Diary

With love, from Michigan. I hope you know sarcasm when you see it.

Although this post took extensive editing to remove unpublishable language, I’m not about to pull any punches in content.  I also have a first-rate flame suit so don’t worry about biting your tongue either.  I am just astounded by the ignorance of the arguments against the “auto bailout.”  Now that I have 49 out of every 50 of you fired up, here’s how we see it in Michigan.

First of all, thanks for throwing Michigan under the bus.  Feel better now?  Well, here are some thoughts from the red-headed step-child. the State of Michigan.

I think I can save a lot of typing, and you, a lot of reading, by stating some of our feelings in the form of questions.  So, here goes.

To the pundit who said he will boycott American cars if the auto companies get the bailout money: Are you going to run your life on cash now?  Under that logic, I can only assume that you are already boycotting American banks, right?

Is it ironic that Michigan is thrown under the bus for its auto industry, but we have heard little disgust for New York.  Isn’t that where Wall Street is located?  Aren’t the crooks that stopped auto-loan credit located in New York?  Aren’t the politicians who looked the other way, while getting money from AIG, in Washington D.C.?  Isn’t it Illinois that put 4 of their last 5 Governors in prison?

Here are some questions asked of the auto industry, that aren’t asked of you.  (I’ll paraphrase)  If we give you the “bailout” to rebuild from Katrina, are you going to be back next year asking for more?  How about this one?  Hey, if your town gets taxpayer bailouts every time floods destroy your homes, do you think you should build somewhere else?  Or….If you’re building in the heart of Tornado Alley, should taxpayers bail you out when you’re declared a Disaster Area?  Are you going to be asking for another handout the next time a tornado comes through? (tsk, tsk)  Then there is…Why are you asking for aid every time that tinder box you built in the woods, burns to the ground?  How about that house you built along the fault line?

If the U.S. taxpayer sends Federal aid to the same flood plane, year after year, is that “throwing good money after bad?”

Why is it that helping an area with a natural disaster is non-partisan, yet helping Michigan with an economic disaster is partisan, with virtually every Republican against the auto industry bailout?

Why did no one ask Wall Street banks to “guarantee” they will pay back their bailout?

Why do the auto makers have to change their business model to get a loan, but no one asks people to stop building homes along earthquake faults?

Where is all the wage data coming from?  NBC began reporting that UAW workers were making $100 an hour.  Someone should have told the people that were earning it, because they didn’t realize it.  Then it was lowered to $75 an hour, then $45 an hour.  And it was never reported that these were NOT wages but wages and benefit costs.  Eventually, the reports got to $38 an hour, then $28 an hour.  When that took most of the steam out of trying to turn the public against the factory workers, the new argument was that northern workers made $10 an hour more than southern auto factory workers.  Ah, to inflame the situation, again, they failed to note qualifications, cost of living, education, job difficulty, etc.  This is how “smart” the argument against Detroit is?  If you believed that, how about this example?  I know a realtor in Ohio who earns $500,000 a year.  I know a realtor in Mississippi who earns $40,000 a year.  Is the Ohio realtor overpaid?  Oh, you mean I might be comparing apples to oranges?  You bet.  And that’s how utterly stupid the north vs. south argument is!

I think the thing that most Michiganders are frustrated by is the people in the other 49 states who have not learned a new fact about the auto industry in 20 years.  We see ancient data, 20-year old stereotypes, and perceptions which lag reality by 10 years.

Just so you don’t sound like a complete idiot the next time you talk to a Michigander, here are some current facts:

The most efficient engine plant in North America is the Chysler plant in Dundee, Michigan.  This claim is substantiated by the manufacturing industry standard, Harbour Report.  Ninety per cent of the employees are not High School dropouts, like in the 1950’s.  Ninety per cent of the hourly employees (UAW) are college graduates.  Yes, they are.

Most of the financial trouble the auto companies are in is due to the fact that they did not set aside the retirement money they KNEW they would need for retiring workers.  Now the legacy costs can’t be met due to the downturn in sales.  Current UAW workers have low retirement packages, so who is the media talking about when they say the UAW “is” hurting the auto companies?  It is the work force that “used” to work for the auto companies.  A typical current, hourly, Chrysler worker will receive $50 a month, per year of service.  Try working in one of the factories for 25 years and have people tell you that your $15,000 a year retirement is killing the auto industry.

Here is some irony we love in Michigan.  The Wall Street crooks who started this mess got hundreds of billions of bailout money.  And companies like AIG promptly spent millions of it on vacations for their executives who ran the companies into the ground.  Yet the auto industry, largely responsible for 1 in every 10 jobs in this country, is asking for 14 billion dollars.  My calculator says that’s 2% of the “bailout” money.  Two fricking per cent of the bailout for the industry that contributes 1 in 10 jobs, and was a victim, not the source, of the Wall Street failure.

