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The Auto Industry Nightmare

by: LiberalLucy

Thu Jul 10, 2008 at 10:02:05 AM EDT


Yesterday my family joined the ever-growing group of Michigan families who now face an uncertain economic future due to lay-offs in the auto industry.

My dad's employer, once part of The Big Three, offered their employees age 50 and over a puny buyout package, with the hopes that 300-400 people take them up on it. Whispers around the office led most to believe that if the buyouts weren't taken, they'd still most likely be without a job, and the measly benefits. So as of August 1st, my dad will stay in Michigan, unemployed, with a mortgage, bills, and a very uncertain future. His job, like so many others, is heading to Mexico.

The news broke my heart and my spirit, just as it has for thousands others.

Here's what worries me most - like many other laid off auto workers, my dad's in his late fifties, with a bad back, arthritis starting to set in, and a minimal college education in auto repair, no thanks to the GI Bill. He can send me email, watch the funny YouTube videos I send him, but that's about as far as his computer skills go. With a crummy economy, how does my dad compete with all the hungry, tech-savvy college graduates that don't have families to support?

This is not the American Dream, this is the Auto Industry Nightmare.
LiberalLucy :: The Auto Industry Nightmare
My parents are surprisingly resilient. Their email to my siblings and I talked about how they knew that their faith would get them through this tough time, just as it had the other tough times, but even if it's the size of a mustard seed, we're going to need more than just faith to get through this.

This is a guy who spent his 19th birthday trapped in the jungle during monsoon season in Vietnam dodging bullets and bombs and who now can't even get the VA to pay for hearing aids from the damage.

This is also the same guy who, that despite getting the short end of the stick on a college education after returning home (also courtesy of the VA) went to work and got laid off as a state employee in the early 80's when the recession hit, later laid off in the early 90's by one of the other auto giants, and history repeats itself, yet again.

He's also the same guy that worked three jobs to make sure that us kids had clothes to wear and food on the table when times were tough.

More than anything, he's my hero - sacrificing time, money, and energy to be there for me when I was sick for over 10 years as a kid. And now this.

I'm smart enough to know this is not happening just to my dad. It seems like we hear about massive cuts and layoffs on a weekly basis in the Free Press and News, this plant's closing, another's cutting a shift. We hear about the cuts, we get that people are losing their jobs, but until it happens to you or someone you know, you rarely actually think about it.

I poignantly remember John Sternhagen's story as told by Governor Granholm during January's State of the State Address. John was a worker at the Electrolux plant in Greenville who lost his job when the company packed up and moved to Mexico. As the Governor described how John used the 'No Worker Left Behind' program to get retraining and now was making double his old salary as a registered nurse I remember instantly thinking of my dad, and wondering what he would do if he got laid off.

His buyout package will give him a little time to find something, but he's an extremely proud man, and I can only imagine how difficult it's going to be for him relearning how to write a resume, visiting the career center, and mostly just having to ask for help.

So many of my generation grew up when the Auto Industry was king, and a job in the sector meant that you had job security for life. It meant that if college wasn't for you, you could join your dad, mom, or other relative at the plant, on the line, and know that you had a good paying job. Now that's just a distant memory.

When we spoke last night, it killed me to hear my dad's false optimism, there solely for my benefit. He talked about how the local hardware store and Home Depot were hiring, and how maybe this would give him more time (but not money) to work on his projects around the house.

And yes, it's not just him. It used to be that almost 4 out of every 10 Michigan residents  were employed by some sector of the Auto Industry. Now it feels like 4 out of 10 us know someone who's been laid off.

Being the eternal optimist I am, I need to find a silver lining somewhere in all of this. Being the bleeding heart blogger, I'm putting my family's story out there because I need people to remember this and to think about the people in your life who are in the same painful situation.

My family and I are hurting, the pile of tissues in my garbage can is evidence of that, but we're not foolish enough to blame it on the Governor or the current Legislature. This was a long time coming, set in motion many years ago.

So to the legislators, the policy-shapers, and the decision makers reading this - you've got a state budget to finalize. When you're voting to cut social programs like worker retraining and unemployment benefits, think twice about my dad, his co-workers, and the thousands like them, especially those you know. Think about them when you're about to vote on giving giant corporations special tax breaks that serve to line the pockets of CEO's making millions while the middle class slips right down the drain.

To the rest of us - remember this story and others like it when you go to the polls in the coming months. Who will truly fight for you in office? Is it the millionaire who's only slogan is tax cuts, war and thinly-veiled discrimination? Or is it the guy or gal who's been laid off before, or who has kids and knows what it's like to be without insurance, or who's been openly discriminated against?

We may only be individuals working hard every day to stay afloat, keep our jobs, food on the table, roof over our heads, but together we're a powerful force to be reckoned with, and we exercise it best when we head to the polls.
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I'm so sorry, LL (4.00 / 5)
I feel your pain -- my husband hasn't worked in five years, and he wasn't in the auto industry.  He was a computer consultant, then drove a limo for a while until he needed surgery in his cervical spine.  He hasn't worked since.  He's 61 now and those computer jobs all go to much younger people.  He really can't do any job that requires physical things like lifting or a lot of walking.  

