Browsing the archives for the Robert Reich tag.



Detroit Broke City

Automaker Bailout, Bailout, Big Three, Economic Stimulus, Economy, Politics

Robert

Recently US Senator Carl Levin from Michigan stated that in regards to Honda locating in Alabama:

[Alabama] has cheaper labor, younger labor, no legacy costs (for retiree health care) — younger work force means lower medical costs. They have certain competitive advantages that are not the result of brilliance or greater skill.

Holy sh*t. Has Levin been smoking too much green or what?

I hate to keep throwing around the phrase “basic economic principles”, but I learned about competitive advantages on my first day of Econ 101. “If Country A can produce a widget for $1 and it costs Country B $2 to produce the same widget, Country A has a competitive advantage.” If Honda can produce cars in Alabama more cheaply than it can in Michigan, then why wouldn’t they build a factory in Alabama? It is really difficult for me to sympathize with the state of Michigan on this. 

For far too long the owners of the Big Three have been getting rich while at the same time producing inferior products. When a few companies have total control of the market, the average consumer can do little. I mean seriously, I am going to start riding a bike instead? Do you know how sweaty I get? I’ll just pull a quick hobo shower in office bathroom and be good. Via an open economy, foreign cars started to make an appearance on American roads. And you know what?  They were nice and, more importantly, they were cheap. They were cheaper because they were produced overseas where employee wages are substantially lower. They were nicer because without all of the overhead, the foreign car companies could put more money into the vehicle and still charge a lower price. An additional $2,000 is added to each car just to cover retirement benefits for employees. 2 Gs!!! Unfortunately, unions have a strangle hold on the auto industry. They have had far too much power for far too long; they have paralyzed the auto industry. They are just one more gigantic rock around the neck of the albatross that is the American auto industry.

Enter bankruptcy. Bankruptcy is the only chance that these companies actually have of recovering. Filing Chapter XI would give them a chance to break the shackles of many of their past poor decisions. They could renegotiate their union contracts, so that the autoworkers begin to earn wages that are more competitive. The new leaders would have to work in harmony with federal bankruptcy regulations that would prevent them from making bad decisions that would slow down the recovery process. As horrible as it is to see so many people lose their jobs because of greedy decisions made by those in charge, I see a basic purge as the most logical way to solve this problem. Break down the Big Three so that they can be built back up through the free market. Make them compete and they will either flourish or perish, but their success will hinge on the quality of their products and their company overall, not the artificial infusion of government funds.

 

 

Adam    

 

Robert…its bad news. This whole situation has been difficult to gauge my feelings. I have had somewhat unflattering things to say about the American auto industry for years. The market manipulation they have been able use to their extreme benefit is unbelievable. I don’t want to get into a history of how this industry (along with a couple of other cooperative industries) has brought our society to the slow and mind-numbing pace we found ourselves at now.

That being said, I should point out that the American consumer has a great deal of power and control in shaping the auto industry. Unfortunately price along with product choice can easily fool consumers.

Glad to get that bit out of the way. What about the proposed bailout of the Big Three? Well it sure is tough to advocate for some of the largest corporations on earth who have ignored the need to help themselves. The way I have thought about this issue is not in terms of “The Big Three”, but in terms of the Big Three Million plus who will lose their jobs if these companies fail.

In the economic stimulus package I wrote about in a past post, I advocated for investment in infrastructure to, partly, create millions of jobs. So, although it is beyond frustrating for me to advocate helping these slow and inefficient companies with a bailout, I have to. 

This $25 billion bailout is necessary to save jobs. In regards to the Big Three failing, Jonathan Cohn points out that three million people would lose their jobs in the first year after such a Big Three meltdown, swelling the ranks of the unemployed by nearly one-third nationally and leading to hundreds of billions of dollars in lost income.

A bailout of the Big Three could provide our country with a unique opportunity. One point to be made is the billions that would be spent in unemployment by the government if these jobs were lost. A bailout would mean billions of dollars saved in this context (I know…it’s a stretch). The other point is that the Federal government is in a unique position to put standards in place to force the Big Three to modernize and help the United States become less dependent on foreign oil.

It may be argued that the free market would force these companies to adhere to new standards without government intervention. This type of restructuring would take place in the Chapter 11 process described above. As pointed out at The 7-10 “Who wants to buy a car from a bankrupt company?” This is where the Chapter 11 scenario becomes a problem.

This situation is not similar to letting the airlines go into Chapter 11 in the 1980’s. A warranty is not necessary for me to fly from one part of the country to the other. It is, however, necessary for me to want to buy a new car. If any of the Big Three were to begin the Chapter 11 process their ability to continue to do business would be dramatically diminished.

So…where do we go from here?  I feel Robert Reich provides the best way to proceed in this brief summary:

In exchange for government aid, the Big Three’s creditors, shareholders, and executives should be required to accept losses as large as they’d endure under chapter 11, and the UAW should agree to some across-the-board wage and benefit cuts. The resulting savings, combined with the bailout, should be enough to allow the Big Three to shift production to more fuel efficient cars while keeping almost all its current workforce employed. Ideally, major parts suppliers would adhere to the same conditions.

