Of Chrysler and capitalism

ell, I saw the news on the cover of Car and Driver: the new Ford Mustang is better all around than both the new Camaro and Challenger. The Mustang spanked the others with less power too. It was not lost on me that the only company not begging for taxpayer money made a better muscle car. (albeit, the ‘stang has had a bit more development time) Well, with GM declaring bankruptcy on June 1 and Chrysler already gone the Mustang might be king of the hill for awhile. It just makes me even a bit sadder about the whole situation and madder about all the finger pointing and cries of “socialism!” and “look what Obozo’s doing now!”

This whole socialism thing is just garbage and the same alarmist froth that the left generated under Bush with cries of “we’re going Fascist!” I can see both points, but check it out… did not GM and Chrysler ask for the taxpayer money? The Bush administration gave GM $13.4 billion that is now gone. Will the real socialists please stand up! The welfare wannabes in corporate suits over at Cerberus ought to be hoisted by their own petards. I really don’t think that the government wants to be in the car business; it’s just that they have already gotten in too far trying to bail them out and I think it is a case of “Oh, crap. Now what?”

The government, um taxpayers, now have over $50 billion invested in GM. Should we keep pouring in cash with no control? Hell no. I say it looks like we bought it and now it has to be fixed. Give them a chance. Hopefully things will turn around soon and the government will get out clean and fast. What is up with this “letter from a Dodge dealer” thing going around the blogs like swine flu? Has anybody read this sad tale? Sure, it is truly sad and maddening but what is going on here? According to the letter this man’s dealership is being closed down. Truly, his franchise is being yanked by Dodge. He still keeps his car lot but what good is it without factory backing? Not good at all. I looked into the deal and dealerships are going down all over. Corporate belt tightening in panic mode and it is not pretty.

Topping it off with an extra layer of “shady” was one Texas dealer’s story of how Chrysler prodded him for weeks to get more inventory on his lot. The suits were coming down and telling him to purchase so the government would see cash flow and fork over the taxpayer money. This guy played ball, bought vehicles and then had his franchise yanked! Man, these hit men must have brass balls to tell a guy to buy a load of cars and then yank the franchise. It really sounds more like Cerberus trying to offload inventory at someone else’s expense while giving the impression that the government was to blame.

The situation was so bad with both Chrysler and GM that Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson, a Republican from Texas––a state very hard hit by the dealer closures––tied a military spending bill to giving these dealers time (60 days) and factory backing to move the inventory. Wow. Not that it is any consolation in the long term, but something is being done to help these folks out in the short term. As usual, regular folks are the big losers in this. What are all these workers going to do? President Obama says we need to get these people re-trained. I ask in what? We can barely manufacture socks anymore in this country without resorting to illegal immigrant labor––and even then a pair would cost $50.

It is high time we started looking down the road behind us for where we started this slip up. When and why did health care get so expensive? Why should health care be such a profitable investment for a relative few when over 47 million Americans don’t have health insurance? When did executive compensation get so disgustingly out of proportion? When did Wall Street (whoever that is) start demanding over 30 percent returns on investments or sayonara baby? Why shouldn’t the person who builds a car be able to do it on a wage that raises a family and buys a house and has health care? When did everything we own start being made in China by people with no democracy, no rights and a $100 a month paycheck? Why have we been spending ourselves into oblivion on weapons and wars? How come the DOD cannot account for billions of dollars?!?! Aggggghhhh!

Free markets, laissez-faire? Sure. In that case GM and Chrysler would have gone down hard… maybe they should have. Maybe their bones and offal could be sold off to a Chinese investment firm, just like the Cleveland Cavaliers. Or maybe the deal with Fiat will happen. Hey, I like that Cinquecento! I’ll take the Abarth version ASAP! (40+mpg, 0-60 in 7.9 sec, $26,000) Sure, Challengers in base form are faster, look super cool, and cost only a tick over 30 G’s but they weigh over two tons, don’t handle and get about nine mpg in town… hello? Anyone home? Can’t we have super cool looks with super cool performance, handling, and some mileage?

As for socialism? I say bring it on… bring it into health care, water and electricity. Leave it out of building cars. Trebant anyone? Hmm.... On second thought, I really like Trebant wagons.