On Wednesday mornings before I knock off my night-shift editing work, one of the last things I do is check the Metro Times and Jack Lessenberry’s column, so I can go to bed in the proper frame of mind — suicidal.
Jack is not a crepehanger, only a realist:
Last week the leadership of Ford Motor Co. went before the cameras. Remember those gloomy forecasts last January? Well, they were too optimistic.
More layoffs are coming; more plants being closed. Ford will shed something like 44,000 jobs — last week, they announced that another 10,000 salaried layoffs were being added. General Motors is eliminating almost as many jobs, and there is no guarantee they are done.
And here’s something to think about. Almost none of these jobs have been lost yet. The Wixom plant doesn’t close till next year. The 1,250 workers there now are walking dead. Two plants in Windsor go next year; two plants in Ohio, one in Maumee, near the Michigan border, shut the year after that.
What happens when all those people lose their good-paying jobs? Where are they going to work instead? What will become of the stores where they shopped? Some won’t be able to make their house payments.
There will be a snowball effect. And this is not your father’s recession-based round of auto layoffs. This is forever.
I lay this out not to make you suicidal — you don’t live here, after all, at least most of you — but to underline there is but one issue in Michigan this election season. One. Uno. The big enchilada. The big E. The economy. I am willing to vote for any candidate of any party, if I think they understand that nothing is as important as this. Everything comes back to the economy, and I want to hear sensible, no-b.s. ideas about how this state, this region, can diversify its economy and find its feet again, before my house is worth the same as a crack den in Detroit. OK? Everyone understand?
So I open my web browser today, and guess what the Republican nominee is suggesting?
Intelligent design. Surprise, surprise, he’s all in favor of teaching it in public schools:
“I would like to see the ideas of intelligent design that many scientists are now suggesting is a very viable alternative theory,�? DeVos told the Associated Press this week during an interview on education. “That theory and others that would be considered credible would expose our students to more ideas, not less.�?
We. Are. Doomed.
UPDATE: Open your mouth, lose your crummy, low-paying job: The corpse collector has been suspended. But of course. But that’s…OK. He really wants to concentrate on his career as a rapper.
alex said on September 21, 2006 at 7:49 am
You are doomed only if a majority votes for that jackass.
Dorothy said on September 21, 2006 at 8:15 am
Ford was also front page news in the Virginian Pilot, where my daughter works, last week while we were in the Outer Banks.
She gasped when she read the headline, too. Bad news for many places in addition to D-town.
brian stouder said on September 21, 2006 at 8:52 am
well, I got my morning laugh, thanks to this article
DeVos is an Amway man? THE Amway man? And that firm has shed jobs and outsourced to China?
brian stouder said on September 21, 2006 at 9:32 am
In a New York Times report published Monday, aspiring rapper Mike Thomas waxed about the rigors of his job retrieving bodies in one of the most dangerous cities in America.
what a great line. But otherwise –
my God Nance – this saga you shared IS life imitating art, imitating life.
I was upset half-way through the article, but it hit me that Mike really IS a step ahead! The last line of the article made me laugh out loud – the body snatcher saw his opportunity in June when the NY Times guy came around – and he boldly TOOK it! Bravo!!
Connie said on September 21, 2006 at 10:39 am
De Vos is the son of one of the original Amway men. And a good “Dutch” calvinist as well. Which would scare me, having grown up as one.
Dave B. said on September 21, 2006 at 11:06 am
A little over 24 years ago I was down-sized from International Harvester in Ft. Wayne. I was 34, and devasted at the time. (As was Ft. Wayne.) From time to time I run into my old co-workers. Some have fared very well, some not so well. Had IHC prospered on, we would all be about in about the same shape. Big companies (and Unions) seem to do that. The same saga will probably occur for the Ford and GM workers who are about to lose their jobs. Some who are younger and more adventurous might think about Wyoming or Alberta where there’s a shortage of labor. Not just in the oil and coal fields, but in the filter down business that supports the oil and coal industry. Once in their new homes, they should then look and plan ahead to when the oil and coal fields run dry.
Danny said on September 21, 2006 at 11:10 am
Though I am not as familiar with the woes of the car industry as some, it seems the problems mainly boil down to:
1) Poor quality.
2) Lack of innovation, especially wrt fuel economy.
3) Poor asthetics.
4) Unskilled workers who expect too much in terms of compensation and benefits.
