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Monday, December 1, 2008
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
I think we've all awoken from our coma of joy. We elected a progressive president. We took the House and the Senate by storm, increasing our numbers. In states like Michigan, we've approved Stem Cell research and made positive changes to the state supreme court. Colorado and South Dakota defeated sweeping anti-choice measures. We lost the Prop 8 battle, but we're organizing for the future.
In other words--yes, we did.
But now reality is sinking in. Round about the time the Christmas music started playing loud enough for anyone to hear in stores, progressives everywhere perked up and realized that electing these people and approving these measures is a good start, but not the end of the road. It didn't matter who we elected, come November 6, 2008 we all had to start focusing on the nitty-gritty details.
So where do we go from here? What policies do we support? What legislation do we push forward? What tactics will put the issues in the best light?
There is so much to do and relatively so little time. We must focus our priorities to ensure sweeping changes for the better and not stagnation, or worse change in the wrong direction. We have a chance to make things better for the present and the future.
Here's what we need to do to ensure that "Yes we did" is echoed by "Yes we will":
The Seven First Term Working Goals for Women and Progressives
1. Pass the Freedom of Choice Act
The FOCA is a legislative measure intended to codify t what Roe v. Wade achieved in the 70s. The Act will ensure that state laws cannot escape the Constitutional protection of privacy found by the courts and provide a safeguard for a woman's right to chose. The legal nuts and bolts of the FOCA is this--if it is enacted, anti-choice groups will have to do more than just appoint conservative activist judges; they will have to show that a duly enacted law of Congress is somehow unconstitutional. This is much harder than showing an already sympathetic judge that the past precedent of the Supreme Court was wrong. Therefore the FOCA is needed to ensure choice as a national policy, just not a regional right.
2. Create a national health care plan.
The one thing that we must achieve in the first term is a blue print for national health care. This is crucial to the survival of our country and our society. Too many people are going day-to-day, not knowing whether they'll have to chose food and shelter or treatment and prescriptions. This is an unrealistic choice for our citizens to have to make. The lack of a national health care plan puts our nation at risk and creates a third-world society inside of a first-world nation. The haves and the have-nots are pushed further apart, creating class-warfare. For progressives, this health care dilemma comes at such a trecherous time when our country is leaning over the edge of a giant abyss called "depression." What we truly need is a single-payer health care system, like the one promoted by Physicians for a National Health Care Program. What Obama proposed during the election would be a great concession, but a single-payer program is what's needed to ensure equality in health care.
This isn't just a socialized-medecine issue, this is a trade issue. When countries like China are proposing to ensure their billion-plus population and world leaders like England already have a system to ensure all, it is absurd that we intend to lead the world into the 21st century without having a plan ourselves. It's worse than the blind leading the blind--it's the blind attempting to lead the sighted with a cliff ahead. It threatens our position as a world power and diminishes our status in the eyes of the world.
With an economy so abysmal, the government should stop giving handouts to corporations and focus on the very people who move the system forward on a daily basis.
3. Stop unaccountable corporate bailouts
Every day since September 15, 2008 brings news of a new government idea to help their friends on Wall Street. Sure there's rhetoric about Main Street needing help too, but since the bailout was formally enacted, what has Congress done to ensure that Wall Street is playing by the rules (and there are rules to be played by) and that Main Street is receiving the help it needs? The answer is "nothing."
Corporate bailouts can be important when they affect the lives of everyday America. To let the whole banking system fail would have been catastrophic, but to allow individual banks to take chunks of money with no promise to repay it and no strings attached is like handing a heroine addict a syringe. Meanwhile, the whole impatus behind the bailout--to ensure credit is flowing freely--is going untouched. Credit is stagnant as ever and business and individuals alike are finding it hard to make ends meet where they used to be able to make a profit.
Not all bailouts are bad. An auto industry bailout would provide security for hundreds of thousands of jobs for average citizens on Main Street. In fact, it is the only proposal over the past two months that has anything at all to do with the working man and woman (soon to be the unemployed man and woman). Yet Congress is hesitant to help the auto industry out, presumably because they aren't as influencial on Capitol Hill as the banking and financial industries.
If we are going to move forward and fix the economy, we must engage in sweeping measures that protect the sanctity of a hard day's work and discourage handouts to those who have the means to help themselves. If the financial institutions were single mothers, they wouldn't have received a dime.
4. Pass the Employee Free Choice Act
In the years following the Depression, what the New Deal focused on wasn't the sanctity of a mortgage-based-derivative, it was the ability of the worker to bargain for his or her own wages and set his or her own terms and conditions of employment, just like the big wigs at the top are allowed to do. Collective bargaining and unions created a generation of wealth for America, that allowed more people than ever to own homes, send kids to college, and retire in peace and tranquility. People blame unions for so many things because big business has made them the enemy...and big business controls the mind set of America.
