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December 10, 2008
The US Auto Industry: Another View
They don't get it and they never will. That should be the last thing I say about those who keep on saying, "Let the US auto industry die."
It isn't a question of whether the Big Three US auto makers deserve saving; it's a question of consequences. Who are we to believe in this whole affair? Should we believe the auto maker CEO's themselves who appear to be spreading the fear of what happens if we let their bloated companies - and their bloated salaries - die? Or do we believe those who want to do nothing and see what happens?
The jobs lost by the death of the US auto industry is estimated to top out at around 3 million, as much as two percent of the current US workforce. But that number simply can't be right. The true number is probably more like 9 million or so, and here's why:
We know that as soon as just one of the Big Three were to go sown the tubes that dealerships would close; parts suppliers would either close, file for bankruptcy protection or lay off major portions of their workforce; and all of that manufacturer's assembly plants would cease operations. But it's worse - much worse - than that.
Just ride across any stretch of road which houses car dealerships such as New Jersey's Route 22 which runs nearly the entire width of the state. Half of the roadway between Hillside (in the East) and Somerville (Center-West) are populated with new car dealerships. Surrounding these dealerships are fast food restaurants, furniture stores, electronics stores and many more places of business which, at least in part, rely on the people working at those dealerships and the people who are passing by, shopping or window shopping for a new car. These businesses need these shoppers to take notice of them and their wares. The workers and patrons of the big ticket car item are the life's-blood of just about all of the other businesses around the car dealerships and they simply couldn't stay in business without them.
Similarly, there's a town in Eastern Pennsylvania which relies on the new car industry for most of its revenue. Langhorne, PA is home to Reedman Auto Center which advertises (or at least it used to) in PA, New York and New Jersey for its customers. Many of that town's businesses also rely on the clients coming in to see the cars at Reedman, including other dealerships trying to get the customers who walk away from Reedman without a new or used car.
Which brings me to the used car trade. For every new car dealer on New Jersey's Route 22, there seem to be two thriving used car dealerships. Their business, too, will go by the wayside along with their new car counterparts.
The Big Three are doing a bad job in ignoring their responsibility to their workers, their shareholders and the American public. But they are an industry with an out. You see, the American car manufacturers are just that - manufacturers. Unlike the financial industry, the Big Three have a product to sell. We see all of their products every day fronting highways such as New Jersey's Route 22 and Pennsylvania's US Highway One as well as on TV in commercials and newspapers each and every day in print advertisements.
(Note: Newspapers would have to lay off thousands more if they didn't have those big, expensive car ads every day.)
The product - cars - could be sold and the US auto maker could get a lot of cash quickly by selling them. The US auto is a good product, much better than it was twenty years ago and much, much better than it was thirty years ago. I own three myself (two Chryslers and a Chevy) and put 24,000 miles per year on one (my 2005 Chevy Cobalt) and another 12,000 miles on another (my 2002 Chrysler Sebring Convertible). The other car (a 2007 Chrysler PT Cruiser) belongs to my wife and gets about 15,000 miles per year worth of exercise itself.
Sell the darn cars, boys! Sell them cheap and sell them fast. Offer them up for cheap, cheap prices and mean it. No gimmicks like rebates ONLY available if you just graduated college within the past six month; or just came home from Iraq last week; or if you have "dealer loyalty" whose requirements state that you have bought a car from that dealer within the last six months.
Some of the print ads in the newspapers show final prices on cars which include all of the above rebates. So you can get the car at a good price IF you just came home from Iraq, graduated from college and bought a car at that same dealership no more than half a year ago.
The Big Three ought to set up regional clearance centers where they sell their cars at deep, deep discount prices. The goal, of course being raising cash. They could offer up zero percent financing for six or seven years with no money down. This all could be done with the aid of auto dealers who earn a certain, fixed dollar amount per car sold. Then those dealership representatives could offer up discounts on service or other extras they have to offer.
Sell those cars, boys! Real discounts with no interest loans When other businesses are having trouble, they sell off their inventory to raise cash. Why should car manufacturers be different?
FROM MUMBAI TO WASHINGTON
by Victoria A. Brownworth
copyright c 2008 Journal Register Newspapers, Inc.
When Mumbai (formerly Bombay), India was attacked by terrorists on November 26, the impact of terrorism was felt yet again by innocent civilians. The attacks also raised the question of how the U.S. will respond to terrorism in an Obama Administration.
