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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 5/25/09

General Tso's Motors

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The international automobile-manufacturing conglomerate, General Motors, has, in its brush with American market cluelessness and bankruptcy, decided to cast its fate to the vagaries of life on a foreign shore. It’s not that executives and board members will be renouncing their citizenship and relocating, but they probably should.

GM discovered late that the sales of high profit, high profile, high fuel consumption vehicles that they last staked their fate to were not as resistant to the good sense of the American consumer as GM’s management hoped and believed that they would be. All it took was four dollar per gallon gasoline and a (realistically) north of ten percent unemployment rate to threaten turning the steel emperors of the highway (and shopping mall parking lot) into less than durable front yard planters. The discovery that a dealer with as few as one of these beasts on his lot was oversupplied destroyed the company’s article of faith and cash flow simultaneously.

So, what to do?…What to do? Well, taxpayers had been stoking the money burning engines on Wall Street for some time, surely they wouldn’t notice a few shovels full of bridge funds being diverted to Detroit, right? Yeah, sorta, but Republican and Blue Dog senators, devoted as they are to destroying the security of American working people, thought that outright bankruptcy was a better idea, since union contracts lack the legitimacy and sanctity of the blood sucking Wall Street executive giveaways contracted on toilet paper.

So what they got was a lot less than they’d hoped for, tied to a timetable for demonstrating profitability that was as conveniently expressed in hours as any other unit of time. Indeed, the terms of the dole were so egregiously onerous that the Ford Motor Company said, in effect, “We think we’re better off swallowing all of this lake that we’re drowning in rather than accepting your offer of rescue.” How bad does the offer have to be to make an American based corporation flatly turn down a chance to scoop up a load of taxpayers’ money?

General Motors, though, was as sure that they could make this plan work as they ever were that SUV’s would be top sellers until the universe froze to a stop, so they jumped on it. The first deadline came and they showed the government that although they had not yet earned dime one, they had a plan to rape their unions that would make it appear as though they had earned dime one. The government’s response was, “That’s not enough, it is necessary that you appear to have earned two dimes before we let you off the hook.”

GM knew that that sort of subterfuge was far beyond their capacity for self-delusion, so how could they possibly fool anyone else? Then they hit on the master plan. “How about letting those taxpayers finance the moving of our production offshore, let’s say someplace like China for instance?” Clearly, the benefits of such a move were manifold.

For one thing, after extracting as many painful concessions from their unions as possible, they could fire most of their members. What could be better than that?

Well for another thing, they could have a bunch of other than white people build their cars for less dough than they’re paying the guys they fired, while they were fired! And there was still enough left over chutzpah to market the resulting junk as American cars at prices that are “competitive” with domestically manufactured cars to, what they are still certain, is an incredibly gullible American public.

Then you know what’s best of all? This has been done hundreds of times already, so they don’t have to use any of that imagination that they have been avoiding for decades.

The board’s response was, “Done and done! Boy, are we glad that someone thought of that for us!”

Of course, there will be no arguments in Chinese that counsel against such a move, and there will be no temporary aspects to it. Once those American jobs disappear into that industrial lobster pot, they will never return to these shores. So, will General Motors still be an American company? What exactly is the definition of an American company? Is it a concern where American goods are produced and marketed? Does it have to do with the domestic content of the end product?  Does the sole requirement to be an American company have to do with the Board of Directors meeting in the United States occasionally?

American workers and consumers, the ball is back in our court. Do we foolishly validate GM’s low opinion of our intelligence? Do we protect our taxpayer investment in off shoring our own jobs? Do we decide that if there is nothing available except imported cars, we might as well buy one worth driving? Do we look to ourselves for a solution?

My fondest hope is to see the UAW dispense with their servitude to American corporatism, and take them on competitively by leveraging their know-how in manufacturing cars. They could start a cooperative industrial concern along the lines of Mondragon, and thereby provide for their own employment and their own future. They could also provide for their nation’s future by producing cars that incorporate the high standards of design, manufacturing and value that appear in many marques that cannot be imported to these shores.

It appears that the excess capacity of our industrial infrastructure should be available at very reasonable prices, growing more reasonable as our least loyal corporatists further abandon it. The use of that infrastructure combined with the most productive and innovative work force in the world should be a slam-dunk success. Why shouldn’t American ingenuity and entrepreneurship fill the vacuum that is left in the wake of those bean counters that trust to neither?

It is a solution that looks daunting due to our lack of familiarity with it, but one step in that direction will avail us of what the rest of the world can teach us, and will take us along a road where we can become worth learning from once again.
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I am a lifelong resident of the Chicago suburbs, with a several year hiatus to serve in the Navy when my Vietnam era draft notice turned up. I had been told that guys with last names like mine were among the preferred cannon fodder in the Army, so (more...)
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