Nevertheless, I think that we could all agree on one thing--people should not be fired for trying to organize a union. Well, at least I thought that until I started working in labor law. Turns out that we don't all agree on that, and employers would rather fire someone for thinking about unionizing than engage in fair practices for their employees. And the current law is not enough protection. This is why we need the Employee Free Choice Act. The EFCA ensures workers protection when they seek to unionize and allows first-time contracts the same protections offered to ongoing contracts. It's a simple law that could lead to great things.
We got the weekend and the forty-hour work week from unionized labor's first hurrah--just imagine what we can get from the next.
5. Create a plan for responsible global engagement
On Day 1 of his administration, President Bush enacted a global gag rule, forcing global aid to cease to provide family planning information. This was a striking move for his first day and it sent a clear message to many--Bush idiology was going to rule the day, not diplomacy or common sense. Since then we have watched as our towers crumbled and our nation sought after the wrong people for the wrong reasons. We called on the world to change, while we engaged in politics that were exclusionary and dangerous.
On Day 1 of Obama's administration, we need to set the tone for a more dynamic world view. We need to negotiate. We need to allow common sense to run through all of our policies. We need to recognize that not every nation wants a democracy. We need to appreciate our differences and learn to build on them. This is more lofty of a goal than practical of one, but it is a necessary goal, nonetheless.
It might be hard to see how progressives can help. But we can. We can support programs that foster worldwide understanding. We can support legislators who engage in dynamic world politics and work to eradicate those who favor a more dogmatic approach. We can support funding for programs throughout the world that allow us to be seen as the nation of opportunity we can be, and not the stagnant stalwarts we've become. We can do our part.
6. Advocate for more women and people of color on the bench and to appointed positions
I know this one seems out of place with the lofty ideals cited above and to some it may seem to whisper of quotas--but if you've read my stuff before, you know that I'm not about supporting women for no reason but their gender or the color of their skin. However, it is sad that this day in age we have a lack of representation from females and persons of color.
There is a huge gap to be filled here for women. Of the 179 federal bench positions available, only 48 of those are held by women. This is astaggeringly low 26% compared to the 51% majority women hold in the population. Only 33 women have ever held a cabinent level position in the history of the U.S. This is horrendously low considering there are 19 current cabinent-level positions available.
People of color aren't looking much better. Sure we have a president-elect who is a minority, but the federal bench is predominately white. According to the last census, of the 58,355 state and federal judges on the bench, 48,530 of them are white--a staggering 82%. The fact that we don't keep better statistics on this is telling.
Obama has the chance to make a real change here and public support is key. We need to lift up those qualified candidates and make the federal system a more diverse body. The composition of our federal government should reflect the people, and right now it only reflects a certain type of person that it has reflected for far too long.
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There is so much to do, and so many things to explore. Our opportunities are endless, if we allow them to be. Progressives need to take this next month and relax, because we have a long road ahead of us until we get to the great society we all envision. It's going to take a tremendous amount of work and we'll have arguments along the way, but if we keep key priorities at heart, we'll achieve more than we ever thought imaginable.
The struggle is not over. It has only just begun.
Sometimes I wonder if I have a bad memory or if something really has changed. It's a constant second-guessing thing that can drive me nuts if I let it. Lately that thing has been driving me nuts over whether it was just me or whether Obama was moving extremely quickly throwing together a Cabinet. I mean, if this freaking thing were from Ikea it would take more time to put together. (Assembly-required furniture joke, people.)
But it turns out that I was right. It happens every once in awhile. Obama's team is moving at light speed to get the proverbial Jedi Council together. W. and Clinton waited until December to make their first picks.
I think it's a smart idea to move quickly this day in age, but it could cause problems down the road. Penny Pritzer has already jumped ship because of the media scrutiny and while I don't think she was any prize, there's likely to be some casualties from such a rapid-fire succession of announcements.
But I guess whatever keeps the Dow bouncing up at the end of the day is worth some praise.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Economic downturn, recession, depression...and SHOPPING. People are wigging out right now about Black Friday more than ever because of the lack of funds to spend a lot. So deals are left and right and I have some here for you. Call it an early Christmas Gift to the loyal OBYCB readers.
First, if you want to get a great deal, check out AMAZON on Friday. If you use this link right here I'll get credit on my Amazon Associates account and you'll help some Grace family member get a better gift. Look at the deals though, because they are good...a TomTom for less than $100. Books on sale for 60% off. Check it out.
Second, here are some links to other great black Friday deals via Black Friday Ads.
