Martha Randolph Carr Martha Randolph Carr, 2/1/2010 [Archive]

The American Dream vs Car Manufacturers

The American Dream vs. Car Manufacturers

By Martha Randolph Carr

There was a period of time in American history when it was a commonly held belief that car manufacturers would always do well in the US because cars would always be needed.

It was pointed out to us by a myriad of studies that we had become reliant on the cheap mode of travel, didn't have enough of a public transportation system, had created a vast network of suburbs that discouraged walking and had put into place businesses that utilized the car with drive-through windows for services such as banking, fast food and even marriage.

A car, from it's conception as an idea down to the sale and then upkeep or repairs, also employed too many people and in particular too many middle class people for us to ever back away from the trough.

Auto plants paid middle class salaries that were able to sustain entire towns throughout the mid-west and in particular, in the state of Michigan. It really was possible to have a blue collar job in America and support your family, save some money for retirement, buy a house and send the next generation to college. It's a nice, simple summary of the American dream as a reality.

Therefore, the Big Three, as Chrysler, Ford and GM used to be known, might get themselves into trouble but could never fail. That has a hollow but familiar ring to it.

Chrysler's bailout in 1979 of $1.5 billion was a novelty but deemed necessary at the time. America depends on cars.

However, if there's one thing the Great Recession has taught all of us is that there is no adage in business that's always right. Real estate is not always a safe investment and prices can plummet to below the price that was paid even in a solid neighborhood.

A free press is essential to have a free government as Thomas Jefferson pointed out, but the free part now has more to do with the price and not government restraints. Newspapers are struggling to survive. And, we may not want to do without our cars but take away our jobs, our savings and then for some Americans, the roofs over our heads and we will finally stop buying them.

As a result, places like Pontiac, Michigan have lost most of their jobs and the state is drowning in debt. The auto plants have mostly shut down. The 80,300 seat Silverdome that sits on 127 acres, which cost over $55 million to build and was once the stand-out example of Pontiac's prominence but has sat empty for the past 8 years, was just sold for a mere $583,000 to Andreas Apostolopoulos, a Canadian developer. It went for the cost of a house in most of suburban America.

Thousands of car dealers, auto parts retailers and other auxiliary businesses that depend on the auto trade have also closed up shop and cost towns that dot America their tax base and morale.

One last thought about the crisis that the American auto manufacturers are in, as it relates to the large bonuses that were just paid to the executives of recently bailed-out financial institutions and the Obama administration's new $3.8 trillion dollar budget with proposed tax hikes for the rich to pay off the deficit.

The time for any president to be putting into place a better deal for the middle class taxpayer was before the bailout money was ever handed out and a deficit that could last generations was ever created. But no one made any of the financial institutions agree upfront and in writing to anything for the common voter footing the bill such as credit card fee reforms. The new budget seems to be trying to correct that mistake by raising the taxes on an entire class of wealth rather than finally addressing the original error.

Keep in mind that when Chrysler received its bailout 31 years ago even the unions participated in the eventual success of Chrysler's turn-around. There wasn't a sense of a pyramid kind of benefits pay-off with the most, the American public, taking the risk and the least, the executives on Wall Street, taking the spoils. Maybe it's too late to fix the trillion dollar bailout mistake but it doesn't mean we have to build on it and make entirely new ones that don't really benefit anyone.

Martha's latest book to embrace change, Live Your Big Adventure is now available at www.marthasbigadventure.com. Email Martha at: Martha@marthasbigadventure.com.

© 2010 Martha Randolph Carr. Martha's column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. newspaper syndicate. For info call Sales at (805) 969-2829 or email Sales@cagle.com.

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