Luckily I have a good job and benefits, but it still makes things difficult.  Next year, when he turns 62, he can start collecting Social Security, which will certainly help us a lot.  When I retire in 7 years or so, I'll have a pension and my 401(k), although with the market the way it's been, that's been going in the wrong direction for the last 7 months.  Hopefully things will get better next year in the economy and it will start going back up again.  At least my contributions are now buying at lower prices and I'll hopefully be able to get some decent earnings from my current investments.

Hang in there...hopefully things will work out.  See you next week!


This hungry college grad (4.00 / 4)
Is making $7.50 at Meijer.  Most of the people I graduated with left the state.

It's the fallout (4.00 / 4)
It's everywhere.  

I want to change the world, not help people adjust to it. - Millie Jeffrey, MI - National Women's labor and Democratic activist, Presidential Medal of Freedom Recipient

[ Parent ]
I think Mi gave me Stockholm Syndrome (4.00 / 3)
I don't want to leave until it's better.

[ Parent ]
Have you seen this one yet? (4.00 / 4)
According to Phil Gramm (also vice chairman of UBS and the guy most expect to be McCain's Sec. of Treasury) in an interview with the Washington Times, said the following:

"We have sort of become a nation of whiners," he said. "You just hear this constant whining, complaining about a loss of competitiveness, America in decline" despite a major export boom that is the primary reason that growth continues in the economy, he said.

The stupidity, immorality and absurdity of these people is incredible...do you think someone will be able to ask him about this statement when he is in Michigan today...oh, I forgot, it's a closed-invitation only gathering of AUTOWORKERS...


[ Parent ]
Your dad should go to a Michigan Works! office. (4.00 / 3)
On the internet, he should check out the jobs on the Michigan Talent Bank.  There are 65 openings on the afternoon shift of an Auburn Hills company for the afternoon shift.  It is 13/hr plus benefits in 90 days for material handlers and light production.  Sorry Lucy.  I know how bad it feels.  My husband dropped out of the market 12 years ago to take care of our grandkids.  I couldn't bear watching the pain he experienced losing his job over and over.  Thank god I am working, and we could afford to do this.  Love the relationship he has with our grandboys and granddogs.  I blame this whole thing on Bill Clinton.  NAFTA would never have made it through if a "real" Republican had been in the WH.  People in this country trusted Clinton not to screw them, but he sure did.  

Granholm and DLEG have been busting butt to bring, keep, and fill jobs in MI.  She deserves credit for all the hard work she has done to "mitigate" the highway robbery of manufacturing jobs to other countries.  She is trying very hard to clean up bill clinton's mess.  

Best luck to your dad.  Let me know if I can help.  


[ Parent ]
Even many of us Republicans hate NAFTA (4.00 / 2)
There's one saying I like to use at times. Bipartisanship at its worst. NAFTA and GATT were bipartisanship at its worst. It would not have passed without enough support from the other party. Both are to blame.

Many Republicans in 93-96 got it when it came to NAFTA and it's worse cousin GATT, and it was usually those so called "uber right-wing whackos" who opposed it back then. Not all of them got it, but about 40% did with GATT from my memory.

Ross Perot was right. Gore, Clinton, and both Bushes were not. NAFTA may have helped the aggie industry, but it killed us.  

"He who would trade liberty for some temporary security, deserves neither liberty nor security" - Benjamin Franklin

Opinions are my own and not that of LCRP


[ Parent ]
Michigan is good for nothing except being (0.00 / 0)
a donor state to the feds, who take our money and give it to ag, oil or the pentagon.  

[ Parent ]
Causes of layoffs (4.00 / 2)
I wonder if your dad is laid off because of all the people who are boldly buying Priuses. Something to think about while we're bashing the auto industry.

Besides the big corporation part (that, I get), we are also talking about people's jobs here....

Nothing is easier than solving a problem on the back of the poor. People who don't have lobbyists or clout.


Visteon... (4.00 / 1)
does work with the Japanese car companies, too, in addition to work for U.S. companies.

[ Parent ]
Many causes (4.00 / 5)
Biggest of which is good old American Greed.  Instead of looking and planning ahead, The Big Three milked SUV-addicts for all they were worth.  Then when SUVs amazingly became impractical, they were left with no small cars to carry them.

Don't blame people for buying a Prius.  Blame the Big Three's executives.

Then, blame Congress for not handling universal health care.  Japanese auto-makers save almost $2000 a car because they don't have to deal with health insurance costs per worker.


[ Parent ]
Oh please... (3.25 / 4)
So now we get to choose between having a job during the last 50 years of our planet's existence, or giving up our jobs in the name of protecting ourselves from climate change? And by buying foreign-made gas sippers (the only gas sippers available) we're responsible for the destruction of our economy?

Oy...

Or perhaps our domestic carmakers could get their shit together and make cars that people actually want to buy.


[ Parent ]
What a concept (4.00 / 3)
You don't really think they'd do something that makes sense, do you?

