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Author: Subject: Is Obama Getting Ready To Dis A Key Constituency Group?

Maximum Peach





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  posted on 11/16/2008 at 07:03 PM
I was watching Meet the Press this morning, and in their roundtable they were discussing one of the current hot topics: a proposed bailout for the US automakers.

One of the huge problems faced by GM, Ford, & Chrysler is their commitments to unions. Hundreds of thousands of retirees are drawing fat pensions and paid-for-life health benefits, agree-to in years gone by when profits where plentiful and global competitors were distant. Current workers also enjoy benefits typically richer than other non-union autoworkers. The net result is that the US automakers have to price-in a labor component that is far higher per vehicle than their competitors.

Even US-based competitors, like the manufacturing plants of Toyota, Honda, and many others are usually non-union. Hourly wages may be similar, but the burden of pensions and other benefits are more in-line with modern costs. Hence their labor costs - even here in the US - are far lower, allowing them to be more competitive and run economically healthier businesses.

On the near horizon of course are cars from China. If you think Japan and Korea have been tough competitors, wait till China gets in the game.

So the question for Obama is: does he support this bailout or not?

If he does, he throws a bone to the unions that organized so heavily for him. I've heard estimates of $100 million plus that they raised and spent to help him get elected. And of course, they want even more. Many of you have probably heard of the law they want passed that will do away with secret ballots when voting for a union to orgainize at a given business. (Funny enough, they call it the "Employee Free Choice Act", even though it will make public how every worker votes. Not sure where the "freedom" comes from in that...)

If he doesn't go along with it, he obviously risks a lot of potential anger of this group.

So what is he doing? In a telling move, some of you may have noticed he's officially now resigned from the Senate, effective today (11/16).

What does this mean? Without his Senate position, he's removed himself from having to be involved at all. He's not going to be part of the Senate discussion, and not going to have to cast a vote. Essentially, he's ducking the issue.

I have to wonder what his union supporters feel about this.

My opinion is that he's doing the right thing, because a bailout should not be given to these companies. They have done nothing but offer marginal products for decades to consumers, while competitors were obviously working much harder to improve. Why should they get any favors now? They should file chapter 11, which will allow them to restructure and shed many of the problems they are bound to now. Their management should get tossed and replaced with people who can lead in tough times.

This looks to be a real crisis brewing. It will be interesting to see how Obama responds. So far, I've seen no reports about his opinion, pro or con, on this industry.

 

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Maximum Peach



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  posted on 11/16/2008 at 07:09 PM
If we're lucky,maybe Bush will have to deal with this before Obama gets in office.

 

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  posted on 11/16/2008 at 07:46 PM
Here's an interesting article about the situation

http://www.iht.com/articles/2008/11/13/america/13bakerwebcol.php

 

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  posted on 11/17/2008 at 10:49 AM
I tend to agree with Rich on this one...the automakers don't face the uneven playing field that companies competing with China etc do. Japanese and European automakers have simply been better at forecasting consumer preferences and making superior cars.

There's an inherent bias against US cars that perhaps needs reexamining, but that isn't going to save them.

Unlike the broad ripples largescale financial services failures would have caused, the pain from an auto Ch 11 will be far more localized.

 

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  posted on 11/17/2008 at 11:45 AM
One thing to remember if the automakers go under, it's not just their unionize workers that going to suffer. Many non-unionized workers work in jobs that supply various parts and components that go into the manufactering of these vehicles. The "ripple effect" throughout the industry will be "staggering".

You know the one thing that does "irk" me is how quick many people are to blame to "unionized workers" and labor in general for the high cost which makes American industry uncompetive. If only that was so. Many people fail to take into consideration "trade agreements" that penalize American products entering foreign markers (most of America's trading partners add VAT "value added taxes" and various other tariffs on goods made in USA and imported into their countries, which makes US made products much more expensive in their market. The United States generally doesn't add VAT and tariffs on foreign goods coming into our country, which helps keep the prices on foreign goods low. IMHO, if a "trading partner" decides to add additional taxes and tariffs on U.S. goods coming into the "their" country, then the United States NEEDS to add the very same taxes and tariffs onto the goods they import into our country. Gurantee that would go a "long ways" into leveling the playing field.)