The responsibility for all of these problems can be laid squarely at the doorstep of management; corporate AND union management. Problem 4 could become a non-issue is problems 1 through 3 were addressed.
Danny said on September 21, 2006 at 11:17 am
Dave, I work for a old division of IH that was sold to CAT. Small world.
nancy said on September 21, 2006 at 11:23 am
Dave B. is too modest. I wanted to tell his story when I was in Fort Wayne, but we never worked out the details, and like I said, he’s modest. But just as a frame of reference — Dave went from being a union grunt at Harvester to the owner of his own very successful business. I always thought he was the perfect illustration of post-industrial reinvention, accomplished by hard work (90 percent), willingness to risk (8 percent) and a bit of luck (2 percent). Today he lives in one of Fort Wayne’s most elegant old houses (Helene’s, for you locals) and sends his daughter to an Ivy League school. But when I suggested writing this story, perhaps on a Labor Day or closing-of-Harvester anniversary, he’d just scuff his toe in the dirt and say, “Shucks, I’m not so special.”
I’ll get you yet, Dave B.! And I’ll freelance it to the New York Times, I will!
Oh, and Danny: Detroit’s automakers would argue their cars are no longer “poor quality,” and J.D. Power would back them up. They are overcoming years of being lost in the forest, however. I’m with you on 2 and 3, and 4 is a truth that’s slowly dawning on everyone. It’s not the money they make as much as it is the perks — the Jobs Bank, first-dollar health care, etc.
mary said on September 21, 2006 at 11:26 am
Connie, those were my thoughts exactly.
Danny said on September 21, 2006 at 12:03 pm
I want to respond, belatedly to some comments that were made a few posts back by Rich B. and Kurt. Here are their quotes:
Rich B Says:September 19th, 2006 at 12:12 pm
Christians don’t have to fly planes into buildings. They’ve got daisycutters.
Kirk Says:September 19th, 2006 at 12:28 pm
Organized religion is the plague of the planet. All the major faiths have plenty of blame to share.
I disagree with you both and think that the “multiculural” rooted arguments you two make are a big part of the problem in western society: namely, we are not willing to call a spade a spade, but instead, we fall all over ourselves to blame ourselves. Face it, the common denominator in an overwhelming majority of the world’s disputes is Islam.
Mark Steyn wrote a column on Jan 4, 2006 that really hits the nail on the head. I’d like all of your thoughts on it. Here is a link to it: http://www.opinionjournal.com/extra/?id=110007760
There are many trouble spots around the world, but as a general rule, it’s easy to make an educated guess at one of the participants: Muslims vs. Jews in “Palestine,” Muslims vs. Hindus in Kashmir, Muslims vs. Christians in Africa, Muslims vs. Buddhists in Thailand, Muslims vs. Russians in the Caucasus, Muslims vs. backpacking tourists in Bali. Like the environmentalists, these guys think globally but act locally.
As a famous Arnold Toynbee quote puts it: “Civilizations die from suicide, not murder”–as can be seen throughout much of “the Western world” right now. The progressive agenda–lavish social welfare, abortion, secularism, multiculturalism–is collectively the real suicide bomb. Take multiculturalism. The great thing about multiculturalism is that it doesn’t involve knowing anything about other cultures–the capital of Bhutan, the principal exports of Malawi, who cares? All it requires is feeling good about other cultures. It’s fundamentally a fraud, and I would argue was subliminally accepted on that basis. Most adherents to the idea that all cultures are equal don’t want to live in anything but an advanced Western society. Multiculturalism means your kid has to learn some wretched native dirge for the school holiday concert instead of getting to sing “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” or that your holistic masseuse uses techniques developed from Native American spirituality, but not that you or anyone you care about should have to live in an African or Native American society. It’s a quintessential piece of progressive humbug.
Then September 11 happened. And bizarrely the reaction of just about every prominent Western leader was to visit a mosque: President Bush did, the prince of Wales did, the prime minister of the United Kingdom did, the prime minister of Canada did . . . The premier of Ontario didn’t, and so 20 Muslim community leaders had a big summit to denounce him for failing to visit a mosque. I don’t know why he didn’t. Maybe there was a big backlog, it was mosque drive time, prime ministers in gridlock up and down the freeway trying to get to the Sword of the Infidel-Slayer Mosque on Elm Street. But for whatever reason he couldn’t fit it into his hectic schedule. Ontario’s citizenship minister did show up at a mosque, but the imams took that as a great insult, like the Queen sending Fergie to open the Commonwealth Games. So the premier of Ontario had to hold a big meeting with the aggrieved imams to apologize for not going to a mosque and, as the Toronto Star’s reported it, “to provide them with reassurance that the provincial government does not see them as the enemy.”
alex said on September 21, 2006 at 12:03 pm
JD Power might back the American Big Three up on their quality claims but last I looked Consumer Reports says they still lag behind the Japanese Big Three — Toyota, Honda and Nissan –in that regard, as well as resale value. And Consumer Reports doesn’t allow its name to be used in advertising, which makes them more credible as far as I’m concerned.
