Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Those Short-Sighted Sons a' Bitches

More on the Big 3 soon, but for now...

Let's imagine for a second that we just accept that the Big 3 automakers are struggling because they can't compete in the auto marketplace largely because they are saddled with high labor costs. Let's all pretend that we'd run out and buy a Chevy Aveo tomorrow, if only it wasn't a piece of shit, because if GM didn't have to pay some retired guy's health care, they'd be made of the best materials, would get 70 miles to the gallon, have a suspension, crumple zones, and all that other bullshit that Japanese and European car makers cram their cars with. When I think about the super car of tomorrow I could be driving if it weren't for some 60-year-old hump with a bad back driving up the cost of American cars, oh it just gets my blood a' boiling. For fuck sake, disks were made to bulge! That's what they do!

Alright, so high labor cost is just killing Ford. Not a fleet of cars no one wants to buy, that's not the problem. We all want to drive an Expedition, that's a given. That's pure American power right there. That's a car you take the kids and the dogs and the grandma out for a nice American picnic in. Maybe on the forth of July. Fourteen miles in the city? My old Granada only got like twelve, so that's a 16% improvement right there. But we can't afford it, you and I. We can't afford $32K base price. Why? High cost of labor. That Expedition would cost something like $8,000, if only Ford had the same labor costs as Toyota. There goes my blood again.

But that's not my point. As long as we can agree that labor costs are whats killing the Big 3, I think we're good. Don't get me started on the so-called tightening credit market. I don't even know what that means. You sell me a Chrysler 300 for $14,000 on a zero interest loan, there's a 62% chance I'll make the payments on time. So it's labor that's the problem. Agreed.

I still don't understand why we got to blame UAW for this. Why the invective directed towards unionized autoworkers. How the fuck can it be the hump with the bad back's problem that the Big 3 automakers offered him lifetime health care when he put in his 30? How the fuck can it be the worker's fault that GM offered him a big pension in lieu of higher wages (or, possibly more to the point, any say in what kind or how cars are made in the US)? Auto workers are called "greedy," "short-sighted," and, in less complimentary circles "communist bastards that are destroying this nation." I provide no links because I'm lazy and I made that last one up. But you all know what I am saying. All of this is UAW's fault.

I wouldn't care what the free marketeers are saying, except this seems to be the common opinion of the proverbial man on the street. Not just Charlie Wallstreet or Joe Sixpack, but every-fucking-body. Everyone knows that UAW priced themselves right out of the market and destroyed the greatest American corporations since US Steel, which, as we know, unions also destroyed.

Here's the thing though, who the fuck could anyone at UAW have possibly predicted what would happen in the US auto market in the last forty years? Obviously no one, or we wouldn't fucking be here. Instead, it is blithly assumed that the current economic crisis is the logical outcome of agreeing to pay retiree health care and pensions. If UAW hadn't been so greedy and short-sighted (and communist!), the Big 3 would be doing fine. I mean the UAW should totally have anticipated incompetent management, free trade, and a housing market collapse. Duh.

Here's how it should have gone circa 1965, so that we all could have avoided this mess.

Big Labor Boss (addressing autoworkers at a union meeting): Well boys, the Big 3 are raking in millions of dollars in profits. People love the fuck out of those Chevy Impalas. Now, I've heard a lot of you call from a return of the fins. Look, I love the fins as much as the next red-blooded American, but they ain't coming back. Let it go boys. Obviously cars are getting smaller these days and we're just going to have to accept that. What we lack in size, we'll make up for in horsepower, am I right?!

Where was I, ah yes, millions and millions in profits. Now the management has come to us with proposals where they would continue to fund our pensions and health and all that, but they want to keep the wages within reason. It looks pretty fucking sweet, but I gotta recommend we turn this offer down.

(Cheers and calls of "Fight, fight fight!")

BLB: Whoa, there boys! Don't misunderstand me. We gotta turn this deal down because it's too fucking sweet.

(Boos and calls of "Huh, huh, huh?")

BLB: That's right, too fucking sweet. Sure everything is going pretty great for auto makers and America right now. Hell, we're kings of the fucking world people, but it ain't gonna last. Nope, there are some dark fucking times ahead. Right now, even as I address this crowd, there are men in the Pentagon that are plotting to seize on the flimsiest of evidence that the North Vietnamese attacked our brave sailors in Vietnam. This will widen a war against a determined guerrilla foe. The widening war with cause a cultural rift that right-wingers will be able to frighten most of you with for the next four decades. I'm telling you right now, your granddaughters will marry Negroes and your grandsons will be queers. Our eventual defeat in Vietnam will send the nation into a existential funk. Our apparent military vulnerability will be exploited by OPEC which will -- hey, hey, calm down people. Give me a minute here. I know what the fuck I am saying -- OPEC is going to embargo oil. Embargo. This will lead to people wanting to drive small, fuel efficient cars.