But getting back to "unionized workers". Truth be told, many of these workers, have had to take pay and benefits cuts in their contracts to continue having their jobs. Compare that to management who's salaries and benefit packages have gone through the roof. At one time CEO's pay and benefits packages were 20 time the amount what their workers were getting paid. Nowadays it's not uncommon to find CEO's salaries and benefit packages a 100 to 200 time the amount of pay and benefits that their average worker makes. For quite some time there has been a "two-tier" system of how pay and benefits are paid out in industry. Management for the most part has never had to take any pay or benefits cuts, indeed they and their stockholders seem to get a larger and larger share of profit pie, while labor is suppose to "take it on the chin". Labor as had to shoulder quite a bit of these burdens, so everybody else can "get theirs". BTW, let's not forget how "top heavy" in management many of these companies are. Ain't nothing worse then listen to some CEO who making multi-millions a year, "poor mouthing" how labor cost is killing his company. Start trimming the herd up top, and let some of those "mahogany row" boys take some serious pay and benefits cuts, and you might see more companies being a little more competive.

[Edited on 11/17/2008 by sibwlkr]

 

Zen Peach



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  posted on 11/17/2008 at 11:56 AM
quote:
So what is he doing? In a telling move, some of you may have noticed he's officially now resigned from the Senate, effective today (11/16).

What does this mean? Without his Senate position, he's removed himself from having to be involved at all. He's not going to be part of the Senate discussion, and not going to have to cast a vote. Essentially, he's ducking the issue.



Now we're splitting hairs on when he should resign from the Senate?

 

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True Peach



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  posted on 11/17/2008 at 12:02 PM
quote:
quote:
So what is he doing? In a telling move, some of you may have noticed he's officially now resigned from the Senate, effective today (11/16).

What does this mean? Without his Senate position, he's removed himself from having to be involved at all. He's not going to be part of the Senate discussion, and not going to have to cast a vote. Essentially, he's ducking the issue.



Now we're splitting hairs on when he should resign from the Senate?


Yes, I thought that was a bit odd as well. Here's a newsflash...he's got a new job (yes, being president-elect is a more-than-full time job).

 

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  posted on 11/17/2008 at 12:08 PM
There's an easy solution. Fire all the union workers and hire non-English speaking people to do the work for $8 an hour. No pension, no benefits. Let's get the auto insdustry in a position so it can compete with China.

This strategy has worked marvelously in the home-building industry, keeping housing prices low and affordable.

We might even be able to get to a point where the CEOs can make 1,000 times what the average worker makes. They and their assistants, and lawyers, are the ones doing the real work, right?

I love capitalism!

 

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  posted on 11/17/2008 at 12:17 PM
Ford and GM had a total cash burn of 14.6 Billion dollars last quarter. At that rate, a 50 billion dollar bailout would be gone in about 10 months. That is just the money they are spending in union and legacy costs.

There is no real answer to this one. If you let them go bankrupt, it will cripple our economy, if you give them a bailout, the money will not go to improving the companies. It will go to their pension plans and executive retirement guarantees.

This is a no win situation.

 

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  posted on 11/17/2008 at 12:22 PM
Instead of giving money to auto makers in the form of a bail out, I wonder why there can't be some kind of plan devised where people would get vouchers for a new car instead. The tax payer would be getting something and it would infuse money into the company. However, that being said, I'd make an overhaul of the company's approach to manufactering part of the practice. There isn't any sense in 'bailing' out someone if they're not going to change the way they do business that got them into the mess in the first place.

 

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  posted on 11/17/2008 at 12:24 PM
The main problem is their legacy costs and cash burn. You can't get rid of that without going bankrupt.
 

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  posted on 11/17/2008 at 12:25 PM
They should ask Big Oil for the money.

 

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  posted on 11/17/2008 at 12:27 PM
This is as much our fault as the car makers. I have a Ford Ranger with over 230,000 miles on it, and it has been a wonderful truck. The idea that we can't make good autos here is ridiculous. But American people don't want small, high-mileage vehicles. They want great big SUVs, the bigger the better. The auto industry has responded by supplying them. Isn't that the free market system at work?

 

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  posted on 11/17/2008 at 01:04 PM
Itís not the product; itís the way they have irresponsibly run their companies into the ground. People knew how bad it was for many years. Look at their stock price since 1999. This didnít happen overnight.

http://finance.yahoo.com/echarts?s=GM#chart1:symbol=gm;range=my;indicator=v olume;charttype=line;crosshair=on;ohlcvalues=0;logscale=on;source=undefined

 

Maximum Peach



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  posted on 11/17/2008 at 01:09 PM
This is truly a no win situation. I read where GM has 25,000 to 35,000 parts suppliers in this country. The trickle down would be horrendous.