[ Parent ]
There's American made gas sippers (0.00 / 0)
There's other hybrids besides the Toyota Pious. Even the non hybrid Ford Focus out of Wayne Michigan gets 37MPG. For hybrids, there's the Ford Escape, Chevy Malibu (Lake Orion), Equinox, and others.

So if the economy collapses completely because of GM (4% GDP alone) and Ford's downfall, look in the mirror and stop bitching.

50 years left in planet existance? I'll bet $500 it's longer. If humans survived the eruptions of Tambora and the Toba Supervolcano, we'll be around longer than 50 years unless Yellowstone blows up. I'm not saying there isn't environmental troubles, but this doomsday crap is ridiculous. We survived worse. We'll survive global warming too.



"He who would trade liberty for some temporary security, deserves neither liberty nor security" - Benjamin Franklin

Opinions are my own and not that of LCRP


[ Parent ]
So much for supply and demand (4.00 / 3)
The auto companies are building cars no one wants, and you think the fault for that lies with the consumer?

Among the Trees

[ Parent ]
Just saying (4.00 / 1)
You can't "pretend" to wring your hand in sympathy because an autoworker lost their job while doing everything you can to destroy the employer at the same time.

I'm just saying stop being hypocrites.

Nothing is easier than solving a problem on the back of the poor. People who don't have lobbyists or clout.


[ Parent ]
Huh?! (4.00 / 2)
SO there are three actors in this scenario...

The workers who depend on the owners to design products that will sell...

The consumers who make decisions about purchases based upon their own particular life needs...

And the owners, who are motivated by profit to produce a product that will sell to the consumers...

And the group you decide is being hypocritical/the problem are the consumers?

That's some mighty twisted logic...


[ Parent ]
Clarification (4.00 / 1)
I'm just saying the people on this blog who are feigning sympathy for an autoworker losing his job are hypocrites. Note that I'm not saying you don't have a right to be an environmentalist, I'm just saying you can't be an environmentalist and be pro auto union workers at the same time.

Pick a side and stay on it. I don't wanna have to call you guys the F-word.

(flip-floppers)

Nothing is easier than solving a problem on the back of the poor. People who don't have lobbyists or clout.


[ Parent ]
I'm no hypocrite. (4.00 / 2)
You'll never see me in a foreign car.

Having said that, I'm curious as to how much of a bonus the jackass who thought up the scheme to outsource more jobs to Mexico is getting.  Screw American workers over and get a bonus seems to be the SOP.

On the consumer side, while you'll never see me in a Prius, it'd be nice if The Big Three would keep up with the demand side and produce vehicles with high gas mileage that I wouldn't have to rob a bank to afford.  Some of us have been waiting on them since the days of the Honda Insight (insert failed car speech here).


[ Parent ]
To clarify... (4.00 / 2)
None of this is the fault of people like LL's dad.  This is the fault of greedy upper management.

[ Parent ]
... (4.00 / 3)
... I'm just saying you can't be an environmentalist and be pro auto union workers at the same time.

I'm sorry, Yvette, but that's a boneheaded thing to write.

It's a false choice that you must either be pro-Labor or pro-environment.  Much of the early push for environmental protections in this state came from Labor; and our lost auto jobs have nothing to do with environmental regulations and everything to do with poor corporate decision making.

I mean, if we could somehow harness the energy expended by the Big Three on the dire warnings they keep issuing over fuel economy standards, we'd be able to wean ourselves off foreign oil inside of a week.

Among the Trees


[ Parent ]
Aw shucks! (0.00 / 0)
Taken from you Eric, I consider that a love note :-)

Let's just say many union members that I know aren't exactly fans of the Prius-lovin environmentalists and leave it at that.  

Nothing is easier than solving a problem on the back of the poor. People who don't have lobbyists or clout.


[ Parent ]
Okay (0.00 / 0)
And, let's just say that if being pro-Labor and pro-environment was an impossible combination, it would make John Dingell some kind of super mutant from a different dimension.

Among the Trees

[ Parent ]
I understand where yvette is coming from... (4.00 / 2)
...but, maybe cannot own a car at all an be an environmentalist.  

So a Prius gets what 45 mpg, hwy?  A Colbalt XFE gets 36.  So, a Prius gets 9 mpg better and suddenly a Prius driver is an environmentalist?  I don't think so.

I think a person can be an environmentalist and also be pro-union.  I just don't think you can drive an imported car and be pro-union, pro-health care, pro-job, etc.  You will help the environment more by moving closer to work than what you drive. My pick-up does less environmental damage than a Prius that commutes a long distance because I drive 8 minutes to work.

I think a lot of union people don't like hybrid drivers because hybrid drivers are seen as hypocritical.  Ever see a Prius doing 85 on the hwy?  That sucks a lot of gas.

I think supporting fairer trade policies, that will make American small cars profitable is one of the best things we can do for the environment.


[ Parent ]
And thanks (4.00 / 1)
Btw, thanks Naz for asking a question instead of making a wild accusation. It forced me to clarify my point.