I don’t put much store in JD Power. Buick used to boast about its top JD Power customer satisfaction ratings back in the 1980s when my dad bought one. Not only was he not satisfied; he was appalled to watch his vehicle disintegrate from the moment he brought it home. After the warranty was up, the same mechanical and electrical problems that had been repaired under the warranty kept cropping up again and again, in addition to the paint flaking off and the upholstery unraveling. He’s been loyal to foreign brands ever since and I don’t blame him. So have I.
nancy said on September 21, 2006 at 12:12 pm
Regrettably, Alex, nearly everyone has a story like your dad’s, and nearly as many have one about their beloved Honda that finally gave out at 180 or 200K, or more. I always thought CR and JDP should do an “end-of-life” rating, looking at cars that are 10-to-15 years old and see how they’ve fared. The results would be b.s., of course, since there are too many variables in long-term ownership, but: Honda and Toyota built their companies on the experience of baby boomers who bought Japanese right out of college because they were cheap and nimble transportation and kept trading up as they aged. I don’t know anyone who paid attention to routine maintenance on a Japanese car and who didn’t get at least a decade of use out of it.
You know what was an American car that ran like a Honda? The old slant-6 Dodge Darts. Those things could be maintained by a cro-Magnon and routinely racked up six-figure mileage by the time they were junked.
Kirk said on September 21, 2006 at 12:13 pm
not in the mood to squawk at great length about religion, but i still think that most of the big faiths do a great job of driving wedges between people, which would seem to be the opposite of what religion ought to do. maybe that’s why i spend my sunday mornings on long walks.
but, more important and speaking of going back to previous posts: thanks for your weeks-ago mention of the monster toys that were supposed to represent each of the other planets. i had a set of those when i was a kid and played with them a lot. hadn’t thought about them since ike or jfk was in the white house, but your post triggered my memory. as i recall, the pluto guy had a teeny head and giant legs.
Danny said on September 21, 2006 at 12:22 pm
Understood, Kirk. No problem.
Funny about the moster toys though. I bet we could find a link to them if we looked hard enough.
Kirk said on September 21, 2006 at 12:35 pm
i tried a little bit at the time (on the monster toys), but didn’t come up with anything. maybe i’ll try a little harder
mary said on September 21, 2006 at 1:08 pm
Try E-Bay. You can find anything on E-Bay.
Danny said on September 21, 2006 at 1:14 pm
Here it is, Kirk!
Dorothy said on September 21, 2006 at 1:17 pm
We bought a used Chevy Lumina for a 16 year old new driver in the house in 1999, and it now has well over 200,000 miles on it. It’s ugly and grey and missing all 4 of its hubcaps. The nickname for it is The Babe Magnet.
Dorothy said on September 21, 2006 at 1:18 pm
Oops – forgot to add. It’s a ’93 Lumina.
Kirk said on September 21, 2006 at 1:21 pm
wow. great work. but believe it or not, there was another series of monsters from the other planets, because those aren’t the guys that i had. i just plowed through a bunch of stuff on e-bay but haven’t found the ones i’m thinking of. if i do, i’ll share.
Danny said on September 21, 2006 at 1:22 pm
Going back to a few weeks ago, I think Nancy and anyone else here who had problems memorizing the names of all of the planets could see how these monster toys would be all a young boy would need for learning aid. I mean, look at how cool the guy from neptune looks! He was my favorite and next was the guy from Jupiter.
Danny said on September 21, 2006 at 1:24 pm
Kirk, was it the second series that they list on that site? The ones from beyond our solar system?
Kirk said on September 21, 2006 at 1:45 pm
no, some of the ones i had weren’t humanoid at all. they were molded plastic, probably 4 to 6 inches high (except the ones that were more lizardlike). this is going to bug me now.
ashley said on September 21, 2006 at 5:08 pm
“You know what was an American car that ran like a Honda? The old slant-6 Dodge Darts. ”
The 225 slant 6 would run forever. A close second was the 318/360.
