Deep Seated Impressions

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TRAINS

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PLANES

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MORE PLANES

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AUTOMOBILES

 

A few years ago a movie called Trains, Planes, and Automobiles came out and caused me to laugh my butt off. I just finished reading a book titled “Fly Boys” by James Bradley. The story is about World War Two with Japan in the Pacific. I learned a lot reading this account. First, the history of Japan and its Emperor worship which eventually evolved into their samurai military. I learned that we won the war not with the atomic bomb, but by an endless assault of incendiary bombs on cities built of wooden buildings. We burned the Japs to death. The atomic bombs were just a more efficient method.

During my early years, I read daily news accounts of battles, defeats, and victories. On my paper route, I noticed flags hanging in windows with gold stars on them. I grew up during World War Two. I watched my parents become somber when FDR declared war after the Pearl Harbor attack. I saw families in our neighborhood mourn the loss of their sons. It had an effect on my psyche. I learned to hate the Japanese as well as the Germans, and Italians, but I had a special hatred for Japan. This hatred grew as I grew.

As a young adult when it came time to enter the business world this conflict grew. As an engineer and product designer I favored US made products over those of the inferior Japanese made ones. My Christianity continued to work on me and as my thoughts about heaven and the teachings of Jesus to love my neighbor as myself began to take root my hatred began to dissolve, slowly. By 1969, I opened my mind to Japanese made products and bought a Toyota Corolla. It only served to bolster my attitude about Jap-Crap. My kids were old enough to chastise me about my use of words and that also affected me. I tried like heck to transfer my hatred to them, but they were smarter than me and resisted. The Corolla and I lasted but two years together. It was the worst car I ever owned.

The years passed and my war against Japanese products waged. I preached American made to anyone who would listen. My friends bought Japanese made Toyotas, Hondas, and Datsuns.  I lost the war when my three kids all bought Japanese made cars and loved them, but I kept telling myself that the price I paid for a good UAW made American car was worth it in patriotic pride. In 2006, I finally succumbed to the Japanese automakers. That came after studying their manufacturing methods and their zest for never-ending quality control. America finally woke up to the fact that Japanese manufacturing methods and quality systems were superior. American manufacturers were in catch-up mode. Our employers all scurried looking for the magic bullet that would allow them to compete. I came to believe in the Japanese system, not because it was Japanese but because it was American. They were smart enough to hire Joe Duran an American quality guru who couldn’t find an audience in America. The Japanese studied his system, and then embraced it. They implemented practices until it hurt, but it paid off. The result is a revolution in auto-making that has changed the world. They have won that war.

In 2006, I bought a Toyota Avalon which I so dearly have named the Death Star. It is the finest car I have ever owned. Then came “Flyboys.” Reading a history of the war with Japan in the detail in which author James Bradley tells has reawakened the deep-seated hatred within my heart. The atrocities committed by the Japanese during the war are hard to understand, but author Bradley explains the Japanese warrior psyche in detail and makes an attempt to rationalize their behavior. What is harder to take are the counter-atrocities we committed to beat them. Our methods were the best we could come up with. They were not pretty, but necessary. Japan’s determination was to take over China and the Pacific to expand their empire. They needed room to grow. Their population in the late nineteen thirties peaked at sixty million, and they lived on an island the size of California. Today, California has sixty-four million people and I think it is over populated.

Hopefully, this reawakened hatred will be short-lived as the memory of this narrative wears off. So, what does this have to do with my opening sentence, “A few years ago a movie called Trains, Planes, and Automobiles came out and caused me to laugh my butt off”? The answer is “nothing,” but my fascination with trains, planes and automobiles developed during this time frame. I grew up on a street one block away from a Nickel Plate RR line and I listened to and watched thousands of trains pass by carrying war materials. Airplanes of every type flew over head daily on the way to training fields and to missions in the Pacific, and automobile development stopped causing people to keep the cars they had, or to buy used 1930’s vintage models. To this day I love WWII airplanes, nineteen thirties hot rods, and steam engines.