Nothing is easier than solving a problem on the back of the poor. People who don't have lobbyists or clout.

[ Parent ]
$4 a gallon gasoline (4.00 / 1)
I've been complaining for, like, ever about how the automakers' reliance on big, gas guzzling SUVs and full-sized trucks was going to come back and bite this state in the ass when gasoline got permanently expensive.  Now, we have permanently high priced gasoline, the automakers are sucking exhaust fumes and flailing about trying to meet new market demands, and it's somehow my fault?

Among the Trees

[ Parent ]
Another thought (4.00 / 2)
By the way, consumers have been demanding SUVs for years. We've only had $4 per gallon gas for a few weeks now. If you're an engineer, please tell me how automakers are supposed to instantly design, test and manufacturer an entirely new breed of vehicles to meet rapidly changing demands. Oh yeah, and get it on the market yesterday.

THERE ARE NO MORE PRIUSES TO SELL!!!

The economic cars are all sold out. Toyota is also losing money hand over fist in this economy. Now what???

We know you can complain, now how about coming up with a solution.

Nothing is easier than solving a problem on the back of the poor. People who don't have lobbyists or clout.


[ Parent ]
Uh-huh (4.00 / 1)
I give you Daniel Howes:
How can the shell supporting Detroit's automakers hold when the growing market for fuel-efficient cars, solid brands and credible models is evident, repeatedly, in the steady growth of rivals Toyota and Honda? As a friend with Michigan roots frequently reminds me: "It's not like Detroit didn't have ample warning."

In short, the Big Three were making money based on consumer demand but then totally failed to heed signs evident to people like me, who have no special aptitude to read markets aside from being able to pay attention.

My solution is very simple.  Rather than blame consumers for changes in the market, you should be telling the Big Three to meet demand and to do a better job of forecasting where demand is going in the future.

Among the Trees


[ Parent ]
I agree (0.00 / 0)
I agree with yvette248

[ Parent ]
I'm with Eric (4.00 / 1)
over my comrade Yvette on this issue.  It's not 1970 anymore.  We live in a different world.

[ Parent ]
I feel your pain (4.00 / 4)
My two sisters and I were raised by a single mother who depended on a job at an auto factory after her and my dad divorced. After 10+ years she was laid off, called back, but is now laid off again. Luckily, her two oldest (me included) are on their own, but I still have a little sister who is about to graduate from high school. It makes you grow up faster than others because you know once you graduate HS you can't depend on the parents anymore (they simply can't afford to help, and its not really their fault), but you feel for them because you know all they want is to help and to maybe have a bit of a break....yet it seems to only get more difficult.

my feeble attempt to relate and empathize (4.00 / 3)
When I was getting into this political scene in 2006, I got laid off from my job.  At that time I was still forming my beliefs, and it would have been easy to jump on the "GOP/DeVos = Jobs" bandwagon.  The Governor came to speak at our district campaign office the day I lost my job.  I was moved to tears by her determination.  I knew I was on the right side, and that I needed to fight as hard as I could to make things right.

Know that what you do every day is helping make the future better for people like your dad, for me, and for that little BlogAds kid over there on the left who wants clean water in his sippy cup!


Did you exchange a walk-on part in the war for a lead role in a cage?
The PhiKapBlog


Update: Day 2 (4.00 / 5)
This morning my dad spent several hours at the Career Center at the local community college getting help from a grad student to write his resume. Dad was very happy with the results and very grateful to a young woman who had the skills he could only dream of having.

So what next? Well, he's got a couple weeks before he's completely out of a job and a resume to start shopping around. But where does an almost-sixty-something find a job that's not already being sought after by 50 other people like him?

So yes, perhaps my parents were right - it's going to take sheer hope and faith. Hope that our faith's strong enough to get all of us through this.

Thank you for all of your well-wishes and support, but please remember, my family's situation is not unique, and with your vote, you can make or break the future for all of Michigan's working families this fall. Let's make our future brighter than our past.  

I want to change the world, not help people adjust to it. - Millie Jeffrey, MI - National Women's labor and Democratic activist, Presidential Medal of Freedom Recipient


Thanks, LL for the update (4.00 / 4)
Your post today and the Gramm comment about being "a nation of whiners" brought me out of a blog silence today. I've been faithfully reading Mich Lib and other blogs every day, but refraining from commenting. But your entry is so personal, and regardless of why the automotive industry is in the shape it's in - it could be anyone's story for any number of reasons.

I just found this in the comment section of a Talking Points Memo story on Gramm's statments - taken from a Washington Post Blog story on McCain in Belleville - (sorry for the cut and paste; I can't resist)

"Speaking at an auto parts supplier, McCain said repeatedly that he understands how much the Michigan economy had declined, with unemployment over 8 percent and 70,000 lost jobs since the beginning of the year.

'America is hurting today. Michigan is hurting today. The automotive industry is hurting,' he said to open a town hall here. 'We have to understand the urgency of the situation and we should remind ourselves time after time.'

But the crowd of about 100 sat on their hands in stony silence throughout most of his speech, especially his lecture about the need for free trade -- a policy not embraced in this town.

