Thursday, April 20, 2006

Making Michigan Motor

If you live in this state, you more than likely have seen the ads. Gubernatorial candidate Dick DeVos driving a car through the streets of Michigan, in an attempt to look sincere. Now, while I don't doubt that Mr. DeVos drives, I know for a fact that he's never driven through my neighborhood, and he probably doesn't live more than ten miles away. But if you live on this side of the state, you've seen the family helicopter, flying them downtown, to Ada, and to the family compound on Lake Michigan in Holland. You're not a regular guy, Dick (although you are a regular dick) so don't pretend to be one.
One of the campaign pledges Mr. DeVos is making is to get Michigan working again. Michigan's unemployment rate is running at least 2.1% points higher than the rest of the country. And with lay-offs coming at Ford, GM, and Delphi, it's only going to go up.
Michigan's economy has always been tied to the automotive industry, at least for the last seventy years. If you drove an American car, there's a good chance it was made in Detroit, Flint or Lansing. But lately this economy has been hurting, and even the introduction of employee pricing last fall didn't do much to save the Big Three automakers.
There's a lot of reasons given as to why this has happened. But here is only one reason, and it's simple economics.
When Henry Ford first started mass producing automobiles, his workers were the highest paid auto workers. They earned enough to afford to buy the cars they were building, thereby increasing orders. And as the business spread, so did the number of cars sold. Now, of course, most parts making is being outsourced, closing factories in Michigan. Since 1999, one in three plant jobs have been lost in Michigan. People who don't have jobs can't afford to buy new cars, and with the low paying jobs being created in the new economy, they can't afford to buy new cars either. When people can't afford to buy new cars, new car sales start to slump.

A ripple effect spreads and before you know it, you're sliding into a recession that spreads into other areas of the economy. New housing sales are down five percent. Support businesses that relied on the automotive industry start to falter as well. In fact, except for the executives, everybody starts to feel the pinch.

So Dick DeVos thinks he can change that. It takes more than bold pronouncements to do it, it takes a plan. And so far, all Mr. DeVos has shown us is that he knows how to drive a car. Which makes him one of the few in the state who can still afford to do it.


Granny said...

Hi Lew.

Of course it's not just MI that's suffering although they seem to be one of the hardest hit.

I saw it happening in San Francisco many years ago. They gave away their ports to Oakland through shortsightedness (thought containerization was a fad), most of the industry moved out, and they became dependent on service industries and tourism. Even SF can't get away with that.

Not everyone is destined for a degree and even those who are have difficulty finding work upon graduation.

We are eliminating our middle class, the backbone of the country and are too stupid to realize it.

Sorry - don't know why I'm ranting without solutions and tying up your comment box.

Take care.


Left of Center said...

It makes me sick... I grew up in south east Michigan, where the world's biggest auto manufacturers made cars. Many of my friend's families owed their livelihood to good jobs building American cars and trucks. People could afford to live well, and there was a middle class that could afford to have a cabin “up north,” and were able to put their kids through college. Most jobs were union jobs , and workers could count on being treated fairly by management, and were afforded the simple things that people needed such as health care, and a pension for their old age. What happened? What the hell happened!? Ford laying off 30,000, GM over 25,000! Well.. many things. Allow me to elaborate.
1.As much as I am for strong unions, I feel that the UAW became overly politicized, and corrupt. I feel that they over compensated workers with excesses in health care, overtime, and pensions. The American worker just became to much of a liability to their companies. Remember I said excessive.. those things that I mentioned are needed, but perhaps not to the extent they became.
2.Auto manufacturers made the wrong products. Bigger...less efficient.... isn't what all Americans want. Meanwhile, Companies like Toyota made cars that were... safer, and more fuel efficient. They also had better resale values. American manufacturers also missed the boat on hybrid vehicles... Hell, we made satellites and space craft with fuel cells 30 years ago, and have ignored this vital technology until recently. We desperately need to get this country and the world on a hydrogen economy.
3.The Government is the biggest problem. This is a prime example of what happens when energy companies write our countries energy plans, and most lawmakers are in the pockets of the insurance industry. Our government let CAFE standards become antiquated, and in turn our car companies made cars that were more wasteful than they were in the 70's. Our leaders only talk about finding more energy, and not about conserving the energy we have. One of the biggest cost our auto companies have is health care for workers. With a government that has done nothing about health care, the costs have skyrocketed. A large percentage of the price of every new car is used to pay workers health costs. If our government actually made changes in this countries health care infrastructure.. Say even if they just insured the sickest of our workers.. Then industry could make a more competitive product. Lastly, our NAFTA, CAFTA, and tarrifs deals are killing us. We cannot hope to compete with companies who's workers are paid next to nothing and who have no benefits. Companies who have plants in South and Central America, have a decided advantage over us. As far as tarrifs go, here's a good one for you.. Soon we will be having Chinese made cars being sold in the US. These cars will pay a 2.5 % tariffs as they enter the US, meanwhile, American made cars going to China pay over 20% in tarrifs. No wonder that our trade deficits have ballooned under Bush. Our elected representatives are criminal in their apathy towards the American middle class, and workers.

Kathy said...

And so far, all Mr. DeVos has shown us is that he knows how to drive a car.

He also knows how to spend millions of dollars on his ad campaign - $2 million plus and counting at this point.

Does he really fly around town in his helicopter? Geesh, he IS out of touch with us regular people.

Why does a billionaire born into wealth want to be governor? So he can use Michigan like Bush and Cheney have used our country to profit from lucrative contacts and contracts.

I don't know how people feel on your side of the state, but most of the people I talk to here in the east have a low opinion of him. He reminds them too much of another rich boy who had little to speak of in the way of accomplishments, but managed to become president because of his family's connections and money.

Lew Scannon said...

yes, he does fly over quite frequently over GR in his helicopter, as well as out to the family compound in Holland. How people feel about him depends on who you talk to. Kent and Ottawa county are kitten biting Republicans, so they support him for that reason alone. A lot of people dislike him because every building in GR that isn't named Van Andel is named DeVos.Amway was a family owned company when Dick was named successor, not based on merit, rather because his daddy owned it. Part of his real agenda is to move michigan farther to the right than John Engler took it, instituting his voucher scheme and other reactionary programs. And of course give tax cuts to his buddies and line his family pockets as well. I really loathe him.

Citisucks said...

The said thing is no one currently in power cares about the poor (formerly known as the middle class). We have a 1 party system full of good old boys. It is not long before all the states resemble Michigan.


Kathleen Callon said...

Hope you guys pull out of your recession.

Happy Earth Day, BTW.

Lily said...

I love this practice of taking privileged rich people and somehow trying to convert them into "regular joes"!

How are things Lew? Your presence is missed.

And LOC made some great comments, as usual- agreed on many counts there.