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The Best Of A Bad Situation

Tue, 12/16/2008 - 7:20am
by Anna Wells, Editor, IMPO

In this segment, our editors square off on timely issues relating to industrial maintenance and plant operation. The editorial staff would like to stress that we are not intending to specifically endorse any one viewpoint, however our intent is only to encourage dialogue by showing a point-counter-point on contentious issues.

Anna Wells, Editor, IMPO

"America’s Big 3 is paying for (and has been for decades) an industrial job market which has been built on—and is still deeply entrenched in—the worker’s unions. It seems unfair that they be implored, in one breath, to keep jobs in America, and in the next be lambasted for failing to remain competitive."

While there’s a part of a lot of us who want to teach these companies a lesson—one that involves them falling gracelessly on their faces—at the end of the day, it’s the employees who will ultimately pay. And when a huge crop of American manufacturing engineers go under, you can bet the ripple effect will be seen everywhere—especially in communities (entire states, even) who rely on these businesses as foundational tenets of their economic livelihoods.

No one is saying that businesses should act with financial impunity, allocate inflated salaries and bonuses to executives, or lag behind with R&D and production on a globally competitive stage. In fact, I’m not so sure the bail out proposal should be focused so much on how we got here, but how we bail ourselves out with the least amount of net suffering for Americans. This may mean keeping these folks employed in an interim period of market instability, and giving these businesses another crack at success.

In other practical considerations, the misguided idea that overturning the bailout proposal means the American taxpayer will not spend money is utopian— shrapnel from this collapse will be sharp and far-reaching. What happens when thousands more Americans lose their jobs? It’s unlikely, and unadvisable, that we leave these people to fend for themselves. Expect government programs to aid these folks with feeding, clothing and housing their families, as the alternative could mean watching entire municipal and state economies hit the skids. So maybe the idea is not whether or not we spend money, but when and how best to apportion it out to American pocketbooks.

The sum of 14 billion dollars is colossal and scary—no one of intelligence can argue with that. Still, the focus of our ire might be misplaced. America’s Big 3 is paying for (and has been for decades) an industrial job market which has been built on—and is still deeply entrenched in—the worker’s unions. It seems unfair that they be implored, in one breath, to keep jobs in America, and in the next be lambasted for failing to remain competitive. The other issue is perhaps the most simple: the economy is tanking and people are buying less. This, coupled with high raw material and transportation costs means the automobile market is looking at some bleak days until we’re on stronger economic footing. These are facts—and pinning all the blame on the bloated excess of company executives is shortsighted.

Whatever perfect storm of variables it was that got us here is not irrelevant, but it is an issue of secondary importance for the practical purposes of now—keeping these companies, communities and jobs afloat.

Comments? Email anna.wells@advantagemedia.com

Click here to read Editorial Director Jeff Reinke's take on the Big 3 bail-out

Click here to view reader responses to the Big 3 bail-out argument

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