The Mister might be making me get up Friday...not looking forward to it. So if I see you in line and I look like I'm going to pass out or kill someone, wave hello!
Monday, November 24, 2008
Dave Bing, former NBA player turned businessman and now Detroit mayoral-candidate has announced that if he were elected Mayor, he would not take a salary. What a novel concept for a city approximately $200 million in the red.
I haven't taken an opinion one way or another on the Detroit mayoral race yet. One part of that is that I'm not technically a Detroit resident, so I don't get a vote (just a voice). But the other reason is that there are so many candidates that it's hard to get a grip on what would be best for the City.
This type of generous and ingenious move by Bing, though, has caught my attention. He's the kind of person who is above reproach (which is something the City desperately needs right now) and he's a proven leader. He's the kind of hometown hero that Detroit needs to champion it through these tough times. So maybe he is the right pick.
Plus, he is agreeing to work for free! That's got to save some money at least one way.
President-Elect Obama (it's still fun to say that) has been busy putting together a team of the right people to solve the economic crisis. That formally includes Tim Geithner and Larry Summers now.
His goals? A New New Deal.
Obama wants to create 2.5 million jobs by 2011 by re-imagining and rebuilding America's infrastructure. Such long term investments in our infrastructure saved us from the grips of the Great Depression and it's so comforting to hear a plan talked about like this. As Robert Reich puts it, this is a "down payment" on America's economic future.
It's so gratifying to hear about change from the bottom up--from the worker to the CEO instead of the other way around. When the population is employed and paid, they are happier and better contributors to society, thereby creating a community that people want to save. An investment in America's workforce is more than just a temporary bandaid, like the Bailout of 2008 is, it's a permanent committment to keeping America working.
So, where do we go from here? The next step has to be health care. People need a health care system that works--that provides care for all, instead of for the fortunate few. If people have jobs and health care, there's no telling where our society could go.
Here's a joke for you--Ford, GM and Chrysler all engage in plans to turn around their companies prior to the financial crisis. They all engage in new technology development, organizational changes and financial upgrades. Granted, they still have problems, but they were at least working on them. Meanwhile, Citigroup is one of the main perpetrators of the mess we're currently going through. They gave away bad mortgages, sold them to the highest bidder as assets and basically undercut the market to get a stock advantage. Then they hit the skids when the rest of the country did, in large part to the tactics they used in the past ten years.
The punchline? Citigroup gets a huge multi-billion dollar bailout in the form of cash that does not have to be repaid while the automakers, who employ hundreds of thousands of people, can't even get a loan.
I just don't get how the auto industry became the proverbial red-headed stepchild of our economy. This focus on the financial and service industry is going to leave us a poorer country in the short and long runs. We have to have a manufacturing base to compete in this world. The financial sector has to be fixed, but just handing over the keys to the candy store to those who robbed the candy store and poisoned the customers in the first place isn't a great plan.
And yet we're willing to let the automakers go bankrupt and not the financial sector that was in large part to blame for this mess. I guess the lesson is just to foul things up as much as possible and then you'll get help. If you actually try to help yourselves, you're screwed.
Friday, November 21, 2008
CNN and The New York Times are reporting that Obama's pick to lead the treasury will be Timothy Geithner, current President of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
I'll admit it--I don't know much about Tim Geithner. But Wikipedia does...
Outside of Secretary of State, this is going to be one of the most scrutinized cabinet picks that Obama has to make. With the economy in the toilet and the Big 3 knocking at the door, Obama needs someone that he can trust to give the answers that are good for the people--not just the powers that be. Can Geithner be that guy? Well, in some good news he has more policy background than Paulson, who came out of an investment firm. So I should think he's more studied, at least. And the stocks jumped 300 points when this was leaked, so that might be a good thing.
In 1999 he was promoted to Under Secretary of the Treasury for International Affairs and served under Treasury Secretaries Robert Rubin and Lawrence Summers.
In 2002 he left the Treasury to join the Council on Foreign Relations as a Senior Fellow in the International Economics department. He then worked for the International Monetary Fund as the director of the Policy Development and Review Department until moving to the Fed in October 2003. In 2006 he became a member of the influential Washington-based financial advisory body, the Group of Thirty.
I'm sure there will be much talk about this over the weekend.
The Attorney General no one has ever heard of, Michael Mukasey collapsed during a speech last night. He's currently recovering in a D.C. hospital.
What was Mr. Mukasey doing when he collapsed? What could have caused this? Well, he was giving a speech to none-other than the Axis of Evil, the Federalist Society. What was the speech about? Oh, just defending GWB's legal policies. You know, the ones that even conservatives disagree with on a regular basis? Yeah, those.