There's a reason Chrysler was bailed out years ago, now could we expect the same turn around this time? Who knows.

The bottom line is they have to make a product that people want to buy. It is easy to lay blame on the union, but I guess I'm not convinced that is the whole problem. And there probably is 10,000 problems and reasons why the big 3 are in this much trouble.

The precedent has been set on gov't bailouts, the line for help and handouts will continue to grow.

 

Zen Peach



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  posted on 11/17/2008 at 01:32 PM
quote:
I was watching Meet the Press this morning, and in their roundtable they were discussing one of the current hot topics: a proposed bailout for the US automakers.

One of the huge problems faced by GM, Ford, & Chrysler is their commitments to unions. Hundreds of thousands of retirees are drawing fat pensions and paid-for-life health benefits, agree-to in years gone by when profits where plentiful and global competitors were distant. Current workers also enjoy benefits typically richer than other non-union autoworkers. The net result is that the US automakers have to price-in a labor component that is far higher per vehicle than their competitors.

Even US-based competitors, like the manufacturing plants of Toyota, Honda, and many others are usually non-union. Hourly wages may be similar, but the burden of pensions and other benefits are more in-line with modern costs. Hence their labor costs - even here in the US - are far lower, allowing them to be more competitive and run economically healthier businesses.

On the near horizon of course are cars from China. If you think Japan and Korea have been tough competitors, wait till China gets in the game.

So the question for Obama is: does he support this bailout or not?

If he does, he throws a bone to the unions that organized so heavily for him. I've heard estimates of $100 million plus that they raised and spent to help him get elected. And of course, they want even more. Many of you have probably heard of the law they want passed that will do away with secret ballots when voting for a union to orgainize at a given business. (Funny enough, they call it the "Employee Free Choice Act", even though it will make public how every worker votes. Not sure where the "freedom" comes from in that...)

If he doesn't go along with it, he obviously risks a lot of potential anger of this group.

So what is he doing? In a telling move, some of you may have noticed he's officially now resigned from the Senate, effective today (11/16).

What does this mean? Without his Senate position, he's removed himself from having to be involved at all. He's not going to be part of the Senate discussion, and not going to have to cast a vote. Essentially, he's ducking the issue.

I have to wonder what his union supporters feel about this.

My opinion is that he's doing the right thing, because a bailout should not be given to these companies. They have done nothing but offer marginal products for decades to consumers, while competitors were obviously working much harder to improve. Why should they get any favors now? They should file chapter 11, which will allow them to restructure and shed many of the problems they are bound to now. Their management should get tossed and replaced with people who can lead in tough times.

This looks to be a real crisis brewing. It will be interesting to see how Obama responds. So far, I've seen no reports about his opinion, pro or con, on this industry.


I totally agree and Bush should veto any bailout bill. A bailout at this point would be to put a band aid on a sucking chest wound.

 

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Maximum Peach



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  posted on 11/17/2008 at 01:34 PM
Pelosi is pushing for a bailout pretty hard.
 

Zen Peach



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  posted on 11/17/2008 at 01:35 PM
quote:
This is as much our fault as the car makers. I have a Ford Ranger with over 230,000 miles on it, and it has been a wonderful truck. The idea that we can't make good autos here is ridiculous. But American people don't want small, high-mileage vehicles. They want great big SUVs, the bigger the better. The auto industry has responded by supplying them. Isn't that the free market system at work?


That's completely not true. If it were true, Honda and Toyota and Nissan would not be seeling so many Sedans right here in the U.S. Frankly, it's the above belief that has driven GM into the ground. They need to file chapter 11, get out from under their unworkable contracts, come up with an entirely new business model and THEN seek cash from the government if necessary. And I am speaking as someone who has owned three Chevy's in a row and am happy with them.

 

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  posted on 11/17/2008 at 01:45 PM
Here are some numbers from the GM website for October '08 sales...fullsize pickups outselling all other models BY FAR:

Chevrolet Malibu retail sales were up 129 percent. For the month, Malibu total sales reached nearly 11,000 vehicles. For the year, Malibu retail sales have totaled nearly 98,000 cars, up 134 percent from year-ago figures.

The all-new Pontiac Vibe recorded a 6 percent total sales increase in October. Almost 42,000 Vibes have been sold this year, up 36 percent from the prior year.

Saab retail sales were up 7.4 percent compared with a year ago, driven by the strong retail performance of the 9-3, which was up more than 16 percent.

