Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Featured: “Bail Me Out” | By Bob Barkley (My Ohio Friend Is Back Again) (Plus Additional Interesting Perspectives On Today’s Issues).

Featured: “Bail Me Out” | By Bob Barkley (My Ohio Friend Is Back Again) (Plus Additional Interesting Perspectives On Today’s Issues).

...The question of whether there should be a loan to, investment in, or bailout of - take your pick - the "big three US auto manufacturers" is being hotly debated. As is customary however, the debate is too limited in scope. The real question needs to be, "In what context should anything be done to help/salvage these three behemoths of industry?" 

Dealing with content requires 'connecting the dots,' so to speak. And connecting the dots means we must identify all the appropriate dots in order to make sure that when we are done connecting we do indeed have before us the entire relevant picture. 

Following, in no particular order, are the dots I have identified thus far from listening ad infinitum to this issue being debated. There may be more, but at the moment these are the ones that stand out. And I would argue that unless each is addressed, or at least clearly acknowledged, we will continue to have a majority of citizens opposed to taking action to assist these companies. I believe they must be assisted, but I also believe there is more to the issue than their future or their immediate needs. 

1. The cost of fuel must remain high and sufficiently burdensome to the general population for the majority to demand greater fuel efficiency and alternative energy sources for their vehicles. A worthy suggestion here is that the federal gas tax be increased 1 or 2 cents each month for 3-5 years. 

2. International trade agreements must be adjusted to level the playing field between foreign and domestic manufactures. Tariffs and tax-disincentives for off-shore manufacturing most likely will have to be in that picture. 

3. The matter of universal health care coverage must be addressed in a way that the disparity between foreign and domestic costs thereof is no longer a burden for US industry. 

4. The US has adopted, in several industries and in both the public and private sectors, a far too liberal and out-dated pension system that allows retirement at much too early an age and here again the archaic US health care system becomes an issue. We cannot have workers retiring in their 50's - and with full health care coverage for life to boot. It is an unsustainable system. 

5. There must be an investment in mass transit that will make it an attractive alternative. This could be addressed somewhat by taxing windfall profits of the oil and automotive industries. 

6. The Supreme Court faulty judgment in giving corporations legal status as if they were individual citizens is a fall-out from fascist thinking and must be reversed. There must a separation of corporation and state just as there must be between church and state. 

7. Executive compensation in the warped US capitalism must be reined in and limited to no more than 50 times the compensation of the lowest paid fulltime employee in that company. It is now over 350 times in many instances, which is obscene and unsupportable, and even against the true intentions of capitalism as originally envisioned. 

8. Our current political system where being a politician has become a career rather than a calling and a service is severely inconsistent with the intentions of our Founding Fathers and the principles upon which our democratic republic was founded. 

9. Our education system must introduce the concept of "connecting the dots" as an integral part of every young person's up-bringing. Civic education must become a mandatory and continuing part of every person's education. 

10. Tax incentives for buying US products and/or disincentives for buying foreign made products should become common and acceptable in all industries where appropriate. 

11. Adam Smith indicated right from the beginning that capitalism would allow the amassing of wealth for the common good - not simply for the good of those who amass it. This fundamental principle has been seriously disregarded and must be reestablished. The democratic political system must control the dominant economic system and not the other way around. 

12. Unions have a fundamental obligation - in many states that obligation is a legal one - to protect their members' interests. But doing so requires that they also represent the health and well being of the industry in which their members work. Too many unions limit their activity to the former and ignore the latter, which is a disservice to their members' long-term interests. 

13. The financial industry is fundamental to our economic system, but as such, it must be regulated to not allow the system to undermine our society's well being and to fulfill the original intent of capitalism. The term usury must not become accurate in describing the financial sector. 

14. When we provide tax incentives to companies to locate in our states and cities we have already given those industries a "bail-out." We have allowed those industries to participate in our system without paying the dues required to be a member of that system. This is only justified when such action is an investment that will provide return to the community and one that can be unarguably identified and justified. In other words, we give our "bail-outs" all the time and in many instances these "bail-outs" have been to the direct benefit of those now arguing against helping the "Big Three." It is the height of hypocrisy. 

15. We have severe confusion in our country, exemplified in many struggling industries, as well as in politics, between "managing" and "leading." For example, leaders focus on and must think in the future - three to five years out at least, and at the federal level and in super large industries five to ten years out. Managing, on the other hand, focuses on the short term - not more than one to two years out and often, and appropriately, often even shorter terms than that. We have a severe lack of leadership as too many in roles requiring leadership are operating in too short a span of thinking and planning. In addition, too many in leadership roles are focusing on operational issues rather than strategic issues. 

I'm sure there are more "dots" than I have become aware of thus far, but it is only by addressing the entire context laid out above that the public will understand and support assistance to the auto industry - as well as many other actions required in today's economic crisis. 



Absolutely Fascinating Perspective From Iceland



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