Mukasey, 67, was giving a spirited defense of the Bush administration's legal policies when his speech began to slur and he lost track of his thoughts about 30 minutes into his talk. Seconds later, he became rigid and then began to slump.Maybe he realized how ridiculous his speech was and decided he needed an escape and this was the only way out. Anyone who can defend the legal tactics of the Bush Administration is clearly under a lot of duress or clinically insane. I'll give Mr. Mukasey an easy time and say it was the former. And then I'll send him a membership form for the American Constitution Society. It'll be the gift that keeps on giving.
Sources close to the UAW have said that Detroit's most powerful labor organization is ready to give some concessions to the automakers to help the automakers score some easy cash from Congress. The controversial jobs bank is at the key of these concessions.
So let me get this straight, the 3 CEOs fly to D.C. in private jets. They are paid millions of dollars and don't agree to not take a salary for a year. They beg and plead for money, but are unwilling to make real lasting changes. And it's the working stiff who is left to give up what little power he had? Wow, I'm so shocked.
The domestic auto industry is poised to move towards coupledom after decades of a tough menage-a-trois. It is almost inevitable that one of the Big 3 will not make it through this financial crisis. The largest domestic automaker is doing worse now than it has any time since the Great Depression. That alone will cause millions of families to suffer and a ripple effect across the nation where buying grows even more stagnant than before. And the solution to this...the only one to be offered up...has to be the working man? I'm all for playing ball and compromising, but I have yet to hear one single word about what the auto execs plan to give up in exchange for government help. But the working men and women are already handing over their hard-earned money, spent on split shifts, overtime and blood, sweat and tears. Can't the execs at least show them that they're willing to give in the spirit of cooperation as well?
Or is that just too much to ask?
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Yesterday, in a stunning slap in the face to the big Mitten, Mitt Romney, former GOP presidential hopeful who claims ties to this state, decided he didn't want to be friends with the automakers anymore. In his Op-Ed to the New York Times, Romney wrote:
The American auto industry is vital to our national interest as an employer and as a hub for manufacturing. A managed bankruptcy may be the only path to the fundamental restructuring the industry needs. It would permit the companies to shed excess labor, pension and real estate costs. The federal government should provide guarantees for post-bankruptcy financing and assure car buyers that their warranties are not at risk.
In a managed bankruptcy, the federal government would propel newly competitive and viable automakers, rather than seal their fate with a bailout check.
It must be easy to say to hell with the automakers, when you're rich. It doesn't take much to throw people under the bus, when those people don't include yourself. There were so many outraged people in Michigan yesterday that I think the entire state had to take a Xanax so it didn't collectively stand up, walk to wherever Mitt was, and slap him across the smarmy little face of his.
But to ease our woes, our Lieutenant Governor, John Cherry, decided to take his words to the same street Mitt was playing on and wrote his own letter to the NYT:
I think you've just been collectively slapped, Mr. Romney. And by the way, your ties to Michigan have been revoked. Don't count on us for a nomination in 2012. (Not that you could count on me anyhow.) In fact, don't visit, don't write and don't come to our door at 3 a.m. looking for forgiveness. The fact is we're sick of your passive-aggressive ways, Mitt. Either you're a Michigander at heart who knows what a bankrupt Detroit 3 would mean, or you're not, and we're not going to stand for this abuse anymore.
In Michigan today, unemployment reached a 16-year high as a direct result of the nation’s economic downturn. Mr. Romney’s suggestion that our economy would be best served by a Big Three bankruptcy is a breathtaking assertion of economic Darwinism made more shocking by his roots in Michigan, where hundreds of thousands of jobs rely on the auto industry.
The Center for Automotive Research reports that if one of the Big Three ceased operations in 2009, nearly 2.5 million jobs would be lost in the first year. Additionally, one year of bankruptcy would result in the loss of $125 billion in personal income, $17 billion in Social Security receipts and $20 billion in personal income taxes.
Nonetheless, bankruptcy advocates like Mr. Romney would pile these kinds of losses onto the shoulders of a nation already struggling under the weight of record mortgage foreclosures, a recessionary slowdown across economic sectors, a credit crunch and decreasing global demand for American products.
There are no human benefits to Mr. Romney’s you’re-on-your-own approach, only continued loss of jobs, homes and health care for millions of people.
A bankruptcy in the auto industry will cripple our economy and worsen the human toll of our current economic challenges.Now is not the time for Mr. Romney or his supporters in Congress to advocate for experiments with intriguing financial techniques on some grand scale. It is time to work cooperatively on a solution that invests in security for American workers and in our technological strength.
Mitt...take your things and stay the hell away from us.