GM sold 44,500 Chevrolet Silverado, GMC Sierra and Chevrolet Avalanche fullsize pickups in October, further solidifying its segment leadership.

GM hybrids continue to build sales momentum and the company has broken through the 10-thousand vehicle sales mark. A total of 1,496 hybrid vehicles were delivered in the month. Hybrid sales included: 372 hybrid Chevrolet Tahoe, 193 GMC Yukon and 230 Cadillac Escalade 2-mode SUVs delivered. There were 325 Chevrolet Malibu, 22 Saturn Aura and 354 Vue hybrids sold in October. GM has sold 10,549 hybrids so far in 2008.

 

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  posted on 11/17/2008 at 02:12 PM
It appears like "emergency loans" to the Big Three are a done deal, they are just arguing where the money will come from.
 

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  posted on 11/17/2008 at 03:21 PM
I watched the 60 Minutes interview with BO last night, and sure enough they asked about the automaker bailout. He didn't say much of substance - though it probably unfair to expect much of him on this subject yet. He agreed that something needed to be done, but also said that a blanket bailout would not be the way to go. Any action would have to be attached to a plan of what they will do to restructure.

That sounds like chapter 11 to me.

I just gotta believe there's some serious back-channel pleas being fielded from the UAW leadership, as well as Michigan politicians, right now.

I always find it interesting when news anchors or newpapers highlight the struggling US auto industry. The truth is that the US auto industry has done very well in the last 20 years. It's just that GM, Ford, Chrysler, and the UAW have been doing badly - the rest have been expanding rapidly.

 

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Zen Peach



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  posted on 11/17/2008 at 05:16 PM
but the burden of pensions and other benefits are more in-line with modern costs

Under ERISA laws governing traditional pension funds and new accounting requirements, those benefits should be funded for folks who have retired. It would be interesting to see what they have done with that. You just gave me a new research project.

Most American companies and a lot of governments have done away with traditional pensions because of the cost, and replaced them with 401(k)'s which of course are not guaranteed and not in very good shape now.

I think Obama and Biden did the right thing by resigning their Senate seats. New senators have to be appointed to fill them. It would not be right, in my opinion, for Obama and Biden to vote on any bailouts. It seems like a conflict of interests to me. Obama does support some type of financial aid for the American auto industry.

My first car when I was 22 years old was a red Fiat convertible. I wanted to impress my boyfriend who later became my husband. Since then (many years) I have bought only American made cars. I kept a 1984 Buick for ten years and then gave it to my nephew. I had a Mercury Sable I kept for five years, then gave it to my daughter, who drove it for several years and then sold it. I have had two Chysler Concords and kept them for five years and then sold one and gave one to my daughter. I liked the big American cars and felt safer driving I-95 for an hour each way to work. I have a new car now. My first Japanese car, an Avalon, which is as large as most American cars. and still gets good mileage. I bought a new car, first to travel in retirement and second because my daughter needed a car, and I gave my Chysler to her.

As for blaming union workers, that is just plain wrong. Those to blame are the designers and top management who decided what to build and apparently didn't provide enough quality control. My Dad was a member of the Iron Workers Union.

 

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  posted on 11/18/2008 at 09:44 AM
Thank You and AMEN, Pat Buchanan.

quote:
As GM Goes, So Goes the GOP
by Patrick J. Buchanan

Understandably, Republicans are seething.

When Hank Paulson demanded $700 billion to haul away the trash in the dumpsters of JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs -- assuring us we could hold a garage sale of the junk -- they rebelled. They acted as the nation, by 100 to one, demanded. They killed the Wall Street bailout.

The Dow quickly sank another 1,000 points, and, charged with criminal irresponsibility by the elites, the GOP buckled, reversed itself, rescued the bailout -- and was wiped out on Nov. 4.

Now we hear from Paulson that the $700 billion Congress voted will not, after all, be used to buy up all that rotten paper on the books of the big banks. Some banks are using the cash to buy other banks.

So Republicans are right to be enraged. They are victims of the biggest bait-and-switch in political history. But they are now about to do something terminally stupid. With GM, Ford and Chrysler teetering on the brink, they are turning a cold stone face to Detroit and are about to follow the counsel of that quintessential Bushite Dick Darman, who said of our computer chip industry, "If our guys can't hack it, let 'em go."

America responded -- by letting George H.W. Bush and Darman go.

Are Republicans aware of what they are about to do?