 Why the auto companies and not YOUR company?  That’s what seems to bother most of you.  Well, thanks to the same media that told you Obama was the best man for President, they called this the auto bailout.  We are bailing out America.  And if you’re going to do that with a finite amount of money, you attempt to put it where it will do the most good.  You do the banks.  You do the auto industry responsible for 1 in 10 jobs.  And you go down the line spending the bailout until it is gone.  You rescue as many “numbers” you can. 

Many people remind me of a boxer who is all mouth about his opponent until he enters the ring.  Well, you just work against bailing out the auto industry.  And the economic tsunami will be at your door, no matter where you work.

The dumbest question I hear on a regular basis is, “If we give the auto companies the loan, will they be back in 3 months for more money?”  Gee, Mr. Einstein, wouldn’t that depend on car sales?  Do you want to GUARANTEE the auto companies succeed and pay back every cent of your 2% of the bailout?  Uh, then buy an American car.

Other great remarks for the Stupidity Hall of Fame include, “Let them declare bankruptcy.  The airlines did it.  Some factory of 50 people in Wisconsin did it.  My cousin Pete did it, and he’s still alive.”  The example of the airlines is definitely apples and oranges.  People, the difference is that one is a service, the other is a product.  Duh!  And mini-factories in Wisconsin don’t compare to the scale of American auto makers.  What would be a “righteous” example?  There isn’t one.  There is no precedent or any example, so stop trying to justify your argument with absurd comparisons, outdated stereotypes, and made up hyperbole about the unions wages.

Just because some Bozo in the media keeps saying, “Foreign auto makers are making money, why can’t the American companies do the same?”  This is why brain-dead newsmen should do more than read the news off the prompter.  Why is it that so many listen to this and disengage their brains?  Okay, here we go again, education, Michigan style.  Their factories are NEW.  Soon their costs will spike with maintenance and repairs.  This will be added to your Toyota.  As their work force matures, THEY will begin paying their “legacy” costs.  This will be tacked on to your Honda.  When the economy improves, their work forces will bargain for parity in pay.  This will be added to your Suzuki.

How does public perception lag so many years behind reality?  Detroit dropped the ball.  When their cars equalled or exceeded Japanese quality, people were conditioned to believe the Japanese cars were without equal.  Erroneously.

Many American cars exceed Japanese quality.  Japanese steel was so inferior, they couldn’t possibly have survived building cars without buying American steel.  American companies haven’t put a lot of novelty hybrids on the road because there is little infrastructure in place to fuel or recharge one.  They aren’t practical, even today, to make en masse.  Many of the hybrids don’t get any better mileage than gasoline-only counterparts.  Check it out.  And do you think the electricity to charge ten 12-volt car batteries each night won’t raise your electric bill a few hundred dollars a month?  Do you think America can support 150 million cars charging their batteries each night?  You’d better buy that nuclear reactor do-it-yourself kit while supplies last.

You know, the American car companies were damn slow to respond.  But the a-holes that keep saying the auto companies will fail are only saying that Americans won’t buy American cars.  Let me repeat myself…Duh!  American companies will survive, and thrive, if Americans give them a chance.  American car companies have generated jobs for hundreds of millions of Americans since they began.  In their history, the trillions of dollars they made, stayed, and circulated throughout America.  Over 90% of American auto sales money, STAYS in America.  Less than 20% of Japanese auto sales stays in America.

NEW American factories run on 10% of the work force that the old factories did.  Factories to be built will do even better.  American cars are every bit as good as their foreign counterparts.  Auto factories re-tool to build Jeeps, tanks, boats, and aircraft for any war effort.  American auto companies and the UAW have been extremely generous, donating tens of millions to charity.  They sponsor schools and thousands of sports teams.  The UAW workers donate thousands upon thousands of liters of blood.

These are good, decent, hard-working American workers.  Contrary to what you may be hearing, they are definitely not overpaid.  The cars are very good and the companies are worth saving.  So are the millions of jobs that benefit you in countless ways you couldn’t imagine.

I have a lot more to say, so fire away.  I just polished my flame suit.  I’ll end with one last thought.  In the past hundred years, Michigan has helped in every disaster America has seen.  We don’t have droughts, floods, many tornados, any hurricanes, or earthquakes.  But every time YOU do, we don’t hesitate to help.  We’ve stepped up in every war.  Auto sales were a huge part of the prosperity America enjoyed for a century.  Well, America.  Now we’re asking for your help.  A loan will do nothing but buy us time.  We need you to at least consider buying an American automobile.