The first question was from a man who urged a different point of view, saying that "what we need to do is control some of those trade issues going on. What we want is fair trade."

McCain again expressed his sympathy, but refused to back down on trade, instead singing the praise of the American spirit of innovation and an education system that he said can be repaired to effectively retrain displaced workers."

The disconnect, the apathy, the outright lying, and the stupidity of McCain is horrifying.



[ Parent ]
We have to keep speaking up (4.00 / 2)
I got a lot of requests from folks to cross-post this on Daily Kos and that resulted in more than a couple comments about Gramm's remarks.

Like I said there - I wonder if Gramm or McCain know what it's like to not have a silver spoon in their mouths or to fall through the societal cracks?

I'm guessing not.

On a more personal note, thanks for the kind comments. I've always been one of MichLib's few resident bleeding hearts, and when I blog it's all from raw emotion. It can be scary to put your own personal story out there, but everyday citizens and lawmakers a like need to be reminded about what happens to the rest of us out and what we face on a daily basis.  

I want to change the world, not help people adjust to it. - Millie Jeffrey, MI - National Women's labor and Democratic activist, Presidential Medal of Freedom Recipient


[ Parent ]
Your dad has his experience (4.00 / 2)
I don't know what your dad did specifically all these years, but if its any consolation, I know several people who found themselves in the same situation and ended up finding jobs with the help of recruiters. (They also worked in the auto industry.) They're working as contract employees and getting benefits, but more importantly, they're making contacts and getting leads that may land them a permanent job.

Tell him not to get discouraged. I'll keep him and your family in my prayers.  


[ Parent ]
I bet the guy whose downsizing your dad... (4.00 / 2)
got a payraise, too.

Some people just need to be beaten into submission with a sock full of quarters.


Not sure of your dad's specific situation, but (4.00 / 4)
If he was a member of the UAW, he should have bumping rights to other manufacturing facilities in North America.  He should also be eligible to receive approximately 90% of his previous wage while attending the jobs bank.

If he was in manufacturing, he should consider filing for workers compensation and a disability pension.  Nearly every guy who works 25+ years in a factory is physically harmed because of the repetitive basis of the job.  If he can obtain those benefits, they may keep your parents' ship afloat; they also provide health care.

I hope all works out with your family.  Half of my family had to leave the State when the layoffs hit Flint in the early eighties.  I've never seen most of them again.  Funny feeling when Steinbeck is still relevant 70 years later.  


Unfortunately (4.00 / 1)
Dad was 'salaried' but to me in the ends it sounds like he would have been better off as an hourly worker and part of the union.

He'll get some kind of compensation, but it's not much and certainly anywhere even close to what he was making.

Because this will now be the 3rd time he's been laid-off, he had only been at the company for 10+ years making eligible for a cheap gift made in China (on his 10th anniversary) and that's about it.

I'm one of those 'annoying' eternal optimists, but stuff like this makes it hard to have faith in the supposed system.

Thanks for the suggestions though, always appreciated, and hopefully they can help some other folks reading this who are in a similar boat.  

I want to change the world, not help people adjust to it. - Millie Jeffrey, MI - National Women's labor and Democratic activist, Presidential Medal of Freedom Recipient


[ Parent ]
Why I don't buy foreign. (4.00 / 2)
I pin the blame first and foremost on all the people who buy foreign. The plant that put food on my family's table is closed. Ford Wixom, which built Lincolns.

Ford put food on my family's table. My grandfather worked at Rouge. My dad and two of his brothers worked at Wixom. If you drive by there now, it's empty. Plant closed. Two are now retired and one was lucky enough to transfer to Rouge. He's hoping to get his 30 in. Two of my younger cousins are lucky enough to get in at GM. Thanks to GM, they are now homeowners. Another relative works for Chrysler. Others in the family work with other companies who are tied to the industry. I have countless friends tied to the industry. You get the picture. My family and friends there are of all political stripes. Democrats, Republicans, and Independents.

And this affects everybody. When the plant closes, people have less money. That means the businesses in the area of the plant and in the hometown of these individuals have less money. Less money for vacations up North. Less money for the luxuries. Less money to go out to eat. Those whose jobs depend on that hurt, even if they don't work directly for the auto industry.

I buy Ford for a reason. One, I like their products. Two, I owe it to my family. I'll consider GM now as well because of my two cousins who just started there. Three, it supports my state.

I wish your dad the best. While my career may eventually lead me far away from the auto industry, it is my roots, and those values that shaped me and made me who I am.  

"He who would trade liberty for some temporary security, deserves neither liberty nor security" - Benjamin Franklin

Opinions are my own and not that of LCRP


What is foreign anymore? (4.00 / 2)
I can bet you buy foreign far more than you think.  Take a look at the labels on your clothes.  Track down where your food comes from, especially all the fresh produce you buy from October through May.  Even with Ford and GM, the chances are good that your vehicle was assembled outside of the United States or at least has a majority of its parts made outside of the United States, while if you own a foreign vehicle like a Saab, it was probably assembled in the USA.  Almost all Americans spend more money every year on foreign made products than products made in the United States.  That's a fact of life of our global economy.  