When workers, execs, engineers, dealers, salesmen and suppliers are all factored in, the Big Three employ 3 million people who contribute $21 billion a year to Social Security and Medicare, and $25 billion in federal income taxes. Add in all the businesses that depend on the auto industry, and we are talking about one-tenth of the U.S. labor force.

As columnist Tom Piatak of Chronicles and Takimag.com writes, 850,000 retirees, and their families, depend for pensions and health care on the Big Three. If they go under, the burden falls on us.

And to let the auto industry die is to write America out of much of the economic future of the planet.

In a good year, like 2005, Americans buy more than 17 million new cars, and West Europeans as many. Tens of millions in Eastern Europe, Russia, China, India and Southeast Asia are now moving into the middle class each year. These folks will all need or want one or two family cars. If we let the U.S. auto industry die, that immense and burgeoning market will be lost forever to America, and ceded to Asia.

"Who cares?" comes the free-traders' reply. Japanese and Koreans are setting up factories here. They can pick up the slack.

But that means Americans will work for and depend on foreign companies for a necessity of our national life as vital as the imported oil and gas on which our cars and trucks operate. All the profits of the mighty automobile industry in America will be sent abroad.

Before Republicans follow this free-trade fanaticism to their final interment, they might study the results of a poll by Peter Hart:

-- Seventy-eight percent of Americans believe the U.S. auto industry is highly or extremely important. Three percent think we can do without it.

-- Ninety percent of Americans believe the death of the U.S. auto industry would do great damage to our economic future.

-- By 55 percent to 30 percent, Americans favor federal loans to save it. And by 64 percent to 25 percent Americans back President-elect Obama's resolve not to let the U.S. auto industry go under.

If the GOP blocks these loans, and the industry dies, the party can forget about Ohio, Michigan and the industrial Midwest. For the Reagan Democrats will never come home again. Nor should they.

By the choices we make, we define ourselves and reveal what we truly care about. Thus, consider:

We bail out the New York and D.C. governments of Abe Beame and Marion Barry. We bail out a corrupt Mexico. We bail out public schools that have failed us for 40 years.

We bail out with International Monetary Fund and World Bank loans and foreign aid worthless Third World regimes.

We bail out Wall Street plutocrats and big banks.

But the most magnificent industry, the auto industry that was the pride of America and envy of the world, we surrender to predator-traders from Asia and Europe, lest we violate the tenets of some 19th-century ideological scribblers that the old Republicans considered the apogee of British stupidity.

Nancy Pelosi is talking about tying loans to a restructuring of the industry. But Congress is not competent to do that.

What needs to be restructured is the U.S. tax-and-trade regime.

Dump globalism. Instruct Japan, Canada, Korea, Germany and China that if they wish to sell cars here, they will assemble them here and produce the parts here. And we shall have the same free access to and same share of their auto market as they have of ours.

To accomplish this, use the same import quotas and tariffs Ronald Reagan used to save the steel industry and Harley-Davidson.

Reciprocal trade. Even Democrats like FDR used to practice it.


 

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  posted on 11/18/2008 at 10:00 AM
Our government can not keep throwing cash at the problem. You gotta fix the problem. They need to file chapter 11, get rid of all the screwed up contracts, start over fresh. Why should the American taxpayer foot the bill? If your in business, you gotta make a profit, no profits, no business. Its pretty simple. I know it affects a lot of jobs, but in the long run it could create more jobs. They have to get rid of the load that is breaking their backs.

 

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  posted on 11/18/2008 at 10:15 AM
quote:
What needs to be restructured is the U.S. tax-and-trade regime.

Dump globalism. Instruct Japan, Canada, Korea, Germany and China that if they wish to sell cars here, they will assemble them here and produce the parts here. And we shall have the same free access to and same share of their auto market as they have of ours.

To accomplish this, use the same import quotas and tariffs Ronald Reagan used to save the steel industry and Harley-Davidson.

Reciprocal trade. Even Democrats like FDR used to practice it.


The United States government and their buddies on Wall Street have destroyed American industry, and they have done so by enacting "trade agreements" that enriched countries like China and India, but at the same time "closing their eyes" to trade practices these countries have enacted that essentially keep American goods out of their countries. That's PURE BS, basically any "trade agreement" that the United States has with any other country MUST BE RECIPROCAL. Hopefully, the Obama Administration will take a "long look" at these agreements and make sure that these agreement are written in such a way, that American goods can compete fairly on the world market.

 
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