At the time you could get any dodge engine in any dodge car. my dad sold quite a few Darts with 440 magnums.
My wife has a 2006Honda minivan, as Honda and Toyota are the only minivans with 3 across seating in the second row. Evidently, all the US companies think we want captains chairs for our 4 year olds.
Me, I’m driving a 1988 Plymouth Voyager with woodgrain wallpaper on the sides. It’s a friggin’ cockroach.
America’s embrace of globalization, and the failure to adapt to it is the real problem here…
Rich B said on September 21, 2006 at 8:16 pm
Danny, we in the west have done a lot of bad things in the Middle East in our pursuit of oil. Our leaders are supposed to be aware of that and other things, taking them into consideration while forming foreign policy (including wars). Thumbing our noses at diplomacy and saying “bring it on” doesn’t make us safer. It aggrevates a lot of people, Christians too.
Nevertheless, I confess I’m one of those who finds fault with my own country too easily. I’m working on it and it’s not very pleasant.
basset said on September 21, 2006 at 8:27 pm
>>my dad sold quite a few Darts with 440 magnums
uhhh… your dad wasn’t Mr. Norm, was he? I know a guy who has one of the original Grand Spaulding GSSs… it’ll run low fourteens while spinning ’em halfway down the strip.
Marcia said on September 21, 2006 at 9:26 pm
I don’t know much about economics; I really don’t. Nowhere close to what I’d need to know in order to comment about what is needed for the economy.
But I do know enough to realize that arguing over intelligent design isn’t going to do jack shit for it.
I also know that a way of life is ending with these economic difficulties. And that part of it is our fault.
My dad retired from a Ford plant. I wrote a little about it here:
Joe Kobiela said on September 21, 2006 at 9:35 pm
I work for a oem for the big three plus toyota honda ect, I’ll tell you the same thing I told our ceo at a meeting a few years back. I will out produce anyone in the world with better quality. But what I will not do is work for 5 dollars a day,or work in a unsafe plant. The Mexicans will and do, work for those wages and in unsafe conditions, The ceo’s and board members are looking at short term let’s get our’s sort of world, soon the American worker will not be able to afford to buy what he produces, Then what?? And on a side note where doe’s anyone get off on saying that a big three worker makes too much money. It slayes me that the same people that did not even apply for my job think they can tell me what is a fair wage. Also the things that were negotiated by the uaw like job banks and such were agreed on by management when times were good, it is not the workers fault that the powers that be would rather give me a cheap piece of plastic to put in a car and save 2 cents just so there million dollar bonus will kick in.
end of rant.
brian stouder said on September 21, 2006 at 10:34 pm
And on a side note where doe’s anyone get off on saying that a big three worker makes too much money
agreed – if we cannot really defend the assertion that a particular movie star is vastly over-paid, or an executive in a Fortune 500 company, or a professional athelete – who gets to judge an autoworker?
True enough, times have changed since the 1950’s, when GM funded their own orchestra (amongst many other community-minded endeavors), and paid paid paid their people, and Detroit was twice the population that it currently is.
I understand that labor costs are a much larger part of the total production costs of a car, and the dynamic is very different then it used to be. In the reports, it caught my eye that Ford offered a buyout to every single hourly worker they have! (does this mean the end of the UAW?)
It also caught my eye that Ford makes buckets of cash all around the world – end then loses all the more in North America. I’m not so jaded and creaky as to really think that there may be some “intelligent design” behind this dynamic…..but one sometimes wonders
Connie said on September 21, 2006 at 11:47 pm
Dorothy, our 97 Chevy Lumina is coming up to 140,000 and still going strong. I put the first 120,000 miles on it and handed it down to my kid three years ago. It has gone to Butler with her, and our service guy says 200,000 miles, no prob.
My husband is from Flint, worked for a short time many moons ago at the Chevy truck engine plant, and buy American is a family rule. Our first married buy was a 79 chevette. In 1988 the floor in the front seat rusted through at 120,000 miles and we finally replaced it.
My brother in law is a 30 yr GM employee and UAW member, currently a test driver at the Milford proving grounds. Listening to him talk about GM is bizarre, GM is always evil, out to get the working man, etc….. He makes huge amounts of money, great benefits, so I am never quite sure why.