Thursday, November 20, 2008

Universal Healthcare Again

Just a couple of questions:

IF we had universal health care which would, yes, be paid for by yet another employment tax but which would, yes, replace the healthcare costs most employers already pay but which would be less than they currently pay ...

How would that affect the car companies and their pension plan payments as well as the current employee compensation?

IF the car companies go into reorganization would the trustee be able to bring them back into line by cutting all employees pay, managerial and line-worker, such that people could keep their jobs and the companies would be profitable?

IF both were to occur, wouldn't that work?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Bailouts Part 2

As I wrote before, I was against the bailout of Wall Street until very close to when it passed the Senate. It is simply wrong for a capitalist company to turn to the government for assistance, especially when so un-tethered. Then the scare came into me and I wanted to see America NOT face a depression. Well, we got took, didn’t we.

Yesterday I watched a good bit of the Senate hearings with the CEO’s of the Big 3 asking for $25 billion. I was not impressed by the CEO’s. They want business as usual, promise nothing in return, and as a guy that has done business with them for the past 20+ years I can tell you we won’t get anything in return that isn’t written in stone six different ways.

Realize, please, that you could OWN General Motors for about $1 billion, that is their current market capitalization, the value of all their shares.

But I am for a bailout of the companies, pulling the money out of the amount already offered to Wall Street, IF, and this is a very big IF, we can cut management compensation and concessions from the unions.


I can’t write that, because it won’t work. I sure wish it would, but I don’t see any way that we can take over the companies and make them work. If there were a person to take control they would be in that position already.

It’s bad tasting medicine, but we need to take it. Let them go bankrupt, rise from the ashes in whatever form they do, and return to profitability on their own. Yes, it will be painful but to put off the pain is only to delay it. Actually, GM may bankrupt, Ford probably not, and Chrysler, who cares … they are privately held.

Daimler Benz bought Chrysler a few years ago for $36 billion. After putting billions more into the company they realized the futility and sold it for about $6 billion. The company that bought Chrysler is a hedge fund. Let them take the fall.

The simple truth is that the companies are poorly run. Management is out of control in their reimbursement. The union are contracts beyond what is affordable in their business environment. The union contracts the companies agreed to were accepted only to avoid pain at the time – they didn’t want a strike. They should have held their ground. The unions similarly took more than they should have. They were greedy and took then what they could still be getting now.

With apologies for those this may offend, assembly line workers were paid too much. I know several and they owned their homes near the plant, often on a lake, had boats and snowmobiles and another "cabin" up north. They over extended themselves and weren't paying attention. Yes, I love people but I also am compelled to point to a world environment that is leveling out the workplace. FWIW, I'm feelin' the pain myself and expect it to get worse in my house.

If you haven’t read it already, Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged” is an amazingly prophetic view of the current situation. It’s not all right, for sure, but it does have many similarities, spooky in fact. A really good read.

IF the auto companies go under there will still be factories. Some will close but some will remain open. Some will be bought by new companies that actually are fiscally responsible, have a better idea and a youthful desire to succeed from hard work, from taking a chance and winning.

In truth, they may not bankrupt anyway. Why aren’t they closing plants right now?

FWIW, right now GM is spending $300 mil on a plant in Russia, sold more Buicks in China than they did here last year, and needs to be slapped. Anyone remember Oldsmobile? They closed that division down not because it wasn’t making some of their best cars but because it’s plants had the worst union contracts. By one industry report a few years back Saturn had lost $3500 on every vehicle they sold up to that time.

Without a bailout many workers will be out of work. Much of the management ditto, but they won’t care because they’ve stashed much personal cash over the last years. Many of the workers will find jobs at the new plants. At lower wages and they'll be bitter about it. Bitter pill to swallow, but is it better than no work? If they grumble too much it lends credence to any new companies desire to build in other areas where the workers are more appreciative.

I’ve been to Flint, Michigan and many other company towns that are no longer company towns. Boarded up houses and empty retail shops are all over the place. Kind of like the strip mall around the corner here in So Cal with Shoe Pavilion and Linen’s and Things going out of business, but older, dirtier, and sad like a worn out discarded old stuffed kid’s stuff animal found on the street. Kind of like this neighborhood could look in short order.

But we’ve gotta take the medicine or we won’t get better, we’ll just get sicker when it hits again.

Oh, that Wall Street bailout? Is there any way to stop it now, pay no more, and leave the ex-CEO of Goldman Sachs, Hank Paulson, with as much egg on his face as possible? Is it not amazing that the legacy of the worst president in history won’t be what we thought it would be three months ago?