The longest-serving member of the House of Representatives just got served...eviction papers from his chairmanship of the Energy and Commerce Committee. There has been speculation ever since the election that Dingell would be given the old heave-ho, but nothing has happened until today. It is now being reported that Rep. Waxman from California is taking the chairmanship starting in January.
There are a lot of people in Michigan that are going to be furious about this. I don't think I count myself as one of them. I mean, sure he's been there forever and he deserves respect, but at the same time if new leadership is needed, new leadership is needed.
And in that paragraph, I just ousted myself from ever being an insider in Michigan politics. That's how powerful the Dingells (particularly Debbie Dingell) are.
I can't help but wonder what this does for the auto companies chances at getting some help in D.C.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Word on the street and in the blogosphere is that Tom Daschle, former Senate minority leader, is being tapped to be Secretary of Health and Human Services.
More to come...
In not so startling news today, it was revealed that the CEOs of the Big 3 flew private jets to D.C. to testify before Congress. Honestly, they should have driven their company's cars there. I want to see Waggonner in a Malibu, Nardelli in a Charger and Mullally in a Fusion. At least I'm giving them full-sized cars here, folks.
This just goes back to what I've been saying all along--I know it's hard to look past the greed of the CEOs and others on top, but I hope that Congress does because just under the top layer, there are millions of families' lives at stake. This is more than a political pissing match--this is the survival of America's once-most-robust industry. This is the industry that got us through WWII by producing planes and tanks instead of cars and trucks. This is the industry that built cities and towns by bringing good quality manufacturing jobs to places unknown. Don't do it for the jerks at the table, do it for the retirees surviving on measly pensions. Do it for the line worker trying to support her family. Do it for the accounting administrative assistant who wants to go back to school. Do it for these folks.
The Auto industry has supported America and although it might be hard, it's time we support them through this crisis. I know they need to change--they know they need to change. Take the CEOs out as part of the deal. Require them to fork over their salaries and benefits. Whatever it takes, just do it. There is far too much at risk here. We need to stop the political pissing match and get back to basics--people need to be able to afford things to get jobs. People need a fresh start.
Wiping out the auto industry will do nothing to further our common goals.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average--otherwise known as the bain of our collective existence as of late--has sunk to a new low. It closed today under 8,000--its lowest closing since 2003.
I'm really out of ideas on this one. Or maybe I'm just cranky today. Either way, let's get it together, America. We're falling apart at the seams.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Has Obama really selected his Attorney General? And is it really the first Black AG? Can I break out the bubbly yet?
Eric Holder, the man in question, is a partner at Covington & Burling LLP and was a Deputy AG in the Clinton administration. He's been a senior adviser to Obama during his campaign and now during the transition period.
What would Holder's nomination and selection mean for the U.S. and an Obama administration? Is he the best candidate for the job? Will he be able to pick up the pieces of the Constitution that Bush/Cheney et al left around the country and re-establish the rule of law?
I'm sure we'll be seeing more to come in the next hours and days. Let's hope this was a good choice. It wouldn't have been my first choice, but I am willing to be proven wrong.
Here's a joke for you: two bald dudes walk into a Congressional hearing room and testify that a multi-billion dollar mess is working.
That's it. There's no clever punchline.
That's what Ben Bernanke and Henry "Hank" Paulson are doing today. They're sitting in front of members of Congress and lying through their teeth. Either that or they're delusional. I can't tell yet.
Meanwhile, the Big 3 and their entourage are in D.C. today for hearings on their measly $25 billion bailout request. People ask whether the auto bailout will work, and skepticism is more than healthy given the failings of our last bailout. I guess for this commentator, the differences are enough to give it a go. The CEOs are placing their mea culpa at the feet of a very angry and actionable Congress, though, so who knows what the outcome will be?
What I do know is this: there are American families hurting and they'd like to be next in line for this government cheese.
Monday, November 17, 2008
In September when the stock market crashed and millions were left, jaws agape, to pick up the pieces of their broken investments, Wall Street flaunted its power. The big wigs went to Capitol Hill and demanded help. We branded them villains but, in the end, allowed the villains to continue. In fact, we were even told that the only people who could get us out of this mess were the very same people who got us into it in the first place.
Washington joined its constituents in crying foul, and the world watched as certain banks and brokerage firms fell victim to the inevitable downsizing. We felt less than sympathetic for the broken CEO who carried on so well for the past eight years, as right we should. But instead of doing something about it, we just flushed money into the system to try and take the pain away and watched as those who broke the system profited from its demise.
But now, even the Democrats are taking turns vilifying the auto industry for their missteps along the way and asking them, as part of any bailout, to get out. I'd like to think that the reason for this is that we've learned our lesson when it comes to who we trust, but I know better. The real reason for this change of heart is that instead of dealing with bankers and brokers, we're dealing with unions and line workers, and, frankly, the latter group doesn't hold as much power as they should.
