Doesn’t ‘hope and change’ apply to the auto industry?Written by Nick Shultz | | email@example.com
In the 1970s, we were warned by then-Chrysler CEO Lee Iacocca that we were in an economic war. He warned that the costs of losing that war would have grave economic and social impact on the United States. We did not heed his warning.
You and I live and work in America’s Rust Belt. Like you, members of my family and close friends are out of work because of the failing auto industry. We have watched friends and family lose their homes, and their hopes, in the past couple of years. Unfortunately, the future doesn’t look any brighter for us here in the Midwest nor for our vital auto industry. It looks as though we may lose the auto industry all together.
The United States has faced many challenges in the past and has met those challenges with staunch determination. The character that is the United States has always shown through in the toughest of times. When, as a nation, we have been confronted by our enemies, we faced those enemies head on and overcame all that they could muster. Thus is the character of the men and women who make up this nation.
Our mothers and fathers have been referred to as “the greatest generation.” They earned the right to bear that name because of their great sacrifice. Men and women of all ethnicities and political views stood together as one people and, with a single-minded goal, they stopped the greatest threat ever known to mankind. We all know the history of what they accomplished. We also know what the consequences were should they have failed.
I wonder if we are cut from the same mettle as our fathers.
We face a different kind of enemy than did our fathers. Even though our generation’s enemy has no name, he is no less dangerous. How we meet our enemies’ challenge will determine our children and our grandchildren’s future.
The economic consequences of the fall of the American automobile industry are great. Those consequences have been outlined by nearly every economist in the country with a much clearer description of the result of that failure then I could ever describe. Some estimates indicate that as many as 3.5 million total jobs are at stake. A large portion of that number has already been lost and most probably will never return. These are high-paying jobs.
They are middle-class American jobs. These are the jobs that Toledo cannot afford to lose.
When we lose these jobs, we also lose the service and support industries that grew because of them. The spiral of failure caused by our apathy will touch every citizen in our community and throughout the Midwest. None of us is immune to the consequences of this failure, especially our children.
The spiral of failure will cause our property to lose value and our tax base to degenerate to the point that essential governmental services may disappear. Our community will shrink as our children leave in search of greener pastures. The spiral will spin faster and faster as the crisis deepens.
Not taking action now will change all our lives forever. We must demand from our elected officials support in the form of loans for the auto industry. There will be time to point fingers later. We must act and we must act now.
Contrary to all the promises from this administration, it is clear that the agenda does not include saving middle-class America. While billions upon billions of dollars have been thrown at the banking industry with total disregard to oversight for those dollars, only a carrot has been dangled in front of the auto industry. Just like the carrot dangled on a string in front of the donkey, it can never be reached. Washington is playing politics with our children’s lives.
What of the promises made by President Barack Obama before the election? How soon we forget that he swore to protect our jobs, while he greedily garnered our votes. Democrats hold both houses in Washington and aren’t they the party of and for labor? The president has already committed GM and Chrysler to bankruptcy and the dusty pages of history books. He did so by suggesting that the United States government guarantee the warranties on the vehicles they have produced. Isn’t he supposed to be working for us?
Where is the outrage from the UAW? If General Motors and Chrysler go bankrupt, they surely must know that their lucrative contracts will become null and void. What of the thousand of retirees on pension? Can’t they see the immediate threat to their retirement funds? Do the United Auto Workers (UAW) retirees really believe that the retirement system is safe? We cannot allow the fall of this industry. The UAW membership must be made to understand that more than $3,000 is collected from every US-manufactured vehicle sold to support its benefit package. What happens when those auto sales stop?
For those who say the UAW has it coming, I would point out that all of us have benefited from the pay structure established by the UAW. Do you really think our wages would be where they are today were it not for the standard established by the UAW, as well as other unions here in the Rust Belt?
The experts will be pointing fingers for years at those who are to blame for this economic mess. We will argue amongst ourselves about where the blame should be laid. All our bickering and arguing is counterproductive and will not help us resolve this problem. We must find common ground and unite as a community and as a nation, and we must do it immediately. We then can demand of our government the necessary support for the auto industry and ultimately our community.
Iacocca warned us of the consequences of our apathy many years ago. We now are facing the harshest of times directly as a result of that apathy. None of us is insulated from the economics of this failure.
What can we do? We must, like our fathers before us, get involved. We must demand legitimate reform both from the U. S. auto manufacturers and the UAW. We must also demand reform within our government. Laws must be passed that make it advantageous for manufacturers to use American labor. Laws must be passed that demand stiff and legitimate penalties for corporate greed. We must buy American-built cars and light trucks and demand the same of our employers and co-workers.
I challenge each of you to look closely at the glass panel on your car door and find the embedded emblem describing where that glass was built. Does it say, upon that glass “built in the USA” and, more specifically, “Toledo”? I challenge each of you to look at the tires on your vehicle and find the markings describing where they were built. Were they built in the United States and, more specifically, Ohio?
Talk is cheap. Each of us must make a commitment to get involved. My dad would say that commitment is like bacon and eggs for breakfast. The chicken is involved, but the pig is committed. The cost of acting like the chicken is too great for our community to bear. Hope cannot and will not create change. Those are “just words” designed to make you and me feel good. However, action will demand change.
Nick Shultz is an instructor of Automotive Technologies at Owens Community College. He is an arbitrator for the Better Business Bureau who specializes in cases involving the Ohio and Michigan Lemon laws. He is a certified master automotive technician by ASE, General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co. Shultz, a Toledo native, will take questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.