Wednesday, January 11, 2006


The sun was shining in Michigan today, reminding us all that it does still exist, even though it has been very elusive lately. It was a great day for walking the dog or running down to a friend's for coffee, or doing any of the exciting things we can afford to do in today's economic climate. I keep reading in the paper that we are having a "boom", but I think that is just the giant sucking sound Ross Perot kept talking about as he described businesses moving out of the country.

If you live in Michigan, you know what is happening. That matriarch of the automotive world, G.M., is having financial trouble. Lots of it. And Ford, Chrysler....any of the Big Three...are also having problems. G.M. has announced the fact they will lay off more than 30,000 employees, and close some plants. The layoffs have begun already, with a few here and a few there. It is not a happy time for General Motors employees. Nor all of this area that depends so heavily upon their health and welfare.

We used to have a saying...."As General Motors goes, there goes the country!", but lately it seems that Michigan is not even a part of the union. We keep getting notices of low unemployment, of new jobs, of that economic boom. They make it sound so rosy that it makes you wonder if Michigan has broken off the continent somehow and is floating around, surrounded by its lakes, like a lost island in a turbulent sea.

There is a great deal of talk about blame. Some blame GM for making those big cars....huge trucks, that tank-like Hummer! People always point out the foreign cars as great examples. According to some, the foreign cars are built better and last longer. We are soon going to get an example of a foreign car, because China is putting one on the market. It is being revealed at Detroit's Auto Show.

That Chinese car will cost under $8,000, it is said. This made my eyes light up and my heart pound, until I heard the kicker. The workers making that car only earn $3.15 an hour. This explains the low price.

This means that you would earn a little more than $24 bucks for an eight hour day. You would earn a little over a hundred dollars for a five day work week, minus taxes. At those wages, you couldn't afford to drive the car you are making. And here in the United States, with wages like that, you couldn't afford the foyer of a rental apartment.

Why are we exporting cars built by workers who make that paltry amount of money? Why don't we stop these shipments at the ports and send those slave labor symbols back where they came from? Who figured out these trade laws and why? This is not an even trade, it is not a fair trade, and we cannot compete in such a trade!

It seems that, in this world where we all live together, rather than insisting upon the foreign labor be given decent pay, we are drifting into a situation where our paychecks are getting lower and lower. Can anyone live decently on minimum wage? Even doubled minimum wage would be impossible. If our wages continue to lower, we may have to move to a foreign land in order to exist.

What we need are leaders who realize the problems of the working family. I'm sick of hearing how good things are, when I can look around me, talk to family and friends, and I know they are not all that good. These conservative "trickle down" ideas just don't work, unless you are sitting at the top. Somehow that trickle dries up before it reaches the bottom layers.

What we have to do is Buy American, which is difficult to do, since there is so little that is American to buy. But my next car will be made in America, or at least sport an American name. I will not buy that $8,000 Chinese bargain on the backs of the three buck worker. I will not allow these cheap, tawdry products to lure me from loyalty to my own country.

But it is a two-way street. Corporations that outsource, in-source, cut off pensions, etc., are the real enemy. They are neutering the American worker in the name of profit! And our peculiar legislation even provides money to help these corporations move their operations elsewhere. It's shameful!

Now, damn it, G.M., get out there and manufacture something. Can't sell the big cars...make little ones! Can't sell the gas hybrids! We need something to buy that is American. We need products. We are going to have to start all over from scratch. But we can do it. We did it before. We can do it again.

Yes, the sun shone in Michigan today, but dark clouds hover. In the midst of cold winter, layoffs and job losses make those heavy fuel bills loom like black harbingers of doom! That legendary peninsula shaped like a glove is filled with worry and fraught with problems. But we must cling to hope for a better tomorrow. We must VOTE for a better tomorrow. With courage and tenacity, that better day will come and sunshine will warm our lives once again!