In terms of vehicles, is it really worse to make a car payment on a Toyota Prius that gets 48 mpg than spend all that extra money on Arab oil for a vehicle with an American name that gets 34 mpg?  After all, these are public companies who's shareholders are just as likely in Moscow, Bangkok or Shanghai as they are in Detroit or Des Moines.  Given the greatly reduced carbon footprint, the better choice may very well be to chose the Prius now and pray that market pressures force American manufacturers to get their act together.  Al Gore was right in 2000 about increased fuel efficency standards.  His position wasn't anti-Detroit; it was saving Detroit from itself.  I wonder how much better off we'd be if he'd been elected President.

And before anyone gets on my case about being an elitist, I'm the son of a former union auto worker from a company who manufactured parts for the Big 3.  He was forced into retirement a few years ago when his plant in Saginaw closed.  I've lived though two strikes.  They aren't happy times for the families of auto workers.  I also now own a Honda Civic Hybrid that I bought used.  It's the first foreign car that I've ever owned.  I hated to buy a car with a foreign name, but it was the moral choice.  And dad approves.


[ Parent ]
Shirt shopping with Pop (4.00 / 2)
A decade ago, my Mom decides I need to take my Pop shopping for new shirts.  Now, Pop was an autoworker from Flint.  So, on the rare occassions when he must wear a tie, I have to tie it for him (a previous girlfriend taught me).  At any rate, Pop and I are shopping for shirts.

Now, Pop is a union man.  So, we can't buy anything unless its made in America.  I try to explain that the exportation of textile jobs from the Carolinas to Asia will make that difficult.  Pop doesn't say anything, he just gives me "the look".  Ok, fine, we're buyin' American.

Four hours later, Pop (who friggin' hates shopping, which is why my Mom made me do this) is ready to go back to Viet Nam and finish business.  Big problem: Mom said come home with shirts.  So, I make my final argument:

Me:  "Pop, this shirt is from Guam.  Did you know that Guam is a U.S. Protectorate?  That's damn near like being a State.  In fact, when Dale Kildee took my seventh grade class on a tour of the Capitol, we saw Guam's seal up on the ceiling right along with Michigan and the other States.  Now Dale Kildee wouldn't lie to us about a thing like that, would he?".

Pop:  (Audible grumbling) "Fine.  Get five of 'em."

Long story short: we have been sending jobs overseas for a very long time.  So, what's better?  The Ford with Asian Honda parts, the Honda assembled in Ohio, or the Volkswagon assembled by German union men and women?  Its not as easy as it used to be.


[ Parent ]
huh? (0.00 / 0)
"So, what's better?  The Ford with Asian Honda parts, the Honda assembled in Ohio, or the Volkswagon assembled by German union men and women?  Its not as easy as it used to be.

These are false choices.  Even Mexican-built Ford Fusions have American made engines and transmissions.  (Made in Michigan and Ohio BTW)

Not all Honda's are made in Ohio, and some, like the CRV have less than 10% American parts.

Most VW's sold in the U.S. are made in Mexico, not Germany.

It's no that hard.  Just read the sticker.


[ Parent ]
what happens when (4.00 / 3)
what happens when a foreign maker or supplier gives you a job?  should my wife have turned down the job she's had for 10 years and waited for the hiring freezes to end at the big 3 when she got out of college?

i won't go further down the tangent in LL's personal diary here, but to say that sometimes things ain't black and white.  a foreign company puts food on my table, and on the tables of thousands of metro detroiters.

Did you exchange a walk-on part in the war for a lead role in a cage?
The PhiKapBlog


[ Parent ]
Don't blame anyone for working for a foreign company... (4.00 / 2)
...unfortunately, there isn't a job like your wife's created for every one we lose elsewhere.

[ Parent ]
This is our fault. (4.00 / 1)
Liberal Lucy's post on the impact of job losses on her family hit home for me.  In 1990, as I was getting ready to start my first year in college, my Dad lost his job.  He didn't directly work for an auto company or supplier, but he held one of those jobs created due to the presence of the auto industry.  He sold the steel that makes up auto plants and other industrial applications.  When the big-three stopped adding onto buildings, his 28 years of experience was no longer needed.  The company soon went out of business.

I think Liberal Lucy's family predicament shows why as Democrats we must support the American auto industry.  Before you rush to call me protectionist, (as if that's a bad thing) jingoistic, or worse, bear with me.  In my mind, you cannot be for better health care, a good retirement, quality education, high paying jobs, lifting people out of poverty, or a strong tax base, without being pro-American autos.  

In my family we were taught that our civic duty included two things:  
One, we voted.
Two, we bought American cars.

The part that makes my blood boil on this situation is the lack of understand of why we got the where we are today.  The average person doesn't get it, nor does McCain or Obama.  Everyone has their own theories about it, mostly blaming either the stupidity of the American big-three CEO's, or the greed of the UAW for the continued decline of the auto industry, but in my opinion, most of the blame lies with the consumer and with the U.S. Government.