Nearly 200 people were killed and another 300 seriously injured in a well-planned and well-executed assault by ten gunmen on ten different sites within Southern Mumbai. Those sites included two major hotels housing tourists, a popular tourist café and an Orthodox-Jewish center. Gunmen went through each site gunning down civilians with AK-47s, tossing grenades and setting fires. According to Indian Deputy Chief Minister R.R. Patil, the group had plans to kill 5,000 people.
Six Americans were killed, including an American Rabbi and his wife, who was six months pregnant. The gunmen allegedly focused on American and British tourists and other foreigners, although more than 150 of the dead and 200 of the injured were Indian. The Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, one of the sites targeted, is Mumbai’s largest hotel and a popular tourist center.
Mumbai is the world’s most populous city, with nearly 14 million residents. It is also India’s financial capital.
The attacks on Mumbai were initially attributed to a previously unknown group calling themselves Deccan Mujahideen. But according to the sole surviving attacker, Mohammad Ajmal Amir, the ten terrorists were actually members of Lashkar-e-Toiba, a Pakistan-based terrorist organization which some in the Indian government claim is supported by the Pakistani government.
India’s Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, while not directly citing Pakistan, immediately suggested the attacks were sponsored by a foreign source.
Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari insisted that Pakistan had no role in the attacks and even suggested that the surviving terrorist was merely claiming to be Pakistani.
Zadari’s wife, former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, was assassinated by terrorists while campaigning for the presidency on December 27, 2007 against then-president Pervez Musharaf.
Pakistan has been a key player in the war on terror throughout the Bush Administration, but there are concerns among both Bush Administration officials as well as Obama’s team that the newly elected Pakistani government is both unable and unwilling to control the terrorists being bred within and that state-sponsored or state-allowed terrorists are the primary source of insurgencies across the Afghan border.
Osama bin Laden has long been rumored to have been in hiding in Pakistan and former Pakistani President Pervez Musharaf repeatedly refused to answer questions regarding whether or not the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks was hiding in his country.
Since the Mumbai attacks, daily protests in India have called for war with Pakistan. Both Pakistan and India have nuclear weaponry.
Tensions between the two countries had been on the decline in recent months, but the Mumbai attacks caused an immediate resurgence of those always-simmering conflicts. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice traveled to India and Pakistan in an effort to calm the outrage and quell any discussion of military intervention.
On the international front, many were watching to see what President-elect Obama would do in response to the terrorism.
On Thanksgiving Day, the second day of the three-day siege, Obama pledged full support to India to “root out” terrorist networks. Obama spoke with Indian Ambassador Ronen Sen by phone, telling the Ambassador that in addition to his thoughts and prayers being with the people of India, he is completely supportive of all actions of the Bush Administration “in assistance to the Government of India in dealing with the menace.”
A statement issued by Obama’s Chief National Security Spokesperson Brooke Anderson was declarative, asserting that the Mumbai terror attacks demonstrated “the grave and urgent threat” of terrorism.
“The United States must continue to strengthen our partnerships with India and nations around the world to root out and destroy terrorist networks,” Obama’s statement read.
The President-elect also spoke to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice about the situation prior to her leaving for the Asian subcontinent.
Immediately after the Thanksgiving Day weekend, Obama offered another calculated response by presenting his national security team. The members of the team include Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) as Secretary of State, current Defense Secretary Robert Gates and retired Marine Gen. Jim Jones as national security advisor.
In addition, Obama nominated former Clinton Administration appointee Dr. Susan Rice as United Nations ambassador and Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano as homeland security secretary. Former Clinton Administration deputy attorney general Eric Holder will be attorney general.
Most of Obama’s choices had been rumored for weeks. But his announcement of the team in the wake of the Mumbai attacks created an immediate sense of calm, both in the U.S. and abroad because the team is well-versed in foreign affairs, and, with the exception of Napolitano, have been involved in previous administrations. The breadth of the team’s experience will mean a smooth transition from the Bush Administration. The bipartisan nature of the group–Gates and Jones are Republicans–also augured a measure of calm in Washington and beyond.
Minority chair of the Committee for Homeland Security, Sen. John Warner (R-VA) was succinct in his approval for the bipartisan team and echoed what many others were saying. Warner told CNN, “The triumvirate of Gates, Clinton and Jones to lead Obama’s national security team instills great confidence at home and abroad and further strengthens the growing respect for the President-elect's courage and ability to exercise sound judgment in selecting the 'best and the brightest' to implement our nation's security policies.”
Obama has said that having the best people in place to deal with foreign and domestic emergencies when he takes office Jan. 20 is vital.
During the last month of the presidential campaign, Vice President-elect Joe Biden asserted that within the first six months of his taking office, Obama would be tested by what Biden implied would be a terrorist event.
