Friday, December 5, 2008

The death throws of American industry

Ford, GM, Chrysler. . . they're all that's left of a once diverse auto industry in the USA. I remember Studebaker, Henry J, Pontiac, Nash, American Motors, Rambler. . . as American buying power increased, you'd have thought that the American economy would have diversified. It didn't. Corporate greed caused it to shrink into a few major players in all market sectors. The chemical industry, electronics, everything from TVs to boat motors to pianos, the playing field shrunk while the Japanese came in and trumped the American companies with higher quality products.

I sorta had a front row seat to the demise of the American corporation. When I got outta college back in the early 70s there weren't any decent jobs for a biologist and you had to be an Ivy Leaguer to get the piss poor ones that were available, so I had to join a mega corporation in their R&D dept doing chemistry. They were huge, world class and they spent lots of cash on R&D. Back then, they knew R&D was the lifeblood of the corporation and the whole country was immersed in a culture of research and development. This was only a year or two after the end of Apollo. America knew that R&D could take you to the Moon. All our CEOs and Presidents were R&D guys. They'd come down from headquarters now and then just to look around and visit their old buddies.
In the early to mid 80s that all began to change slowly but surely. R&D began to get pressed to show how they directly affected profitability.
More and more we were doing process optimization work rather than letting our brilliant PhD scientists come up with wild assed and often lame ideas which every once-in-awhile resulted in an break through product that made hundreds of millions in profit.
Ya see, research and development isn't something you can measure against next quarter's profit and sadly, the focus of the company began to center more and more on next quarter's profit. They began a profit sharing program where every quarter we'd get a cut of the profits (more like a token). There were all sorts of profit incentive programs which were kind of baffling to those of us in R&D, but they were peddled to us anyway. It became clear that WE were not making money for the corporation and that WE were part of the problem. In the 70s and 80s my salary rose big every year. From the late 80s on, my salary was adjusted for inflation and that was about it.
Soon there was very little research going on. No one seemed interested in 3, 5 or 10 years out. Before long, the company CEO was a bean counter. Some prick from accounting. Our world class technology company was being run like a clothes pin company. By 1999, after some horrendous blunders by top management, we were bought out by a company that had always been a competitor, but far behind. Now they are shipping most of their operations overseas to places like China, India and the Middle East.
Greed. Short term profit. Both those things killed our technology company. Both of those things have killed the American auto industry. But why? Why should an industry die just because the economy turns sour? Why does six months of bad sales put huge corporations into bankruptcy?
To answer this, ask why the middle class family, whose bread winners had good jobs for many years is now being forced out of their house after being laid off for a few months. Why didn't THEY have the cash set aside to get them through hard times?
Greed and the pursuit of junk. Same as the corporations. CEOs making hundred of millions of dollars, share holders demanding their cut, every executive getting inflated ridiculous salaries while the people in the trenches sucked air.
I knew accountants who had degrees from local colleges making twice what PhD scientists from Ivy league schools were making. It got all twisted up and fucked by the time the end came. . . but I digress. . . When shit hit the fan a few months ago, the auto companies had NOTHING to hold them over. Pardon me folks, but isn't that piss poor planing? Isn't that REALLY piss poor planing? What is it they say about piss poor planing on your part?
Yea, it's going to get ugly when the auto industry folds in America. Really ugly. I don't even want to drive through the upper mid west. I suspect we'll see a lot of migrants from that area in the rest of the country. It'll be really, really ugly on so many levels, but ya know, fuck Ford, Chrysler and GM. The strong survive. If it's so bad you need the gov't to bail your asses out, what possible motivation do we have for throwing good money after bad? I suspect Toyota, Mitsubishi, Mazda, Nissan, Hyundai, etc., will fill the void quite readily and with much better, more technologically advanced vehicles. They'll employ many of the workers who were abandoned and ravaged by 200 million dollar executives and their million dollar lackeys. We'll adjust. Yea, it'll be ugly, but we got a lot of ugly times ahead of us.
Hell, if American corporations can run the gov't, instigate wars, etc. as their last act in America, why can't foreign industry come in and occupy our land?
Welcome to the New World.


rainywalker said...

Congress has agreed to a short term bailout for the big three, but no more Hudson's.

SagaciousHillbilly said...

Hudsons! Great cars! MY neighbor growing up had a '51. Kept it till he died in '71.
My first neighbor after leaving home had a 40s Terraplane. A very cool Hudson.

rainywalker said...

I had a guy who lived next to my family who had a Hudson. He used to park it behind his house and I could see it from my back window.

rainywalker said...

I answered your comment on global warming. Sorry I have been busy and look forward to your comments.