Give ’em the Loan!

2009-buick-lucerneAs angry as I am at GM,  Ford, Chrysler, and the UAW, I have decided to speak up for the bridge loan. It is so simple, yet I almost blew it. If these companies suddenly go out of business, we will be forced to buy foreign. Think about that for a minute. Where will all those cars and trucks come from? The US car companies make about  four million cars in the USA each year. If their plants are no longer producing, who will build these cars? Easy you say, Japan, Korea, Germany, Italy, Sweden, etc. Well folks, these companies all have their own markets. They would never be able to ramp up to build an extra four million cars overnight.

So your beater finally died, and you have no other choice than to buy another car. You go to the local Toyota showroom and discover that a Camry costs one hundred thousand dollars, and you are placed on a waiting list. Not to worry, you amble over to the used car dealer to discover that a used Chevy with one hundred thousand miles is commanding twenty five thousand dollars. What the hell is going on?

It takes several years to build new car plants. The extra sales placed on the foreign car companies would strain their resources. There would be a severe shortage of cars for several years after the “big three” have been buried. The shortage plays into the hands of the economists old rule that the price is dictated by suppy and demand. Fewer cars, more sales equals higher prices.

Do we really want to see car prices triple, or do we want to see the “big three”  live on?

As much as I hate the UAW, and the even dumber GM management for their stupid tactics over the last forty years,  I would sooner see the big three survive.  Let’s give them the loan!

Wealthy Middle Class

My Flag Flies Everyday

My Flag Flies Everyday

What a joke to watch the Big Three CEO’s squirm on Capital Hill today. They gave the Senate an earful. Basically, we would have gotten off with a bargain had we accepted the 25 billion bailout the carmakers asked for in November. Of all the jokers who spoke before the Senate, I thought the guy from the UAW was most off base. After listening to a proposal from GM which could save an estimated eight billion dollars a year, he proceeded to argue about how he didn’t really believe the numbers of the proposal. Of course not. The proposal meant the UAW would lose some jobs. These are jobs that should be lost. GM, Ford, and Chrysler all carry dead wood because of the UAW contract. In the meantime, their Japanese and Korean competitors are hiring people in this country who are only happy to have a job. They work for considerably lower wages than a UAW greed monger will.  The typical UAW response was one which was adversarial to the management of GM. Even in a hearing which held the life of the company in it’s hands, the UAW forgot why they were there and began to argue against the management. They were there to support the company. They could not. They are the problem, have been the problem and will be the problem for as long as they are in existence.

It has been my experience that everytime a UAW worker goes up against GM he takes the attitude that “I’d sooner see you go down and look for another job than lose this contract negotiation to you bastards.” Over the years, GM has caved in, time and time again in order to please the stock holders. In the meantime, the UAW has become the strongest union on the world. At least it thought it was strong. All it was doing was looking at the immediate bottom line for its workers. Never did they imagine that the mighty GM could crumble. Never did they imagine that the Japanese and the Koreans would steal their lunch.

My opinion of the GM management is not much higher. They were arrogant enough in the seventies, eighties and nineties to believe that the Japanese could not unseat them as the number one carmaker in the world. In the meantime the Japanese continued to do everything right. Little by little they chipped away at the GM market share which went from forty-five percent in the seventies to twenty percent today. They are lucky to have that. The management of GM today is finally waking up and making some good cars. Their quality rivals the Japanese. They have a way to go with overall reliability, but their quality has improved. Their styling sucks. Their current hot car, the Cadillac STS is a winner, but the Chevy Malibu, their work horse, is a dog. I can’t believe that with all the design talent in the USA and within GM that they continue to make cars that look shitty. I can only blame it on the management. Their designers are better than that.

In the meantime, the Japanese continue to work their fifty year strategic plan. Their car companies are in union with the government. They work together in thier industries for the good of the country. The car company employees work under a job for life program. This program keeps them from organizing. These employess are also retrained to work in many different areas in order to reamain employed. They do so. In the meantime our wonderful UAW is protecting jobs even when they are no longer needed.