It's amazing to me that we're spending so much time fighting over $25 billion to automakers when we essentially have given a blank check to bankers and brokers of all people to run amuck without any controls. Could it be a little class warfare that's playing into this?
Sure GM, Ford and Chrysler need to shape up. And I think that the leaders of those companies need to hit the road as well. But the insistence that is running crazy-like through D.C. today against the automakers is in stark contrast to the "doing what we have to do to save the banks" attitude that Washington took last month. It's as if D.C. has gone off its meds and is looking at the world much more cynically now, and instead of quesitoning the people they should be questioning, they are holding the latest victim accountable.
The fact is that a large part of the reason the automakers are in a bind is because people are not buying cars. People cannot buy cars because they can't get credit. Sure an auto bailout has its problems, but there are solutions to those problems. Meanwhile, it's the banks who got a free ride last month who caused this credit crunch on the everyday American in the first place. There are other factors that need to be addressed, but nothing will happen if the auto industry fails while we're bickering about this.
So when D.C. has gone postal on the Big 3, the big Banks have walked out the back door to the Oceans 11 music, smiling the whole way. And the automakers are being left to wither in the wind, with millions of workers' lives hanging in the balance.
Seems that the government socialism is only applicable to those who already have the means to help themselves.
You know my thoughts on auto aid, but here's a roundup of this morning's news relating to all things American Automaker.
Six myths about the Detroit 3 from The Detroit Free Press.
Obama knows that an auto industry collapse would be devastating.
W thinks that auto aid should not come from the $700 billion bailout package.
Could the foreign automakers really step in if Detroit falls?
Have the Democrats coddled the auto makers too much?
I'm sure there will be more to come as the day rolls on.
Friday, November 14, 2008
I must preface this by saying that I'm not an economist. I'm not an analyst. I haven't followed trends carefully or reviewed the books. But I can tell you that a $25 billion loan to the car companies will not help them in the end because it isn't their indebtedness that's killing them--it's the fact that people cannot and are not buying cars.
So while the car companies beg for help, and while I hear their call and agree something needs to be done, I am skeptical about whether such a bailout, as planned, will work.
Some of this is their own fault
There are a lot of people who blame the auto industry for its own problems. They blame workers and unions for causing a lot of those problems. I'm not that type of person. Frankly, I'd rather buy a car from a company that uses well-paid and well-trained workers because they're less likely to mess my car up on the assembly line, amongst other things.
There are two major things that have been killing the American car manufacturer. The first is a top-heavy structure that was built in the days when cars were made out of metal and not plastic. The perks that once came with having a successful company in the 1950s are still being given away like candy to executives today. Sure the stability is not as great, but who wouldn't want a job where they can perform little and gain a lot? Instead of holding executives responsible for the mess they've created, the people at the top have had a hell of a journey making the American consumer hate themselves for being the American worker. You hear about health care costs all the time--especially retiree health care costs. But has anyone ever stopped to wonder why these weren't such a big deal until now? The answer isn't that there are more retirees (though there are), but rather the accounting rules that were put into place in the late 1980s and early 1990s--namely SFAS 106--which requires companies to account for not only the current cost of health care on their books, but the future costs. Almost overnight the weight of retiree health care went from bearable to excruciating. And instead of looking for other ways in which to cut costs, the executives went on a stealth campaign to blame the average line worker for bargaining for better wages, hours and benefits. Meanwhile the top dogs get private jets, unheard of salaries and all kinds of perks that cost the companies billions of dollars and the little guy living in a three bedroom house in Hazel Park is the one to take the blame.
This top down mentality has made it stifling to be creative. When the name of the game is "status quo" there is no sense of urgency to make things more efficient on a regular and ongoing basis. Instead, they make tweaks here and there to promote themselves as individuals and let the system go on, broken as it may be. This isn't unique to the automakers, but it has plagued them more than most because of the next thing...
The American auto company has become stagnant in innovation. The most creative minds in the world are hired by these companies to produce the same things as last year. Sedans get the same gas milleage they got decades ago. Sure we've had some new things like anti-lock breaks and airbags and such, but those are inventions that would have come along without much thought after awhile. They take design, but not true innovation.
The American automaker has found itself in trouble because it has given into the theory that people will continue to buy cars bigger and bulkier than before no matter what it costs to fuel them up. And for awhile, they profitted from that mentality. But instead of preparing for the future and creating new power technologies, the auto companies basked in the glory of record-setting SUV and truck sales and let bygones be bygones while letting their chances of coming out ahead go by.
