May 28, 2009

Live long, and prosper.

Filed under: Uncategorized — sbj @ 7:25 pm

Yesterday I was exposed to one individual’s plight as a result of the bankruptcy of Chrysler. The individual, George C. Joseph, wrote a letter pleading his case and asking how this could happen in America.

I had two immediate reactions; 1. This is tragic and unfair, and 2. America is the most fertile soil for this sort of thing in the world.

The United States – on paper – is a live by the sword die by the sword, dog eat dog, survival of the fittest society, at least that is what our capitalistic free market supporters and leaders will tell us (provided AIG, United Airlines, or GM are not about to fold up, of course).

You cannot have it both ways, a society that supports every citizen’s ability to become as rich as their fortitude and/or fortune can carry them, must also allow for them to fail as miserably as their failings and/or mis-fortunes demand. You cannot allow for infinite success and still protect against ultimate failure in any sustainable system; and Mr. Joseph, along with hundreds of other Chrysler dealers, are getting smacked with the business end of this reality on June 9th.

For Chrysler to stay in business, and receive bankruptcy protection, they have to take drastic and definitive action. The streamlining of their delivery channel is a key component in this restructuring. It sucks, and is unfair, but it is how business is done in these United States. It is what enables the American dream… like it or not. If you want to regulate failure (or fortune) then you must also regulate success, and I don’t see any of the dealer apologists being willing to accept that kind of socialistic control.

And so, we need to accept these horrid realities; the same way my parents had to accept that 30 years of retirement savings went away in the blink of an eye when the airline they had worked for their entire lives filed for bankruptcy after 9/11. It sucked, it was unfair, but it was reality.

In my parents case, thousands of jobs (including their own) as well as a large part of the nations transportation infrastructure was on the line. As such the airlines did what it needed to do to survive, and my parents paid – and continue to pay – the price.

Estimates from The Center for Automotive Research indicate that a quick and efficient bankruptcy proceeding (say 3 months in length) for GM and Chrysler (which is exactly what Chrysler is doing) would result in the loss of roughly 240,000 jobs. That sounds bad, however figures for prolonged bankruptcy proceedings exceed 1.3 million job losses by the end of 2009. That would be just the beginning says Mark Zandi, an adviser to Washington policymakers “…GM would go into bankruptcy and not come out …there would be wide-ranging negative impacts across the economy.”

To put it in terms the general public might find easier to grasp, the nearly 800 Chrysler dealerships being – for all intents and purposes – closed on June 9th are Spock, locked in that room with the radiation. He is dead either way, but, through his sacrifice the remaining crew members (dealers, manufacturers, and others along the automotive supply line) will have a chance to live. “The needs of the many, outweigh the needs of the few.”

It sucked for Spock, it sucked for my parents, and it sucks for Mr Joseph (et. al.). I really wish there was a better way, my liberal, protectionist roots scream for a bail out, or a “hand up” or… well… something. However it is what it is; business… American style, and its not going to change anytime soon.

So, George Joseph, I’m going to treat you like a fallen soldier, and thank you for the service you have given to your economy. Your sacrifice and loss will never be fully understood by many, even those –like myself – who salute you for it; however, at least in my corner, it is both recognized and appreciated.

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