The remark caused controversy, but when the Mumbai attacks occurred, many revived the comment, wondering if this was that first test of Obama’s mettle.
If it was, then the President-elect passed that test. While some Obama supporters have voiced their dismay at Obama’s retention of Bush’s Defense Secretary and also his appointment of former rival Hillary Clinton, many of those objections have actually seemed to originate in a media looking for controversy in Obama’s choices.
For his part, the President-elect has been quite clear that he is fully in control and command of his own foreign and domestic policies.
Throughout his campaign, he was equally clear regarding his stance on the war on terror–and the Mumbai attacks are most definitely the latest chapter in that conflict.
Obama has said that Afghanistan and Pakistan are pivotal in controlling or obliterating international terrorism. It is Obama’s intention to increase the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan and to continue cross-border raids on insurgent groups into Pakistan, as the Bush Administration has been doing since early summer.
The Mumbai attacks raise serious questions, however, about how and whether terrorism can indeed be controlled and what role Pakistan is playing in fueling insurgencies into neighboring countries like India and Afghanistan. The Lashkar-e-Taiba group allegedly has ties to al-Qaeda. According to a report in the New York Times, a former U.S. official from the Department of Defense asserted that former Pakistani ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence) and Pakistani army officers took part in the training of the terrorists who attacked Mumbai.
Other news reports quoted U.S. counter-terrorism officials who claimed that the U. S. warned the Indian government about a potential attack via a port (the Mumbia terrorists came into the city via a boat from Karachi, Pakistan) against Mumbai at least a month before the massacre.
The ripple effect of the Mumbai massacre will be felt for months to come, if not longer. What is necessary for the President-elect and his team, is to lay out a plan for how they will deal with such attacks in future, as well as what strategies they will employ to set a tone in the Obama Administration that is both strongly defensive but not overtly offensive, as has been the case with the Bush Administration.
Obama’s national security team is level-headed. None is an ideologue, none has a singular agenda outside that proposed by Obama himself. Obama’s own stance has been reiterated throughout his campaign as one of diplomacy, conciliation and mediation first and foremost, the use of force the last alternative.
That said, Obama has also been clear that he will not hesitate to use military force if warranted and has cited Pakistan as a singular example of a nation where a military strike might be required.
When Obama takes office in January, the war on terror will still be the major thrust of American foreign policy. But that often ephemeral war will be waged with much more calm, consideration and deliberation than the manner of the Bush Doctrine, which demands unilateral preventive wars as well as aggressive response to any nation that harbors terrorists.
Terrorism is never very far from view. How the Obama Administration handles terrorism in the future, however, may very well determine the depth and range of subsequent attacks or whether terrorism can be controlled at all.
In response to Illinois Governor Blagojevich's indictment, Victoria Brownworth writes:
One thing your column on the scandal failed to note, which is salient, is that Gov. Blagojevich was already under investigation for other corruption charges when he was arrested. Which means that even though he and everyone else in America knew he was being investigated, he still had the hubris to try and make a deal to sell the seat over a tapped phone. There's something beyond corrupt in that. The word "pathological" comes to mind. And since the GOP is indeed trying to link Obama to Blagojevich, expect every word Obama has ever said to be parsed with relationship to the governor. Obama's ties to the Daley machine are not in question--he never would have gotten into office without them and the New Yorker's investigative piece by Ryan Izzard explored that months ago. But Mayor Daley has never been indicted or arrested. Blagojevich is another story. The saddest thing is that Valerie Jarrett will likely not get the seat now, because of this. And she paid for it--by working hard, not greasing palms.
In response to, "The ties to President-Elect Obama are, fortunately, not there," Pat Thompson writes:
But the media will surely play up the links they both had to Rezko. I am sure the right wing media will use this for years to come, like they used Whitewater (nothing there after millions of dollars and years were spent on that investigation) or even Vince Foster's suicide. Today was a wonderful day for me -- seeing a Democratic President Elect, sitting with AL GORE, discussing environmental issues. Alternative energy can converge with economic issues, and the "war on terror" so that we are not sending billions of dollars to the Middle East to buy their oil, which causes global climate change, and puts money into the coffers of those who wish to attack us. It's a three-pronged -- at least -- approach, a win-win-win situation. Because new green jobs, building solar collectors and wind energy equipment, will improve the economy, and remove some CO2 from the environment. I was so thrilled to see the actually elected in 2000, President Al Gore, sitting with President-Elect Obama. Oh, it's been a long 8 years. And all the reporters wanted to ask about was the Illinois Governor selling Obama's Senate seat.
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