Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Episode 31: To Bail or Not to Bail


Hello my loyal readers. Sorry I haven’t updated the L Comment in a while. I needed to take a holiday, and handle some personal matters. Everything is good and well now, and a lot has happened in America and the world since my departure, so I have lots to talk about. And with your help, lots to debate about! So without further ado, let us begin.

The new big crisis – it seems like we have a new one every week nowadays – is the automobile crisis. The futures of Ford, GM, and Chrysler hang in the balance. And the CEOs of the said companies want a piece of the bailout pie.

They made their first proposal for a bailout which didn’t exactly blow anyone’s skirt up. The Big 3 CEOs made their plea in Washington, flying there in private jets, raising the eyebrows of congress that held the fate of the car industry in their hands. Fortunately, for them, the CEOs were granted a second chance to convince Congress why they should allocate money for the bailout. The new plan included accountability and oversight measures, a salary cut to $1 for the CEOs, and the retooling of the industry to make the move towards fuel efficient and low/zero emission cars.

Chris Mathews, host of MSNBC’s Hardball, has been talking about this bailout for a few weeks now, and asks everyone he interviews on the bailout subject “what kind of car do you drive?” Many of his guests drive Japanese cars. So do we really need to bailout a failed industry?

To respond to Chris Mathews question, I drive a car that is unarguably American… a big, V6, 267hp, fuel hungry, Chrysler 300. I love my car in all her American glory. She is the definition of American elegance – and gluttony. My only complaint about my car is fuel efficiency. To help, I do constantly keep my tires inflated, use aftermarket air filters and fluids that improve fuel efficiency and such, it is no match for a Honda Civic. But I do have a certain pride in driving a car made in the US of A, and I’d hate to see an important American institution cease to exist.

It is true that bad business is the cause the collapse of the auto industry. Cars got bigger, less fuel efficient, and frankly were not nearly as stylish as our Japanese counterparts (except the 300 of course!). However, a change in consumer philosophy can force American automakers to change their ways.

I’d like to see the bailout happen, but not without meeting certain conditions. First, I think President-elect Obama, should make good on his promise to increase fuel efficiency standards right away when he takes office. Every car made should be able to get at least 30 MPG city miles, beginning in 2010. Next, there need to be plans for zero emissions cars to go into production by 2015. Finally, there needs to be a restructuring of union benefits, so it doesn’t paralyze the industry. I do think unions need to exist to balance corporate power, but when unions become too powerful, they become a financial burden, which will stunt the restructuring effort. Other ideas posed by the CEOs in their new plan, such as shrinking the fleet to only a few cars will definitely help.

The automobile industry is one of our core American institutions. It is part of the American Story. And it is the epicenter of the manufacturing industry. I think that we need to keep the American Story alive. Japanese cars that are manufactured in America is NOT part of the American Story. The industry has to undergo the same transformation as the American citizen, an industry that embraces a culture of shared responsibility, sacrifice, and a renewed sense of American pride. It would be great to see millionaire CEOs fight the good fight with the rest of America because it is the right thing – the American thing – to do.
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1 comments: on "Episode 31: To Bail or Not to Bail"

Joseph M. Fasciana said...

Hi L,

I must admit I felt pretty guilty when I stopped buying American auto's some decades ago. I had to make the choice back then based solely on perceived value. You always got more bang for your buck, and the extra miles per gallon was just a secondary benefit which had no real influence in my final purchasing decision, the foreign cars were and still remain more reliable and cost effective to own.

In spite of what you just read, I still want to save the automobile industrial complex, for the sake of the jobs of millions of hard working American people.

My conditions if I had a say would be simple. New progressive management that would insist on raising their auto manufacturing codes be updated. Stop putting shit vehicles out in showrooms, we need green and technically sound autos. Break this ridiculous addiction, which is supplied to us by our enemies immediately. NASA travels millions upon millions of miles each year, and they don't use a drop of oil.

Stop putting the auto industry failure on the backs of organized labor, and put it on the $25,000,000 million plus dollars each of their ceo's bring home per year.

The floor workers do not choose the grade of materials used to build a car, they do not design the car, they do not engineer the car, it is not their decision to strip the car down to nill, and then charge extra for the most simple necessities like floor matts, better and safer tires.

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