Unfortunately, few Michiganders or Americans really understand the perfect storm of  economic conditions that have brought us to where we are today.   We have heard it before: American producers struggle with legacy costs, including health care and pensions for retirees, older infrastructure, higher wages, and a weak housing market.  But these are not the only problems.

We have all bought into the notion that we now live in a "global economy" and that buying imported products doesn't impact our lives.  While the American market may be a global market, the globe isn't our marketplace.  Our products do not have the same access to other markets as we provide to them.  The fact is the market share of imported (American) cars in the Japanese and other foreign markets still hovers in single digit percentages.  There are many reasons for this, some economic, some legal and some social, but our huge trade deficit demonstrates further proof of the problem.

Why is this important?
*Japanese car-makers, (the ones kicking our butts) can distribute the research and development costs of their products -- especially less profitable, smaller cars -- over a much, much larger marketplace.  
*Japanese car makers enjoy a profitable marketplace, free of foreign competition, so their profits rise, enabling car sales in the U.S. to be subsidized by these profits.  The Japanese market is one of the largest car markets in the word.  Up until recently, it was number two until the Chinese market bumped it to number three.  The Japanese market is not alone in its protectionism, there are similar barriers to the Korean market, and Lansing-built Cadillac's still face stiff tariff's when imported into China.

As the American car market has finally started to embrace smaller cars, I regularly hear Americans complain that American car companies make less of an effort in the small car market.  The fact is, we have created a market were small cars are not profitable.  

Despite what people think, even super-efficient Toyota has struggled recently to make profit on its smaller cars, which is why they have 6 models of SUV's on sale and why their newest plant produces full-sized trucks.  Even most auto insiders agree that the Prius, Toyota's famous Hybrid has not likely made a profit.  Americans see small cars as econo-boxes.  That is just the way the market has been. Had the American companies invested more in small cars when the market was demanding profitable SUV's, the shareholders would have beheaded the CEO's.

Other Governments around the world protect their vital industries because they know they provide great jobs for their people, but Wall Street economists have made "protectionism" a bad word.  I don't believe that globalization is a natural phenomenon that is an unavoidable situation impacting our lives.  This is a man-made phenomenon.  I also believe that we can protect our vital industries and still participate in a global economy.  Other countries are showing us how it is done.  

In the past, people who have complained about this one-way trade policy have been called out-of-touch, protectionist, "Japan-bashers", or even racist, but this isn't an indictment on Japan, or anyone outside our borders.  It is an indictment on American consumers and our Government.  It is time to wake up and demand that our government enact trade policies that protect our jobs as much as other governments protect their own instead of pointing fingers at workers, engineers and CEOs.


What is an American car? (0.00 / 0)
What is an American car anymore?  The days are long gone when it was easy to identify a car with an American name, assembled by American workers from parts made in American with American steel by a company whose shareholders are at least majority Americans.

I'm not sure what type of trade policies you're talking about.  We do need fair trade policies with equal labor safety, environmental, tax, duty, goverment subsidizations requirements, etc.  But protectionism, where we actually attempt to restrict even fair trade, lowers a nation's standard of living.  If we're going to do it to protect American automobile jobs in Michigan, why not enact the same policies for the garment industry in North Carolina, sugar producers in Florida or any other industry?  Making free trade fairer makes sense.  Protectionism does not.


[ Parent ]
Brady: (0.00 / 0)
"But protectionism, where we actually attempt to restrict even fair trade, lowers a nation's standard of living."

If you haven't noticed, this "free trade" thing is killing our standard of living.  What I want to know is why you would think it is free trade when it is a one-way street?

I support two-way trade, such as trade with Canada, where our open boarders benefit both countries.  While I don't support the lack of workers rights and environmental laws, I prefer trade with Mexico than with Japan.  At least cars and trucks made here are being sold there.

My basic point is: We should boycott Japanese products until they start buying ours.

Maybe you are one of those people who want to pretend that the foreign brands support jobs here, so it doesn't mater, but I wil try to address your question:

"What is an American car anymore?"

The Japanese brands are not all made in America.  Over half are still imported and  the models assembled here are made with fewer American components.  

"Detroit's Big 3 derived about 77% of their parts from U.S. and Canadian factories from domestic sources. That compares with slightly less than half for Japanese brands overall, according to the Automotive Trade Policy Council, which represents the domestic manufacturers in trade issues. "  -- USA Today 3/22/07.

Other articles I have read have stated that Japanese cars that are assembled here have American content in the 40% range.  A majority are still assembled in Japan.  The stikers on the cars also bear this out.

Clearly the big-three are more globalized too, but still have a greater U.S. presence. The American car makers still employ many times more Americans than the transplants, in manufacturing, engineering and associated industries.  GM has over 60 plants in the U.S.  Toyota brags about 10.  GM has about 25,000 engineers at their tech center.  Toyota has a few hundred.  Add to that, the fact that the big-three still support over 1 million retired Americans.  

If it has an American nameplate and is assembled in America, in my mind it is an American car.  I prefer the cars with high content, but you cannot win them all.


