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Web Letters | The Nation

Web Letter

Number one reason not to bailout the Big Three: Since I can remember (I'm only 23), these guys have made their profits from trucks and SUVs, and since I can remember, those are the vehicles that produce the worst ecological side effects.

I know a lot of people would lose their jobs, and I feel for those people, as I've just recently lost mine, but to save a company that brought about its own demise is far from a good idea. I don't agree with the free market, but these companies have known, for at least a decade now, the market for large trucks and SUVs has been declining. What did these auto makers do? Continue to pump out the very product the consumers did not want to buy. While foreign companies have invested in hybrids and efficiency, the Big Three just hobbled along, acting like a 3-year-old who doesn't fully grasp how the world works. We've bailed US automakers out before, in the '70s, and maybe they deserved it then, but this time, maybe the CEOs can take a private flight overseas and learn how to run a successful company. I'm sure by the time that happens, I'll be cruising the streets in my new H3.

Daniel Blackmon

Huntsville, AL

Nov 23 2008 - 7:48pm

Web Letter

I am sick to death of hearing people say the American auto companies should be allowed to go bankrupt.

Not only do I agree with the person who wrote the six- point letter but I also think no one has thought of the basic cost of lives should these three go down.

What I mean by this is, Have you ever had an accident in a Toyota, Honda or one of those foreign cars? Yes, they are made here, but they are still foreign. Anyway, had you had an accident in one of those cars, you would see what happens to that car. I am just talking about fender benders, not real accidents. The metal crumbles.

When my child turned 16 I wanted him driving the biggest GM car I could find because I was scared. Not of his driving but all the crazies out there. So I bought him a truck with huge tires on it. That truck was twelve years old and ran like a top. The car that I have now is twelve years old, and can you tell me that Toyota or Honda has a twelve year old car still working like an original.

Yes, the big three have had problems but they pay well which you can't say that about Toyota. I don't know about Honda. And also I remember when Toyota refused to hire/promote any minorities. That comes from what the Japanese have learned of minorities from television, but what the hey, I like them too. And have you ever seen an Asian person driving anything other than some type of car made in Japan/China/Korea but put together here?

This is why we need the American-made auto companies. Because they represent the best of who we are, not those who resent the wages and healthcare they represent. If one of the CEOs had suggested to Congress that they would get rid of the union, everybody would be for giving them the money. The CEOs haven't been in charge for that long, yet people are expecting miracles from them and using numbers that don't even apply. Give these guys a chance. We all need it.

P.D. Simpson

Muskegon, MI

Nov 20 2008 - 9:34pm

Web Letter

We need to save the Detroit Three for several reasons.

First, this is the beginning of the cascading effect of spiraling into the Second Great (or "Republican") Depression. When the auto workers and their supplier co-workers cut back in the economy, it will begin to devastate other industries. The spillover of reducing household expenditures will accelerate, forcing people to buy only the bare necessities.

Second, it will affect the downstream companies and jobs, namely, car dealerships and suppliers. So it is easy to see that glass, steel, upholstery, plastics, etc. will be curtailed in car production. It is apparent that local car dealers are suffering, with many going abruptly out of business.

Third, there aren't too many prosperous industries left in America after the car industry fails. The transportation sector is dying, with some recent reprieve for fuel prices, but investors rightfully shun trucking and airlines investments. The airlines continue to be in dire straits; haulage will be idle, as fewer goods will be moved. The retailers (e.g., Mervyn's, Circuit City, etc.) are next, but just wait until after Christmas to see some more big business failures. High-tech (e.g., Sun) will experience slowdowns because companies will not buy servers or routers or any exotic state-of-the-art solution or technology, as American business retreats to the sidelines in its procurement practices.

Fourth, we cannot overlook the transplant car manufacturers and why they are more prosperous than the domestic producers. They (Toyota, BMW, Nissan, Honda, etc.) located in non-union states that embraced "right-to-work" laws. They pay less benefits with a younger work force (avoiding pensions and expensive healthcare premiums) and they got unbelievable concessions from the red states on reduced property taxes, low-cost land acquisition, infrastructure improvements near their plants, subsidies, tax breaks, etc. In other words, they got an unfair competitive advantage when they were able to "divide and conquer" America, which lacked a national industrial policy to protect our manufacturing base and assure fair competition.

