Last November, I blogged on layoffs announced by General Motors.
Today, Ford announced that it is cutting 30,000 jobs.
Note that the Ford cuts are occurring pretty much the same place as the General Motors cuts. None outside of North America, and within North America, almost all in the United States, with relatively few job cuts in Canada. The whole Ford list has yet to be announced, but so far, five plants have been announced: Windsor Casting in Canada, Batavia Transmissions in Ohio (both parts makers which have no further market with the shutdown of assembly plants) and three major assembly plants: The Wixom assembly plant near Detroit, the St. Louis assembly plant in Missouri and the Atlanta assembly plant in Georgia.
Now, I briefly addressed Ford's problems in my post last November:
then why IS General Motors in such dire straights, especially compared to foreign auto makers (not just Toyota)? For that matter, Ford is limping along as well, hamstrung in similar ways, and Chrysler has had a mild resurgence, and that only since being absorbed by Daimler-Benz, a German company.
In fact, I was a little off on Daimler Chrysler. It is not just having a 'mild' resurgence, but its U.S. sales are up by a healthy 5% (including both sales of Chryslers and of German imports).
Now, there has certainly been mismanagement at both GM and Ford, which banked too heavily on bigger and better SUV's, even as consumers were finding that both the payments and the fuel prices on SUV's were no longer so affordable. But there is more here than that.
Conservatives will blame unions, and the associated contracts. However, that ignores the fact that Daimler Chrysler is doing so well (they have UAW unions in the United States, and in Europe they have arguably even stronger unions and workplace laws that include more vacation time and higher pay than in America.)
What we should recall is very simple. Health care. Foreign auto manufacturers (remember Diamler Chrysler makes a lot of cars in Europe) don't have to worry about either paying health insurance premiums or paying someone to administer their plans. And without healthcare on the table, unions and management already start labor negotiations much closer together.
About fifteen years ago, foreign governments were accused of 'subsidizing' their auto, steel and other heavy industries by American manufacturers. And they were, if you call their national healthcare plans a 'subsidy.' Our lack of one adds over a thousand dollars to the price of a new GM or Ford vehicle, and that is why American manufacturers are hurting, and increasingly closing plants in the U.S. (and just as in the case of GM, the Canadian plants are less likely to be closed than plants on this side of the border).
The fact is, America is a very rare bird when it comes to healthcare, in fact unique in the world. We are the only nation that doesn't have a national healthcare system, but in which a majority of our population is covered by private healthcare (most nations with only private healthcare are third world, poverty stricken nations, where only the privileged few can even afford a doctor; And developing countries that can afford for more than these few citizens to have health care, still opt for socialized medicine (like Mexico.)
Now, conservatives have a very specific solution. They would like for workers to pay part or all of their health premiums, claiming this would restore America to competitiveness in the world economy.
Well, that depends what kind of competitiveness you mean. Apparently they mean competitiveness against impoverished nations where people do in fact purchase their own healthcare, if they can afford it. Yeah, we could compete economically with Chad! They obviously don't mean competitiveness against countries like Germany and Japan, where most of the cars that have been chasing GM and Ford out of the market are made. Apparently, they can't even look at Daimler Chrysler (a hybrid company with half its workforce under national healthcare) and figure it out.