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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  1. Wow, a very thought provoking powerful post. Believe me I know how precious a job is in this country at the moment. My husband teeters on the edge of losing his daily & he says it almost daily it is what it is. I too wish there was a better way but I agree with you it’s not going to change anytime soon. I join you and saying thank you to George.

    Comment by topsurf — May 28, 2009 @ 7:37 pm

  2. Great post Soren. I work in the financial industry and honestly have no idea what the answer is. We propose bailouts and it seems that the upper level executives of these companies will only agree to changes that don’t affect them personally. I see the reports come through detailing the bonus packages some of these CEO’s receive and they are mind boggling. When you view their track records, the immediate reaction, in my opinion, is to say “tough, you made your bed now lay in it.” Unfortunately, that reaction affects thousands of lower level execs and blue collar workers. There is no easy answer and I don’t see things getting better anytime soon.

    I love that you take the time and have the passion to write posts like this one. Keep it up. XOXOXOXO

    Comment by perpstu — May 28, 2009 @ 7:48 pm

  3. Gosh, this has been my reality since I entered the work force in the middle of the 1980s – the ‘recession’ everyone compares this one too. It sucks but it’s reality. And has been a reality since the mid-1980s. Recycled at the dot com/9/11 crisis and now back again.

    I feel badly for individuals – George, Topsurf’s family, your parents.

    I can only hope that we might actually make some changes so this thing doesn’t come back to haunt us.

    Comment by On a limb with Claudia — May 28, 2009 @ 7:49 pm

  4. What a great, thought provoking post (not that I am surprised). This has been my concern in the midst of all the inherent compassion to want the “bail out”/ help etc. My heart aches for those I know, and am meeting through this post, who are getting the really crappy end of this deal.

    I struggle with how to maintain the integrity of principles I believe in including enjoying success and the fruits of one’s labor when *some* of those who are currently getting the spoils aren’t necessarily those doing the work (or maintaining the integrity). I wonder if to have an “out” lessens the passion and commitment to doing something well…I wonder how we can fix the bigger problem of bad people in any situation will bring some bad things…I wonder if we are forgetting that sometimes the bigger, more important lessons are found in the losses and failures we face, if only we are brave enough to learn them.

    There’s no easy answer to this, and I do believe that if we can reinvigorate the passion and intent that forms the founding principles of this nation we can find a way to uphold what makes us great and also serve all those who are our citizens…but there I go, dreamin’ big again. LOL

    Thanks for this…I struggle with this issue daily right now…the conversation you’re bringing to the table is so valuable.

    Comment by AlisonL — May 28, 2009 @ 8:26 pm

  5. Marry me…

    Yet another thought provoking – thank you

    Comment by zengoddessjen — May 28, 2009 @ 9:16 pm

  6. FINALLY an opinion I can agree with in regards to the economy/crisis. It sucks, yes. It is not easy for anyone involved (except, maybe the executives who protect their own assets before letting go of the companies). It is, unfortunately, business. I wish there was a better way … I wish that everyone could be saved. Unfortunately, none of the “fixes” I have heard about or read about make sense in the long run.

    My condolences to everyone involved. what a crappy way to lose everything they have worked for, for so long.

    Comment by Devyl — May 29, 2009 @ 12:12 am

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