Wednesday, November 19, 2008

GD landlubbers

Well, now that Uncle Sugar has freed up 700 billion dollars in fun money to fuel monolithic business' desire to not respond to market forces, the automakers are now crying poor.

Folks, I want to make this clear. What if I said this: I need money, too. If you don't give me money right now, I don't know how I'll provide for my family. Never mind that I've been providing for them just fine up until this point. It's not my fault. I'm just the figurehead. there's free money available,Gimme money, goddammit! And don't try to take away my Christmas bonus, either.

Does that or does that not sound like a real dick talking?

Anyhow, I didn't want the bailout to go through. Even now that we've all realized that gambling isn't the best way to prepare for retirement, people still aren't trying to secure their retirement income in more reliable investments. Why bother? Uncle Sugar will take care of it, just like it did with our $500,000 mortgage secured through our job selling hotdogs at baseball games.

Look, the bailout is going to fuel a lot of bullshit, but also hopefully do some good. I'm not arguing about that. It's the car manufacturers that piss me off.

Yesterday, I heard that the Chinese are interested in Chrysler. Now, if I owned Chrysler stock, I wouldn't be so hot to hand off management to people who will have to hand over their business to their government if their government decides that it's a good idea. I am not at all convinced, anyhow, that the Chinese are good business partners. The Russians helped us out quite a bit in our past, too. Look how that worked out.

Here's the thing, though. All of a sudden, these publicly-owned companies are 'weeks' away from bankruptcy unless they get a piece of the free money. Part of me says Fuck 'em. Sell off the assets to cover pension costs.
Bad management has existed in auto manufacturing on many levels. Despite my pro-union leanings, I hate to see how heavily involved the UAW is with this crisis. Not that they're solely to blame. The death of Regan's trickle down economics came wheh the money stopped trickling down past upper management in the Clinton years. When a CEO's salary increases by 1600% in 10 years, the worker bees are going to want more than cost-of-living adjustments.
Still, it pisses me off that an unskilled assembly line worker makes more money that I do, and will have a bigger pension than any cop or firefighter does. The UAW wields the power of numbers, and the corporate philosophy of operating at the margins ensured that this crisis would happen.
My own union took pay cuts and rate increase freezes in order to keep the few American shipowners solvent in the recent past. We recognized that we could help or hurt, and so long as a living wage was paid and a reasonable pension could be had, we could sacrifice along with the shipowners. Now that the shipowners are becoming fat cats again, with executive salaries blooming, there is no incentive to place restraint on moneymaking on the part of my union. Competitiveness becomes the last restraint on shooting for the moon, paywise.

Restraint. We haven't seen that in car manufacturers. I own a Dodge ram pickup. I don't love Dodge cars, but the dealership I went to sold me another car at a good cost years ago, when I was a starving student, and when the electrical system failed a month after the warranty expired, the owner of the dealership himself came out and told me that they would pay for the repairs and for a rental car while it was in the shop. Well, they got themselves a lifetime customer that day... until the dealership was closed last year when DaimlerChrysler said that they weren't interested in smaller dealers anymore, even successful ones, and the dealership that I patronized was shut down days later. So, I won't buy a Dodge again. Loyalty goes both ways.

So, if we're going to bail out the car makers, even though we shouldn't, let's hope that conditions are strict: Interest rates set at Prime or 1 point below, no bonuses for anyone, salaries capped at $200,000 for senior management while the government holds the note, pensions due to be paid out immediately, and the right to renegotiate contracts with labor immediately, including benefit contributions retroactive to the day that the loan clears.

Can't believe that I wrote that last part. Part of me feels that pensions are sacred, but part of me recognizes that it's not unreasonable to reduce pension payments to current workers who aren't retiring imminently, if those payments are disproportional. On the other hand, the retirees need to be protected. I foresee some serious screwing of the little man coming.

1 comment:

Bill Elms said...

Hey man! I know we don't always see eye-to-eye when it comes to politics and stuff, but man I couldn't agree with you more! All of these bailouts are terrible ideas! Let the millionaires and billionaires that own these companies bail themselves out.