Thursday, February 18, 2010

Ford is doing it wrong, and snubbing its roots in the process.

How not to stimulate an economy? Get rid of more workers. That's a "duh," class.

Reuters Online
Ford to cut shift, 900 jobs at Michigan plant
Tue Feb 16, 2010 2:14pm EST

... Ford will eliminate the shift at the Flat Rock, Michigan plant from July 12, spokeswoman Marcey Evans said.

Most of the workers at the plant, who are represented by the United Auto Workers union, will be offered work at other Ford plants, she said.

Those who are not offered jobs at other Ford facilities will be offered buyouts under the terms of the automaker's contract with the union, she said...

...By reducing the number of "down weeks" when output is shut down in 2010 and increasing the speed of the assembly line from July, Ford expects to increase output this year even after it eliminates the second shift of production, Evans said...

First off, the statement that Ford will "offer" jobs at other plants to the workers is entirely disingenuous. Like everybody else in the nation, most of those workers are underwater on their mortgages and will not be able to sell their homes or move, and most will also have family obligations and spouses with jobs that cannot be transferred, so few if any of the workers will actually be able to accept this "offer," and Ford knows that very well. Most will be laid off and never rehired - that is the intent of the move.

Notice that they still intend to make the same number of cars, however. They will do this by speeding up the assembly line to dangerous speeds, killing and maiming who knows how many workers in the process (who will no doubt get very stingy benefits after having themselves skewered on the altar of the Ford family's already bloated profit margin).

Many readers will remember the original Mr. Ford, builder of the Model-T and other early automobiles, for having great respect for workers and acknowledging that it's pretty useless to not pay workers living wages and to employ so few of them that nobody can actually afford to buy the products being made - and this goes for any factory, not just Ford factories. And yet today's Robber Barons seem to think otherwise. To them, the fewer employed at living wages, the better - but, we have to ask, better for whom?

John Michael Greer
Why factories aren't efficient
Wednesday February 17, 2010

...[E.F. Schumacher's] suggestion, to condense some very subtle thinking into too few words, was that a nation that had a vast labor force but very little money was wasting its time to invest that money in state-of-the-art industrial plants; instead, he suggested, the most effective approach was to equip that vast labor force with tools that would improve their productivity within the existing structures of resource supply, production and distribution. Instead of replacing India’s huge home-based spinning and weaving industries with factories, for example, and throwing millions of spinners and weavers out of work, he argued that the most effective use of India’s limited resources was to help those spinners and weavers upgrade their skills, spinning wheels, and looms, so they could produce more cloth at a lower price, continue to support themselves by their labor, and in the process make India self-sufficient in clothing production.

This sort of thinking flies in the face of nearly every mainstream economic theory since Adam Smith, granted. Since nearly every mainstream economic theory since Adam Smith has played a sizable role in landing the industrial world in its current mess, though, I’m not so sure this is a bad thing. Current economics dismisses Gandhi’s ideas on the grounds of their "inefficiency," but this has to be taken in context, "efficiency," in today’s economic jargon, means nothing more or less than efficiency in producing somebody a profit. As a way of keeping millions of people gainfully employed, stabilizing the economy of a desperately poor nation, and preventing its wealth from being siphoned overseas by predatory industrial nations, Gandhi’s proposal is arguably very efficient indeed – and this, in turn, was what brought it to the attention of E.F. Schumacher...

...If your goal is to feed, clothe, house, and employ the...people, building a [super "efficient"] factory is a very inefficient way to go about it...

Putting aside the fact that the auto market is oversaturated to begin with, it makes no sense to push more and more people into unemployment or underemployment and expect the economy to still function. Efficiency, like everything else under the sun, is subject to the Law of Diminishing Returns. More efficiency is not better, it just makes things worse after a certain point - and we are long past that point.

So the real solution to the economic problem is not to maximize efficiency and profit by employing fewer and fewer people. It is to accept a much more reasonable level of profit, decrease efficiency to employ more people, and return more of the value of their labor to the workers so that they have living wages and can buy the products of our economy.

That's what any sane culture would do. But it's not what our greed driven culture will do, so count on the collapse of the American economy continuing unabated, as Ford and other Robber Barons continue to strip the economy bare of operating cash - and laugh all the way to the bank doing it.

Not that I would buy a Ford anyway, but it's the principle of the thing. There is no moral and ethical excuse for the obscene bonuses, stock awards, and salaries of today's executives while workers are being dumped onto the street like trash. The economy cannot function like this, and honestly, I don't think anybody intelligent expects it to. They're just strip mining the workers while they still can at Ford (and other places), then they'll jet-set off to their European homes where they have national non-profit single payer healthcare and old age pensions guaranteed.

What does that leave us? Nothing, class. Absolutely nothing.

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