Not that I like the idea, but in this economic downturn, recession only, hopefully, there will be many opportunities for the church to serve.

Look for those starting now, they are everywhere. We'll likely have some time on our hands anyway.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Desiring Theocracy

Well, I got sucked into this one pretty well. An email arrives from someone I don't know saying that "they're talking about you" over at this whacko Calvinist site and I should step in to make my case.

So I did so, still without regrets, but with a bit more fear about how some of Christian faith get it so wrong. A strictly literal interpretation of the Bible is required to be part of this sect. They actually hold dear the idea of stoning gays and adulterers to death for those sins. They want a theocratic rule of America.

This portion of our church is to be seen as no less an evil than the Taliban or Al Qaida. We would be at fault to not speak out against them publicly, at fault to not deny them their sense of righteousness found in hating others to "bring them to Christ." The founder of the site, when speaking of evangelism, actually used the words "by any means necessary."

Scary folks, indeed.

I've written at length before about the Theocratic movement, and it still holds true. Those that hold to Dominion Theology need to be exposed for what they are, held in check by a loud voice coming from the church as a whole. They are the Taliban of Christianity and we need to, as I wish the greater Islamic faith would against their extremists, disclaim them as crazy people bastardizing our faith in the name of God while covering up their own desires and fears as men (and women, I suppose, but perhaps many of those women may not be given access to computers).

Theocracy Watch is a worthy bookmark. At one time I would have called them zealots themselves, seeing conspiracies where perhaps there are none. No more.

The Republican party is in tatters and my greatest worry is that they will rise from the rubble as a theocratic movement hidden behind a fiscally conservative agenda. These players are already in place with more in the wings.

If you are a Christian, be on the watch for opportunities to speak against this movement. If we are lax, they will overtake us.

If you read the Constitution and the Bill of Rights you may think that a theocracy isn't possible in America because of the "freedom of religion" thing. Forgetaboutit. Their desire is to change that and, given the powers of man in government, pretty much anything can be changed.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Congratulations, America

Barack Obama is president-elect of the United States of America. The Democrats are a plurality and in control of the house and the senate. Congratulations to all.

I have to admit that I'm feeling a little foolish writing this: it was either my being born and raised in what was a very white-bread community or that I'm post race-perception. To me Barack Obama was such an incredibly intelligent, engagingly well spoken, so totally the-right-person-for-the-moment, that I kinda forgot he was black. I was so enamored with the concepts Barack put forth of change in this nation, his seeming mastery of the issues and the completeness, the confidence, in his solutions, the trust that we could in fact turn this country around, that the color of his skin stopped being any part of my consideration some time ago. It didn't matter. It doesn't. But that doesn't obscure the simple truth that this was a huge moment in history met head on by that very person and by a people.

This was a momentous occasion. An African-American man was elected president and no person that hasn't had a lifetime of being black in America can understand what this meant to each of them personally. From my vantage point it was beautiful and enlightening to see a piece of America's history healed, a statement made by popular vote, a acknowledgment of positive change, but I can only attempt to imagine how it must feel for those that lived it from the other side.

Barack Obama's acceptance speech at Grant Park was beautiful to see, especially in this long locked-off telephoto shot that carries the whole duration, flags flapping in the background. There are other videos that sweep across the crowd but this really shows how alone he was up there on the stage, how he can stand and lead, and the audio has a perfect ring of the space around him. The crowd is heard strongly, but not seen.

President-elect Obama said everything I hoped for and as usual took it a step further, hit a higher note, completed the thought. He cited the challenges ahead clearly, expressed hope to meet them with confidence, and called on all of us to step up acknowledging our part, our responsibility, to the future of this nation and this world.

The crowd responded, "Yes we can!" Might all of America do the same.

Great job all, well done. Time to get to work. 2012 is just around the corner and the best way to win it is to get the next four years right.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Voting Times

I was at the poll in my white-bread suburban Los Angeles neighborhood right when it opened, 7am. The young woman came out just as my wife and I arrived and announced loudly and proudly, "The polls are open!" Good stuff.

It took about 25 minutes, total, for us to get through the line, be given a ballot, cast it and hand it off to the reader.

How was it in your neighborhood?

Saturday, November 01, 2008

My, How Times Do Change

One minute it's fun, frivolity and a Bud, eight years later the same actors have another story to tell.

We have difficult times ahead. We need a government that can move quickly, not held up by partisan politics. We need a super-majority in the House and the Senate. We need to give Barack Obama the tools and the team to deal with the issues as they are, to deal with reality in a calm and decisive manner.

Will he be the perfect president? No. There ain't no such thing. But we do need to give him the opportunity to show just how good he can be.