(Laughter)

BLB: No, I'm fucking serious. First it will be a company called Datsun, which will eventually be called Nissan, but that's neither here nor there. Toyota will kick all of our asses. Fuck, even the Koreans will take us to school. I shit you not.

Ted: BLB, won't we start making small cars too? Better cars? More efficient, better built? We are the fucking best labor force in the world!

BLB: Afraid not, Ted, although I appreciate your support for my seemingly insane prediction of the future. Nope, we'll continue to build the same large cars because that's what Americans want, even if it's not what they'll buy. We want Americans to feel good about us, even if the word "nostalgia" increasingly creeps into the conversation. Nope, we'll respond by launching a campaign of vilifying the Middle East as a whole, which will have some pretty fucking interesting consequences down the road, and we'll open up a can of anti-Japanese propaganda that will come in handy for the steel and timber industries as well. It won't work, but it will certainly feel good.

Ted: But certainly our political allies will help us! They'll keep foreign cars out of the market with high tariffs!

BLB: We will have no political allies. Remember that cultural rift I mentioned? Enough of you will be so afraid of the queers and the women (oh jesus, the women) that you'll vote Republican.

(Cries of "Never! Never!")

BLB: Oh, you'll vote Republican alright. You'll vote Republican enough that even the Democrats will come to believe in something called "free trade." Free trade basically means that there will be no protection for American workers. You'll be competing with the world when it comes to wages and benefits.

Ted: Why would American workers sell themselves down the river like that?

BLB: Cheap socks.

Ted: I rise to call for a vote of no confidence in BLB.

(Cries of "Here, here!")

BLB: Seriously. As products are increasingly made anywhere but the United States, they'll be cheaper. As the US loses it's manufacturing base, wages will decline and it's all you'll be able to afford. Soon enough "cheap goods" will become your mantra. Fuck, part of the culture war will be aimed at convincing you that anyone that wants you to buy an America made product that will last more than four months is a communist bastard out to destroy your way of life.

(Cries of "Second!")

BLB: Let me finish, it gets better. Our demonization of all-things Middle East will lead to a rise in Islamic conservativism. Our continued meddling in the region will eventually lead to a rise in Islamic terrorism...look I'm leaving a lot out here people...that will, in turn, lead us to launching an unprovoked war of choice in a place called Iraq. This will lead to a destabilizing of the world oil market, which will send the price of oil through the roof.

This war will combine with a collapsing economy in the US. You see, you fucks will continue to vote for Republicans because Jesus tells you to. Those Republicans will continue to do exactly what Republicans do, they will run this country in the interest of the wealthy few. They will cut taxes on the rich

("Cut taxes in a time of war? You're fucking crazy!")

they will cut taxes on the rich, which the rich will use to speculate in the real estate market. The market will become inflated enough that banks will be giving loans to people who obviously cannot afford to pay them back because someone has to buy a wildly overpriced house, am I right?

("You're fucking crazy!")

As the housing market collapses, we'll come to discover the whole fucking economy was based on a house of cards and it will come crashing down, restricting the lending market so that no one wants to give anyone a loan to buy a car. As more and more people are laid off, no one will really want to buy a car any way. With gas prices so high, they certainly won't want to buy a large American car. I'm not even going to mention our reputation for building really slipshod cars.

So, again, given what will obviously happen in the next forty years, I recommend we turn down this sweet ass offer and ask the Big 3 to keep their money for a time when they are really going to need it.

Ted: All in favor of throwing this bum out?

All: Aye!

It's a tragic story, I know, but one that could obviously have been avoided, if only those greedy-ass auto workers had had to foresight to turn down that health care and pension. They should have said "thanks, but no thanks" and we wouldn't be in this mess today. Am I right, or am I right?

4 comments:

CPS said...

Just beautiful man--this should be circulated--glad to see the GBOR back in full swing.

ginger said...

here, here.

ash said...

holy shit, this is brilliant. the GBOR is back!

Mark said...

You lost me somewhere between the Chrysler 300-sweet ride dude-and the house of cards-is that a type of solitaire-but I'm glad to see they voted the bum out.

Top notch-all the American history (and lets not kid ourselves-history of the world) a person needs to know in one infectious post. I love that my angry-jolly man is back at the GBOR. Digging the new look, edgy, modern, bringing the change!