A friend sent me the following – I think it speaks volumes. I don’t know who the author is, so I can’t properly attribute it, and I hope they don’t mind that I’ve reproduced it here.
Manufacturing is an essential element of our national identity, our economic health, and even our readiness, as a country, to defend ourselves. The decline of our manufacturing base, in my opinion, is truly a national crisis. This article relates directly to that decline.
Farewell to GM, from a factory rat’s disloyal daughter
It’s been nearly a quarter of a century since my dad punched a clock for the last time, but he’s still got his tools, the ones he used for 37 years in the die room at a Chevy spring and bumper plant, though they don’t get much exercise anymore. My parents moved into senior housing a couple years back, and if something breaks, Dad just calls Maintenance. The only thing he fixes now is supper, a job he’s taken over from my mom, who suffers from dementia. Dad is 83 and, like his former employer, he’s seen better days.
Back when I was a kid growing up on the northwest side of Detroit, everybody we knew was connected in some way to the Big Three. The streets in our neighborhood were named after Ivy League colleges, but it was a solidly blue collar area; block after block of modest little houses plunked down like tokens on a life-size Monopoly board, most of them crammed to the rafters with kids. Every morning at six thirty, with the precision of a choreographed dance, back doors would open and men would emerge and, after hasty goodbye kisses from women in curlers, they would vanish into the steel jaws of the great automotive giants, only to be belched out again eight hours later, twelve during model changeover time.
“Generous Motors” (with the help of the U.A.W.) put the food on our table and the roof over our head and the money in my parents’ bank account, money that financed much of my education, supplemented by what I earned from my own well-paying summer jobs at my dad’s plant, one of the perks that went along with being in a GM family. My dad, the only son of an itinerant laborer from Arkansas, was lucky to graduate from high school. On the other hand, like most of the kids I grew up with, viewed college as a birthright. I even tacked on three years of law school. Such a huge change in just a single generation, made possible by virtue of a strong union and a robust industry.
And how did I return the favor? How did I express thanks for my newfound upward mobility? I packed my bags, moved to California and, like millions of my fellow baby boomers, promptly went out and bought a Japanese import, which I subsequently traded in for a Volvo.
On News Hour late last week, I listened to an interview with Micheline Maynard, New York Times senior business writer and author of two books about the decline of the American car industry. According to Maynard, the demise of General Motors comes largely as a result of changing brand loyalties among baby boomers. By 1990, half of all Americans under age 45 did not own American cars. Just as we rebelled against our parents’ taste in music and clothing and hair styles, so we came to reject their choices in transportation as well.
Okay, maybe we had good reason. American cars didn’t last as long, or so the thinking went. They weren’t as fuel efficient. But how hard did we try, really? How much comparison shopping did we actually do? The truth is, in my case, and in the case of many of my peers as well, it never occurred to us to buy an American-made car. And so we went blithely on our way, tooling around in our imports, listening to Bruce Springsteen sing about decaying cities and forgotten workers, and we never even made the connection.
All I ask is that we take a second look. Start by reading this article, Misconceptions about the quality of American cars continue. My husband and I have decided to only buy American from here on, figuring better late than never. He likes his new GM car, a Yukon hybrid. It’s good for a big guy like him, and for hauling big dogs and navigating country roads, and the mileage isn’t bad for an SUV. When the new Chevy Volt comes out, I’ll trade in my Mini.
Yesterday morning, as I drove home from San Francisco on Highway 101 in a sea of foreign-made cars, listening to the bankruptcy news, I called my dad to see how he was holding up. He sounded tired. Like many in his generation, he put his faith in big institutions, things he thought would last forever. Now he wonders what will happen next. His dental and vision care coverage will end July 1. After that, who knows? (Though in another few months, his own wife may not even recognize him, which puts things in a certain perspective.)
My dad could always fix anything, from a toaster to a ten-ton press, and even, on occasion over the years, his daughter’s broken heart. He’s my institution.
The traffic was sluggish, as it often is at that hour and, while I waited for it to clear, I contemplated the rear end of a shiny black BMW 750i idling directly in front of me. It had vanity plates, surrounded by a frame that said “life is a cabaret.”
Yeah, right, I said to myself. Tell that to the folks back in Michigan.
From: A factory rat’s disloyal daughter