Another famous UAW contract point is the pay for no work. When a US car company sees a downturn in business, and needs to cut back to save money, the UAW workers continue to get paid eighty percent of their normal wages for up to eight months. What a sweet seal that is. Get paid for nothing, bring on the layoff.

Henry Ford created the middle class when he began building cars. Over the years the UAW has created the “wealthy middle class.”  Thier workers are so well paid they rival the wages of our most educated college students. A UAW worker does not have to give up four or more years of his life to study either. He works the line doing some mundane job better served by a robot.

In the meantime, GM does a profitable business in other parts of the world. Why? Ask yourself that? Why can they compete in other countries but not the USA? The Japs sell the same car against them in other countries, so why do they do so poorly in the USA. Two reasons: The first is perceived quality. GM has sold us such crap for so many years we don’t believe that it is improved to that of the Japs. Second, GM costs are too high compared to their competitors, and they cheeze the car to make profit. That second point only hurts the first one.

If Congress gives them the money it should be with the following caveat: eliminate the UAW, or get major concessions from them. Another option, let GM build cars in another country and import them to the USA.

We May Indeed Be Nuts!

My Flag Flies Everyday

My Flag Flies Everyday

I am almost over the election. I haven’t blogged because the need to do so dried up when BO won. This week, however, I have to speak my piece on the latest of Uncle Sam’s idiotic moves. Why do we want to bail out GM? This car company has consistently thrown poor quality, and reliability at us in the name of “Made in the USA.” The same goes for the UAW. I tried my best to hold out by buying American for many years. I owned an Oldsmobile Intrigue for eight years. It was without a doubt, the best GM car I ever owned. I bragged about it’s reliability and performance. I tried in vane to get my kids to buy “American.” No amount of reason or guilt worked. Two of my kids  don’t even know that there are cars made in America that are not Honda or Toyota. They grew up on Honda, and Toyota. They are brand faithful. At the same time I was bragging about my Intrigue with 110,000 miles on it, my daughter bragged about her Honda with 180,000. All she ever did was change oil, and put brakes, tires and gas in it.  At 111,000 miles my Intrigue crapped out. It leaked fluid into the cyclinders and locked the engine tight. After I spent $1800 to replace a leaking intake manifold, I learned on the I-net that GM cars are notorious for this failure. They have had the problem for years, but have never taken any steps to fix it. 

The US car companies, management and the UAW, have let the Japs take them down. Now GM wants the tax payer to bail them out. The argument is that if they are allowed to go bankrupt, many thousands of jobs will be lost, thus fueling the recession.

The truth is that filing for bankruptcy will not be a loss of jobs. They can go on making crappy cars as is their usual business. The difference is that they won’t get any “free money,” from the taxpayer.

A few years ago, GM divested itself of a division called Delphi. Delphi makes electrical systems for GM and other car companies. GM gave Delphi as much pension debt as they could. Eventually, Delphi filed for chapter eleven. They couldn’t make a profit with all the baggage GM dumped on them. I know, because I am a stockholder. Want to know what happens to the stockholder when a company files for bankruptcy? The old shares become worthless, meaning the stockholder loses his investment. GM didn’t give a hoot about losing Delphi, it became Delphi’s problem.  Even though Delphi filed for bankruptcy, it has continued to operate for several years. They keep on shipping orders. They even entertained the purchase of another electronics company. How can a business that is in bankruptcy buy another company?

What GM is afraid of is all it’s incompetent managers losing their options and bonuses paid in stock.

The capitalistic system rewards companies that can design, make, and sell useful products that buyers want. GM does not do any of these things. They design cars that have a shorter life than their competitors, their designs are ugly, and they are made by the most unproductive union in the world, i.e. the UAW.

If we reward GM and the UAW with a government bailout, we are indeed nuts. Let the system work, we’ll all be better off for it. We won’t have to worry about BO turning the country socialist. WE will hand a socialist government to him on a silver platter.

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