Fifth, there is the Milton Friedman crap that will haunt us forever. Once we have the failures, it will be difficult for the domestic car industry to rebuild and recapture enough market share to be profitable. The quality issue will resurface and so will the warranty and product support issues. But just look at the rough road taken by Hyundai and Kia to gain their business foothold--they had to offer better quality but still needed to take lower prices than Toyota or Honda. Friedman told us to get out of the television industry; now America's expertise in that field is limited to some savvy people to tell us how to hook up entertainment consoles. Our country obviously lost out in the next stage of display technology, namely, the PC and computer screen revolution.

Six, the scheme to save the auto industry is not really up to the government only. It is Corporate America, Inc., especially Big Oil, that must make the investment. ExxonMobil, Chevron, Shell, BP and Conoco Phillips have vast short term investment portfolios; likewise, HP, Microsoft and Apple are well endowed. They should be obligated to buy preferred stock in the Detroit three and some of the biggest independent suppliers. (Oil was part of the conspiracy to encouraged America's appetitive for petroleum.) They would get preferred stock, dividend income, government guarantees, and maybe tax credits of some sort.

When GM, Ford and Chrysler fail and file bankruptcy, it will definitely confirm that we are in the midst of the Second Great (or "Republican") Depression.

Ronald Bell

Stockton, CA

Nov 20 2008 - 4:48pm

Web Letter

Von Hoffman is in agreement with the prehistoric Senator Shelby. That can mean only one thing: he is dead wrong. Europe has had much greater success than we at preserving manufacturing (and the well-paying jobs for those with modest educational opportunities that go with it) because it actually has industrial policies. Get rid of the corporate fat cats that screwed this up, sure. But don't toss hundreds of thousands of workers and our industrial base (what's left of it) out with the bath water. That someone claiming identification with what passes for "the left" in the good ol' USA could show such callousness toward industrial workers is sad indeed.

Frank Klein

Chicago, IL

Nov 20 2008 - 4:11pm

Web Letter

Only someone who has never had to compete in the blue-collar job market would fail to understand the need to keep the auto industry afloat. With the collapse of the auto industry, and 400,000 unemployed people looking for a job (not unemployment benefits, as Mr. von Hoffman suggests--auto workers want to work, not sit at home and collect), employers will be free to lower standards for those of us who remain working. This will mean weakening the standards in the "outdated union contracts" that Mr. von Hoffman speaks about. Does he know that new auto workers have to support themselves on the exorbitant sum of fourteen dollars an hour? What is needed is to have the government take a majority share in these companies in order to retool them to manufacture environmentally sustainable technologies. Unfortunately, Mr. von Hoffman doesn't understand unemployment. Perhaps this is because he's never been in an unemployment office, but the man needs to put himself in the shoes of those of us who are trying to make ends meet.

Charles Hoyt

Phillipsburg, NJ

Nov 19 2008 - 6:30pm

Web Letter

Mr. von Hoffman's arguments are terribly shallow and not really that convincing. We have just poured a trillion dollars into an arrogant adolescent war and we have lost $300 billion to Wal Street criminals... and we are going to cut our labor loose to fend for themselves? We are asking car companies to compete with foreign car companies that are heavily protected by their governments and don't have the legacy costs that our companies have. Why is it OK to bail out a bunch of Wal Street suits and not OK to help American labor? The labor force at GM spends its wages in country, they don't get into their private jets and go shopping in Germany. One GM job supports ten other American jobs. One greeter job at Wal Mart can't even support a family. When did work that actually produces things become so vilified? How did we get to the lie that shipping jobs to make things out of the country is "creating wealth"? Who created that big lie?

JAMES PINETTE

Caribou, ME

Nov 19 2008 - 8:56am

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