Many people thought that by 2008 we'd have flying cars and transportation that we so new and innovative we wouldn't recognize it. To be blunt, if someone that died in 1977 woke up today they wouldn't be that shocked to see the cars out there. There's nothing inherently new about the cars and the American automakers are losing an entire generation of consumers by failing to innovate. This is true of all automakers in general, as I haven't seen anything from any foreign auto maker that really shakes me to the core either, but it's even truer of our domestic companies.
Some of this is our fault
Though the auto companies have a lot of blame in their own demise, it's also true that we have an equally deadly part in this endgame. Instead of demanding fuel-efficient cars, we have demanded bigger ones. Instead of demanding innovation, we've settled for bells and whistles. All of this has led to stagnation.
Meanwhile, we've never stopped buying foreign cars or made a statement that we'll only buy American cars. Frankly, the money is going to be the only thing to stop them, but all we've done is turn Ford and GM into competitors against Toyota et al with no real results. Toyota has one innovative car, the Prius, but no real lasting difference. Yet we continue to show preference to the status quo no matter what nation our car's manufacturer came from.
More than that, we've let them ship jobs overseas, which, in the end, has caused a great strain on our economy and on the auto makers bottom lines. What used to truly drive the auto industry, was that there were workers in every plant who were loyal to the brand and who could afford to get a new car every few years. With those jobs gone overseas, presumably never to come back, those workers have taken on service jobs elsewhere and are unable to purchase a new car at all. In the end, though the automakers might have made a few bucks, they've lost sales and loyalty--one you can get back, but one you might never see again.
Why a bailout won't work
So you ask why a bailout won't work? Here's why--because the problems faced by the domestic automaker are bigger than any bailout Washington can provide. The $25 billion is a drop in the bucket and will only serve to allow the automakers to continue on their self-destructive paths a little longer. They'll make payroll for awhile and their stocks will go up, but no shake ups will happen. You won't see Rick Waggonner's head roll for this debacle, because no one wants to challenge the status quo. There will be no greater innovation. But most importantly, they won't win any market share back--and for companies this big, the only thing that can save them is future sales. And future sales have left the building.
Perhaps what the automakers truly need is for one of them to fail. I hate to say it because it'd be devastating to this area, but it's true. The only thing to truly shake them up is to see a fellow bretheren fall to the wayside. I'd like to think this crisis will make them live up to their promise, but once the bailout is over they will continue to sink.
I'm not dogging the American auto industry. I think it has the potential to be the best and most innovative industry in the world. It built states like Michigan and cities like Detroit. It has the ability to make technology that will change our lives forever. But unless something truly new happens, a bailout will be nothing more than an excuse to take the easy way out.
More importantly though, in terms of bailouts, we have seen how they just don't work. Executives continue to screw the rest of us and our tax dollars are going to save institutions who probably should be forced to file bankrupcy like the rest of us. Instead of protecting our assets, it has made them more vulnerable. And an auto bailout that is structured on these faulty premises cannot last. More than that, we have a lame duck president who is willing to place bets on the failure of one of our most important industries. The recipie is ripe for disaster.
So what do I suggest?
- A bailout that is premised on promises from the automakers to reduce executive compensation while increasing American manufacturing. This includes parts and labor--no more shipping transmissions to Mexico and putting them in a car in Flat Rock and calling the car American.
- A requirement that the automakers, in order to get the bail out funds, agree to keep a certain percentage of their workforce in the country and that for every percentage point lower than the set goal they will pay back a certain portion of the bailout within 6 months.
- An enforceable promise that the government will only help the automakers if they invest in alternative fuel sources by a set date--that the combustible engine will be a relic or at least only used in large commercial vehicles within twenty years. The deadline will stimulate the creativity that I know is there and will require more jobs. In turn, the automakers will achieve higher sales because everyone and their brother is looking for a more fuel efficient car.
It appears Sen. Clinton made an impromptu (or not so impromptu) trip to Chicago this week to meet with her good friend, President-Elect Obama. This was no social trip though, it was purely business I'm sure.
There's a lot of speculation that Clinton is up for the Secretary of State gig. And while I think she'd do fine as that, I'd rather see her as AG. A Justice Department under Clinton would be such a joy to watch. We need someone in there with exceptionally good views on the tough issues, and she's that person. She'd make a great SOS, but she'd make an even better AG.
I filled out my application, why won't Barack listen to me?!?!?
Thursday, November 13, 2008
So as some of you have noticed or have been made aware, I have a new domain for my writing blog. I am self-hosted! Check it out at http://perfectlycursedlife.com.
