Ron Gettelfinger's basically saying "it's not our fault" when discussing the state of Detroit's automakers. Rather than admit that the UAW's plum labor agreements and contentious negotiations have contributed to the current gloomy situation, the United Auto Workers head man says that the economic downturn is to blame for everything, and that Congress should approve loans to the auto industry, saying "We cannot afford to...see this industry collapse." You've got to love that black and white logic. The current state of the economy, and in turn the automakers' pain, are both closely related, and separate issues at the same time.
Boosting sales numbers for the last decade by financing anyone who filled out some nominal paperwork was probably not such a hot idea, but it kept the lines running, putting off layoffs even though it meant overproducing. An automaker propping up its sales to avoid strife with its labor union? Why, that sounds like it's at least partially the UAW's doing; and now those chickens have come home to roost as easy credit has dried up. Bad management and uncompetitive products from domestic automakers is pretty much the story of the last 35 years, and that's something the auto industry in the United States is certainly responsible for. Only now, when they're on the brink of massive failure, are American cars truly competitive with the import competition that's been dogging them for 25-plus years. It's certainly true that current economic forces unrelated to the automotive business have a large role to play in this ongoing saga, but if a bailout plan is passed, will it really help?

Consumer confidence is at record lows, and at a time when people aren't buying household widgets, is it really conceivable that they could be enticed into a big-ticket automotive purchase from a carmaker that may or may not soon file for bankruptcy? All the dire predictions about how the auto industry cannot be allowed to fail amount to so much hot air; even if we pump federal dollars into the industry, if nobody's buying, it could still fail. If that happens, there will be much wailing and gnashing of teeth, but it's not an impossibility. If one of the Detroit automakers goes down, then what? The UAW will have to find some other industry to choke, that's for sure.


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