I am a child of General Motors, so to speak. My mother worked all of her adult life there, retiring in 1987. My brother also worked and retired from GM, so though I cannot speak from personal experience from being “on the line”, I can offer perhaps a few observations. They might be of value to someone out there who is now reformulating their opinions regarding the demise of GM.
As a kid, growing up in Kokomo, Indiana, we had two main job providers. General Motors “Delco”, and Chrysler. Kokomo was a town of about 50,000 souls, and we had a good mix of whites, blacks, hispanics, even a few asians.
And Kokomo was a good place to be a kid, to be a grownup, to raise a family, and grow old. What made Kokomo unique in Indiana was the fact that so many were earning a living wage, living in their own homes, buying cars, putting their kids in college (and for most families this was a first, including mine), and resting somewhat securely in the reasonable notion that if you worked hard, and gave your best, most productive years to your plant, you could retire with some security, and some dignity.
Gosh, imagine that. As an American, having a simple wish. A decent job, providing a living wage and healthcare that provides for my family, with some degree of security. Henry Ford understood this, and also knew that the employees building Model Ts were the ones who would buy them. But only if they could provide for their family first.
Many are saying that GM and the American auto industry is a failed experiment in Capitalism. Well, if failure means that our largest industry can’t provide the above, well then I guess America is a failed experiment.
We didn’t see lots of crime, and though we experienced some racial tensions, it was moderated by the fact that whites and blacks were making good money, doing the same work, and all in it together. Togetherness was built into the fabric of the UAW.
My mom remembered the days when there wasn’t a union, and lived through the abuses of being a laborer for a large, powerful company. Sure, many will say the UAW helped destroy GM, but it helps to understand the misery and injustice that helped fuel the union movement.
We saw the theft of American jobs, outsourced to Mexico and China, by GM. My brother even remembers dismantling production equipment, knowing it was destined for China. Keep this in mind when as you watch the “new and improved” GM. It will be more of the same. This in a time when Mexico’s biggest export to America is poverty, and that of China, cheaply made goods relying on slavery.
GM could have a strong future if the Obama administration would hold true to the promise of making America stronger by bringing the jobs back here, where they were stolen from.
GM can produce great vehicles. Don’t let the likes of Michael Moore say anything differently. I’ve owned several, and though they aren’t a BMW, they also don’t cost as much, and they do the job. I once took a VW bug to a repair shop in Kokomo, and Walt, a german immigrant, drove an Oldsmobile. He said it made more sense to drive a domestic vehicle. Cheaper parts, and repairs. Mr. Moore thinks the car is dead, and the sooner we all take the bus or train, the better. Well that might be true if only for the fact that our infrastructure has been molded around having a car in every garage. Bring back decentralized everything. Bring back our towns. Knock down the Wal Marts, the Titanic Malls, and the chain restaurants.
Remember, companies like GM built the buses and trams that served us well, but quickly moved to destroy mass transit in order to sell cars. Pure profit.
And this single act changed the face of every town, large and sall, in our country. So now Obama and his team have the chance to show some real cohones and make thing right again. Work quickly to redefine our infrastructure in a way that blends smaller, efficient hybrids and electrics with a revived, workable mass transit system. Bullet trains shouln’t be a priority. Think about it. If people going to use a train to get to Chicago or LA, it means the train needs to stop at many locations to pick people up, etc. Trains are part of our future, but unless they have a way to stop and start along the way, thus servicing the common man, you’ll only see Joe Biden on it.
Have GM build a Prius clone. Clue to the folks at GM. Go out, buy one, reverse engineer, make better. Repeat Ad Finitum. Better yet, make it a Burning Man project. In fact, the folks at Burning Man should do a contest, of sorts. “Bring me a 100 MPG vehicle that is workable, and YOU get to light the Man”. My bet is that you would have a prototype this year. Add solar panels to the top. Make one that is a wagon. Make one that is a funky cool Big Daddy Roth pickup truck.
The Obama adminstration also has a funny way of doing business. They keep the folks that have floated to the top at GM, like Fritz Henderson, to run the show.
Read what Mr. Henderson said regarding the bankruptcy, and you’ll hopefully understand just how clueless GM management is. Note that management is very, very different than leadership. Mr. Obama, I am a partial owner of GM now, and I’d like you to fire the entire executive team, and the board of directors, at GM. OK?
Speaking of worthless, did anybody else watch CNBC’s “Meeting of the Minds: The Future of Capitalism“, and get a little nauseous?
Is anybody else out there just fed up with hero worship in the business sector?