Thursday, December 04, 2008

The Road to Perdition

Lawmakers skeptical as automakers again seek aid
Thursday December 4, 2008 -- Associated Press

Automakers plead with Congress for expanded $34B rescue package, but hear fresh skepticism

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Humbled U.S. automakers pleaded with Congress Thursday for an expanded $34 billion rescue package, but heard fresh skepticism in a bumpy encore appearance. "We made mistakes, which we're learning from," General Motors chief executive Rick Wagoner told the Senate Banking Committee.

Rick Wagoner says GM is learning from its mistakes. But the pace at which GM is learning is so slow it's time to put GM in Special Ed. When he speaks of learning, Rick Wagoner wants us to believe that he's referring to GM's operational mistakes and how Labor and Management fell into a mutually destructive relationship that has brought the company to the edge of collapse. But it's a lot more likely he's subtly referring to the company's approach to extracting money from taxpayers. He's now angry with himself for flying into D.C. on a company jet a couple of weeks ago, burning thousands of gallons of fuel hopping 500 miles from Detroit to D.C. to tell lawmakers the company hopes to build electric cars using no gas at all -- someday. And, as for profits, well, who knows? Someday, yeah, maybe the company will earn a buck. But it's way too soon to estimate when that will happen.

Meanwhile, Management may have lost touch with a lot of car buyers. But Labor has lost touch with reality. Ron Gettelfinger shows us how.

United Auto Worker union President Ron Gettelfinger warned bluntly that in the absence of action by Congress: "I believe we could lose General Motors by the end of this month." He said the situation was dire and that time was of the essence.

He speaks of GM as though it's a patient who is the victim of some disease curable only by actions taken by everyone except the patient. He speaks as though the cure is in the hands of taxpayers, including people who do not own cars or drive, and that those who possess the cure should, out of some moral sense, give freely to the ailing patient.

It has not occurred to Ron and the United Auto Workers that they are GM. That, individually and collectively, they are healthy. It is Ron and the union workers who possess the cure. They are the cure. They can administer it to themselves. They know what it is, but they do not want to admit they know. The truth is simple and painful. But if they admit they know, then they are also admitting they have ripped off car buyers for years, for decades.

How suicidal is their impulse? Will they stick to their delusional expectation of high wages and deluxe benefits long enough to see it all collapse? Or will Ron and the UAW membership awaken from their dream in time to save the industry and themselves from their own folly?

Several lawmakers in both parties, including Christopher Dodd of CT, have pressed the automakers in recent days to consider a so-called "pre-packaged" bankruptcy in which they would negotiate with creditors in advance and downsize, then file for Chapter 11 protection in hopes of emerging quickly as stronger companies. The Big Three have publicly shunned the notion, but executives have indicated in recent days that it might ultimately be necessary.

Gettelfinger told the committee, "We are prepared to do our part." But he also said workers for the auto companies shouldn't have to make disproportionate sacrifices.

Gettelfinger seems to have lost his mind. Is there any sense to his notion that the employees who are the essence of the auto industry are the people who should feel no pain? Of course they should sacrifice. And they should sacrifice disproportionately. It's their futures at stake. Not the future of the nation. Do they care about their futures? Or not? The only proof of caring they can offer is cutting their pay and benefits to the bone. If they are willing to cut enough, the Detroit car companies will survive. If not, the companies and the employees will pass through a chaotic period that will lead to a far more troubled downsizing. At this point, the outlook for Detroit is grim.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home