Remember: The underlying goal is to help Americans through this crisis and come out of it with a stronger economy.

We need the Big Three to continue to exist. We need the three million jobs to continue to exist. We need a better American automobile fleet. The bailout of these companies, if done properly, can help us achieve all three of these needs.

 

Rate this:
3.3 (7 people)
8 Comments

Can You Stimulate Me Economically?

Barack Obama, Economic Policy, Economic Stimulus, Economy, Infrastructure, Obama, Politics, President Obama, Public Policy
Adam    

I heard a crazy thing the other day; things are not going in the right direction for our economy. Actually, I think I heard that a couple of years ago. You remember those days don’t you? There was a housing bubble still, sub-prime mortgages were parts of conversations, and the positions on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan would decide the next U.S. President.

Today, we have a President-Elect whose stance on the wars most likely did not help him get elected.  The call for change of the way things have been going brought him to victory. Now, what change is going to take place is a couple of months away from being realized. One issue that is absolutely necessary is an economic stimulus package to go into effect as soon as possible.

The potential second economic stimulus package has been in the news for a couple of months now.  There are opinions flowing at both ends of the discussion. That being stated, I thought it was important for me to throw my thoughts out there.

First, checks being handed out to citizens should not happen again. That was like my cup of coffee at 1:00 pm after a late night…I’m still going to crash.

Second, Federal spending on infrastructure is necessary and has always been necessary. Its not spending for the sake of giving money back to the poor. Its an investment in the future.  I racked up a lot of student loans, which was an investment in my future prosperity. I didn’t go out and buy a bunch of stuff with credit, which I would say is not an investment.

These two scenarios are the way I see the two sides of the argument over the economic stimulus.

The current number most commonly being suggested is $150-$200 billion in economic stimulus. This should go heavily towards infrastructure investment. Liberals and conservatives are calling for this type of Federal spending. But why so little?

The United States’ GDP for 2009 is projected to be at $15 trillion. The package being talked about would only amount to roughly 1% of GDP. This past week China unveiled an economic stimulus package in the amount of $586 billion, 16% of their GDP. 

Some economists (liberal) are calling for more spending to make up the gap in output. Paul Krugman thinks the stimulus package should be 4% of GDP, or $600 billion. Similarly, Robert Reich states “government may have to spend $600 or $700 billion next year to reverse the downward cycle we’re in.

Now, to assuage any fears that the federal government is going to throw money at anyone who asks for it, there are actual needs for funds. The American Society of Civil Engineers puts the needed expenditures over the next 5 years to bring the nation’s infrastructure up to good condition at $1.6 trillion. This number is what is needed for “improvements”. What about the new investments that are needed for the world economic leader to continue to grow throughout the 21st Century?

We need infrastructure improvements, we need new infrastructure investment, we need economic stimulus, and we need jobs. All of these needs can be met with a strong economic stimulus package. The money needs to be spent at some point, so why not have the government spend that money when everyone else is hoarding their own money?

 

 

Robert

There is one basic flaw in your plan, Adam:  America is broke and it is time to start acting like it.  No one is talking about where this $200 billion dollars is going to come from.  “Oh, just skim it off the top of the GDP.”  It is important to realize that that money is going to have to come from somewhere and it will not be from the Defense budget (sorry, liberals!)  Who is going to fork it over?

The bottom line is that the last thing we need right now is for the government to meddle with the free market.  Their manipulating is what got us into this problem in the first place.  Though I may have slept through most of my economics courses, I know that basic supply and demand is the ultimate balancer of prices.  All that the government’s proposed stimulus package is going to do is continue to artificially inflate the economy.  Well, my friend Peter Schiff* and I have a better idea: bleed the pig.  It is time for us to let things get bad.  The economy is absolutely decimated and the only way that it is going to get better is if we let things occur naturally.  Save some money.  Tighten our belts.  Why is everyone looking at this like it is a bad thing?  It is a chance for America to get out the filth that has been poisoning the economy for so long.  We have got to go back to the fundamentals of our founding fathers: hard work, dedication, and savings.  This is how we are going to save the United States of America. 

The last thing we need right now is for the government to pump a bunch of cash into America’s infrastructure.  You do not buy new shoes right after you lose your job; You make do with the shoes you have until you are in a comfortable enough position to get a new pair or until your old pair is completely destroyed.  Same goes for the infrastructure.  Let the market dictate when the roads are improved, not the government.  There is no overnight fix and until the government is willing to stand aside and let nature run its course, Americans are going to continue to suffer. 

 

*Disclaimer: I am in no way an acquaintance of Peter Schiff.  He is the ultra successful CEO of Euro Pacific Capital, as well as a best-selling author and I am writing for a blog that even my mom won’t read.

Rate this:
3.2 (9 people)
10 Comments