[ Parent ]
What's wrong with some protectionism? (0.00 / 0)
I'm about as laissez-faire as it gets when the rules are similar between the countries, but I'm not signed on with uberglobalism. I support true free trade. What we have is not true free trade. We're battling subsidies of other countries, and workers who earn $5 a day. Before, we had Fordism where Americans made our products and bought them.

We got a double whammy. We have massive illegal immigration (from many countries, not just Mexico) here where most workers are paid under the table and depressing American and legal immigration salaries. On the same note, other manufacturing jobs are leaving the country to China, India, Pakistan, and Central America for 2 cents a day, or whatever the rate is out there.

Protectionism is not always the solution, but it is when we're fighting companies abroad AND subsidies and massive outsourcing. Protectionism saved the American Motorcycle industry in the early 80's. They rebounded in a big way. Brighton recently opened up a Harley dealer. I see a ton of them out here. With gas prices the way they are today, I'll also be buying a Harley as soon as I can afford it. Saves gas and it's also made in America.

I look at least 5%, if not closer to 10% of our nation's GDP on the brink. I'm not a bailout type, but I look at what's happening (and happened) here, parts of Ohio, Western PA, and Western New York State, along with the textiles down south. I don't have all the solutions, but too much is broke, and the politicians - in both parties - are a major reason why.



"He who would trade liberty for some temporary security, deserves neither liberty nor security" - Benjamin Franklin

Opinions are my own and not that of LCRP


[ Parent ]
LL - I should have predicted this.... (4.00 / 1)
...whenever the choices people make in their auto purchases come up in conversation, it always becomes a fight.

It happens (4.00 / 2)
but you're both right to an extent - we don't know who/what to blame, and right now I'm not even sure that it matters.

I'm just hoping that folks like my dad have enough opportunities to find other work that my parents don't have to worry about losing their home or have all of their savings wiped out.  

I want to change the world, not help people adjust to it. - Millie Jeffrey, MI - National Women's labor and Democratic activist, Presidential Medal of Freedom Recipient


[ Parent ]
Final notes (0.00 / 0)
And then I really have to stop hanging out here and focus on my job. Until you cut out the half dozen little things you do every day that wastes fuel, you don't have the right to criticize anyone for being non-environmentally friendly:

1. What is your thermostat on? Do you have any idea how much you're hurting the environment by keeping your air conditioning blasting at 68 degrees? Do you care? It will take years for the auto industry to re-engineer, retool and manufacture cleaner cars. You can turn your thermostat up today!

2. Running the AC in your car when its only 78 degrees outside? Wasteful x2!!!

3. How fast do you drive? Anything over 55 and you're killing the environment.

4. Oh yeah, and how many of you are 'FLYING' down to Netroots? Talking about hypocritical? 1,000 Hummers driving down to Texas only uses a tiny fraction of the fuel those jumbo jets use. Save the environment and take a bus or a train.


I have parked my car and now use public transportation almost everywhere I go. Yet I - a stubborn non-environmentalist - am probably doing a lot more to help our fuel crisis than many of the people criticizing me on this site.

Just something to think about....

Nothing is easier than solving a problem on the back of the poor. People who don't have lobbyists or clout.


DC (4.00 / 2)
DC has a great mass transit system. Michigan does not. I can't even take a train from Lansing to Detroit...

[ Parent ]
Good points (4.00 / 1)
1. A/C turned off most of the time.

2. I almost never use the A/C

3. Guilty there on the freeway. I try and save trips instead.

4. Haven't been to DC Right roots events, but I prefer driving to flying whenever possible. I don't care for flying. I rather be the pilot and in control.  

Not a bad start for an "evil pollutin' republican". (although I'm an outdoorsman as well)

"He who would trade liberty for some temporary security, deserves neither liberty nor security" - Benjamin Franklin

Opinions are my own and not that of LCRP


[ Parent ]
Ahem... (4.00 / 1)
1.  No AC.  In winter, I close off the upstairs, wear sweaters, and sleep on the couch.

2.  No car.

3.  See #2.

4.  I'm not going.

That said, I have no problem with people flying to Netroots.  There are good reasons why we have passenger airplanes, and it's important to keep the airlines economically viable.  That means people have to fly.  If someone wishes to take the train, and has the time for it, then super-dee-dooper.  If they can't, then I suppose they need to fly.  I totally reject the idea that you must be perfect to criticize.

Among the Trees


[ Parent ]
That's idiotic. (0.00 / 0)
Air travel is far more fuel-efficient per person than traveling by car.

Salon's "Ask the Pilot," Patrick Smith:

The relevant passage:

As for fuel consumption, let's look first at a short trip, from New York to Boston and back again. This flight is slightly under an hour in each direction. A typical aircraft on such a route, an Airbus A320, will consume somewhere around 10,000 pounds or 1,500 gallons of jet fuel over the course of the round trip. Assuming 140 passengers, that's 71 pounds of fuel, or just over 10 gallons per person. A lone occupant making the same trip by car would consume twice those amounts.


[ Parent ]

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