My point is,it's not even about the product anymore. I am sure everyone can build a nice car. The problem now is finding people who can afford to buy them.

"I agree to bail them out with mighty strings (ropes) attached. But I also believe that the congress needs to readdress the financial bailout and add the same rules or jail the bastards for fucking with our money."

Amen BeulahMan, like the croked Wall Street guy who was just caught, and that we now know might have stolen billions (with a B) of dollars with his phony ponzi scheme.

tjwash said...

Only 200000 miles for a Honda is considered a failure. Honda's are just getting broken in after 100000 miles.

My folks own 2, and my inlaws own 2. and I just bought my wife a new "Fit".

The 2 my folks own are in the 3's right now. The 95 Toyota I bought used, is at 160000 and still going strong, and I beat the living crap out of it.

We took the Fit up to Ventura a couple of weeks ago, and got 42 MPG in it on the highway as well. Funny thing's very roomy and comfy for 4 people on the inside as well.

The last Ford I owned was an 85 ranger that was the biggest piece of crap I have ever had. The effing tranny in it died after 30000 miles, and it stopped passing smog checks after 35000. After that I bought an 88 dodge that literally started shedding nuts and bolts after 20000 miles.

I'm sure the big three have cleaned up their act since then, but you wouldn't know it. Part of the problem is their management. If the executives there spent half as much on R & D, and marketing as they do on union busting, lobbying, and executive bonuses, I would probably be a die hard Ford or Chevy guy. The fact is though...the execs just don't give a shit, so why should anyone else?

JP said...

Well some of it is luck of the draw plus, what kind of driving you do. 200K in the sun belt driving on freeways is probably more attainable than living in the snow belt or urban driving. I agree the 80s Detriot cars were crap, I had an old Daytona in College that was just junk. But the quality has improved considerably IMO, esp. with Ford.

Anonymous said...

I had a '78 Toyota Celica, my mother bought it used, she drove it so did my sister. The miles had flipped over, I was on 200,000 miles, plus the previous 999,999. I loved that car, it was fast, not a dent. I would still have it if I didn't let someone borrow it and they let it get towed. My Honda has at least 300,000+ miles but some fool hit it. (Honda's became less efficient when GM starting supplying the transmission, I think it was GM).

I drove a Volvo for years but the parts are so expensive. That was my favorite car, years ahead of the rest in technology. Now I drive a Dodge Ram, love it. I love being up high. When it's time to move I just load up the truck but my timing- gas prices go through the roof. I don't know about giving it up, maybe for a hybrid truck. I hope one day to get a NEW car, definitely another Volvo...maybe I'm skeptical about Ford owning Volvo. Three of my friends' Fords caught on fire under the hood, none of them were in the car and none of the cars were on at the time.

My impression of the American car industry is they are just so interested in profits instead of putting out a good product. Japan decided early in their history in order to compete worldwide, to be technologically inventive and stay ahead of the pack. Volvo came out with many safety inventions without being forced, taking pride in their product. The thinking and focus need to change in amerikka, instead of how much money can I make of these saps, amerikkan industry, government should be focused on pride, technolgy, and spreading the wealth in amerikka and keeping the wealth in amerikka.

Jody said...

ok.. off topic but too funny. Bush was at press conference in Bagdad where a journalist threw 2 shoes at him. That is considered a huge insult in arab culture. Remember all the shoes thrown at Sadam's statue? Maybe we should start pelting some of our own pols with our shoes!

Anonymous said...

American cars are good if you take care of them. I owned a '88 Dodge D-50 pickup and ditched it after 219k because I was bored with it. I owned an '87 Chevy Camaro Z28 that was wrecked with 187k on the original motor. I also owned a '95 Camaro Z28 that I traded in with 117k (still running great) because I needed a four-door sedan for my job.

Oh, and that two-ton American sedan has 90k on it and gets 30mpg on the highway.

field negro said...

jody, I saw that, and inspite of all the work I am sitting here trying to do, I did a post on it. I just couldn't resist.

Back to the cars, and since we are talking about our faves. Mine was a 1977 Datsun 280-Z four speed manual shift. I drove that bad boy all over California and back East when I came to go to law school. I would still have it today if some scum bag hadn't stolen it from in front of my house here in Philly.

-=Topper=- said...

I'm all for the bailout of the auto industry, but I think that the oil industry should get the bill.

I originally was like bailout who? But hadn't thought about the union angle. The GOP would like nothing more than give up on the auto industry just in spite of unions.

Sad really.

Again let the oil companies get the bill.

GrannyStandingforTruth said...

bean twn chica:

"The thinking and focus need to change in amerikka, instead of how much money can I make of these saps, amerikkan industry, government should be focused on pride, technolgy, and spreading the wealth in amerikka and keeping the wealth in amerikka."

Believe it or not there used to be a time like that in the distant past, here in America, when they took pride in their work, and didn't just do it for the money. Greed took over and those days ended.

BTW, I hope you don't mind me asking, but I've been thinking about you and keeping you in prayer. Is your situation getting any better?

Anonymous said...

Detroit hasn't had an engineer on staff for forty years! All marketting and banking. GMAC makes the profits for the company. But the banks go under, and whoops! GM got trouble.

You know it's a bad time when GM gets listed under the FINANCIAL stocks that we ain't allowed to short. GE too.

We OUGHT to let GM and company go bankrupt. Just NOT NOW. Now we in trouble, don't put another straw on that camel's back. Just don't.

Any other time, we could afford it.

Hell, right now we maybe couldn't find a buyer, credit is so tight. Then they'd have to go Chapter 7, and that would take down the parts suppliers too (who employ double what Detroit itself does), and put SEVERE stress on Japan.

Marc B said...

The UAW and manufacturers signed their death certificates long ago. The collective bargaining was too shrewed for it's own good.

While the auto workers got primo pay and benefits packages (for which I do not begrudge them), their companies were falling behind in long term product competitiveness and the rest of the country has been afflicted wage stagnation and the hidden tax of inflation. The union contracts signed did not account for how they would work within the future business models. Now they are reaping the results.

I'm against all of these bail-outs, but would support this one if was tied to worker, manager, and executive pay and benefit concessions and that they could provide a workable business model. Put money into R&D for comfortable cars that get 50 MPG. The rest of the country should not subsidize bloated union contracts and executive payouts.

Jibreel Riley said...

You Liberals need to go back to civics class... the Senate has enough Democrats to pass any legislation it wants. Why did not Joe Biden vote on this bill? He has a GM plant in Delaware? hmmmm I bet the news wont tell you that

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