Now that I'm a self-hosting pro, I'm going to be streamlining my blogs more and more. From now on my music, movies, television and book posts will be at PCL. I will keep the politics, news and feminist commentary right here. But I am looking to get a domain for this blog and, in the process, change its name to reflect the purpose. Any suggestions you have will be greatly appreciated. Some thoughts I have had are: What's Right is Left, Liberal in Moderation, Pundits Paradise and Liberal Under Fire. But I'm sure I'll have more.
I'll even throw in a prize. You give me a good domain/blog name and I'll get you something at Starbucks.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Kwame Kilpatrick hasn't been in jail for a month and already his lawyer is spouting off about some other grave injustice. What could it be? Is it malnourishment? Corporal punishment? An unfair media frenzied justice system?
Nope. It's the fact that he thinks it was wrong to take away Kwame's law license.
I don't know where this guy went to school, but there were few things drilled into me in law school more than ethics about letting a witness lie and going along with it. So you'd think that lying yourself would cause a great ethical dillema.
So what is this guy's glitch? Well, apparently he thinks that Wayne County Circuit Court doesn't have the power to take away your law license. Which is kind of true in a way, but semantics aside, you can't deny the fact that KWAME MADE A DEAL WHEREBY HIS LICENSE WAS REVOKED. Complaining about that now does nothing to solve anything. His license was already suspended when he pled guilty to felonies, what does this clown think he's going to get out of this?
This is one of those times when lawyer jokes are truly appropriate.
Monday, November 10, 2008
In another attempt to fall flat on her face and make herself look like even more of an idiot than she already appears to be, Sarah Palin has decided to strike back at the McCain campaign for being too "status quo".
I cannot recall another election where the losing team disintegrated so quickly after the election. Last week staffers were saying Palin didn't know Africa was a continent and not a country and this week, Palin is lashing back saying that the party's ticket wasn't, essentially, "mavericky" enough.
So I wonder, what is good enough for Sarah Palin?
Check out my book review at Good Reads.
Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
rating: 4 of 5 stars
I really liked the story of this book. There was nothing special about the writing style, but the story intrigued me.
There were some things I found irritating--Bella referenced Edward's "beauty" like all the time. I get that she didn't feel worthy of him, but it was a bit much by the end.
Somethings I did like that I feel have been, so far, better done in the second book, New Moon, was the description of Bella's feelings and the physical sensations her emotions gave her.
It isn't a literary masterpiece, but it's definitely a key book of our time.
Plus, the movie is coming out...
View all my reviews.
Obama is making his first trip since the election to the Oval Office today. I wonder if Michelle will come with him to help him feng shui the place out. God knows it needs it after the past eight years. In fact, it probably needs a seance and some herbs to be burning in the corner. It wouldn't hurt to replace the carpet either--you know W's spilled shit on there and never told anyone about it (and to be fair, I would have too).
Here's what I suggest--limit the family pictures and just go for a clean look. I can tell you from the clutter on my desk that a clean office would be a great start. You can always add things later if you need them.
Oh, and nothing says "it's just another day at the [Oval] office," like a red stapler.
Friday, November 7, 2008
I dislike Sarah Palin just as much as the next normal American. I think she was unqualified, irresponsible and a constant drag on any type of real conversation about the issues. In fact, as I have made known before, I think her selection was the reason McCain lost so easily.
But now, the disjointed McCain staffers are playing fast and loose with their new-found hatred for Palin and blaming her for everything for being naive. It's a drastic turn from two weeks ago when she was the true family-values warrior.
Instead of finding fault with a campaign so unorganized and unfocused that it imploded months ago, the staffers are turning on Palin calling her a "diva" and "dumb." It blows my mind that they've turned on the very characteristics that they claimed to love in Palin from the beginning, just to blame her for the very fact of their loss.
I can't decide if this is blatant sexism (blaiming the VP candidate who happens to be female over the actual presidential candidate who happens to be male and, well, the candidate), or just plain stupid. What I do know is that it signals a long road ahead of the GOP to mend wounds within their own party before they can attempt to make a plea to the American people either in the midterm elections two years from now or in four years.
The fact is that it isn't Sarah Palin's fault per se that the McCain camp lost. I think her selection cost the campaign dearly and made the loss very easy, but it wasn't her fault--it was McCain's fault for selecting her. He didn't properly vet his candidate and chose to inspire a base that would have voted for him anyhow because they weren't going to vote for a Black baby killer. (In fact, it is coming out that the reason the GOP lost so big across the nation was because of moderates, not the so-called "base".)
Nope, this loss was not Sarah's fault. This was all YOU, Johny boy. It was your choice and your choice alone. So own up to it and come out against these attacks. We all know she's dumber than a doornail when it comes to current events in the world. But your campaign staffers need to stop using it as a blame-sheild to block the career-killing bullets aimed their way.
That would be the real mavericky thing to do, in my opinion.