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Saturday, July 16, 2005

The Fall of Detroit?

Continuing on with a theme of unmitigated negativity I read an interesting article concerning the current status of auto manufacturing in this country. Evidentally Canada now out produces the US in manufacturing cars. Why exactly? What does Canada have that we don't? For one they have government backed health care.

I don't care what side of the aisle you are on in terms of the political spectrum, but this country being the only one outside of sub-saharan Africa not to have socialized health care is wrecking what little manufacturing base we have left, and for that matter harming entrepreneurs. Can you imagine opening up a restaurant in this day and age, with miniscule profits, and then on top of it all having to pay all your employees' health care? The Republicans say they are on the side of the small businessman, but I can't see how that can be when they are shafting him with expenses that make his business uncompetitive with foreign ones. It's no wonder that jobs are being exported to other countries. It's just cheaper, especially when foreign countries will subsidize a business by paying the health care bill.

The argument that socialized health care would prevent medical scientific progress is a poorly done argument that is usually trotted out by drug companies in defense of their continued fleecing of Americans. You mean Europe hasn't produced anything scientifically? Or Asia? Scientists invent for status all the time, not just for money. We are no longer the leader in medical research in the field of cloning or stem cells anyway because of further myopic policy making by our leaders. The only correlated activity with private healthcare is outrageous expenses by doctors and drug companies.

You might be saying at this point, doesn't the US have the greatest health care in the world? Why tamper with it? That's news to me because our infant mortality rate is higher that many socialized medicine countries, and our life expectancy is lower than many as well. Ask any doctor, which is healthier: seeing a doctor regularly for checkups, or waiting until the last minute in an emergency. Clearly the former is the way to go, and the latter is incredibly risky. Unfortunately many Americans do the latter because they can't afford any other way. The result? Lower average life expectancy, and higher infant mortality. Many poor Americans think pregnancy is just having the baby, because that's all they can afford. Here's an informative link from the American Medical Student Association.

A successful capitalist economy relies on government support, contrary to the libertarian fantasises of many Americans. Governments are responsible for roads, water to desert cities, product oversight agencies that stop corporations from making dangerous items, the cleanliness of the air we breathe, etc. China is heralded by many conservatives as the way to run things, well they are incredibly socialized, far more than we are. Their workers have mandated vacation days, and you guessed it, they have socialized medecine. Many corporations there are owned in part by the government, and tariffs on foreign goods are astronomical.

I believe this country is selling out its domestic manufacturers. The auto market is not a level playing field. Japanese car companies are backed by their government, as well as the German ones, to a much greater extent than our companies. The tariffs on their cars into this country are miniscule. To some extent foreign competition has improved American cars, but I would argue government oversight is the real factor in improving them, and all cars sold in this country for that matter.

I expect some real disagreements by people reading this entry, but there's one thing that cannot be argued against. We are losing manufacturing jobs to foreign countries.

Comments:
So, you're saying that Medicare and Medicaid are helping keep the cost of medicine in this country down? And that their model is working? The big debate in Canada right now is if they should move back toward an American model of medicine. The true problem is that employer-provided health care completely hides the costs of medicine from the consumers. Why do we take care of our cars (generally)? Because it's more cost-effective than the alternative. But that's not true for health care. We don't need to take care of ourselves now, because someone else will take care of the cost later. And as an enlightened conservative, I don't know many of my "breathren" who lust after the Chinese model of capitalism. Finally, for the effects of governments "protecting" national industry, just check out what Smoot-Hawley did for this country in the '30s...
 
>We are losing manufacturing jobs
> to foreign countries.

Yes, this is true, but I doubt very much that it's because of employer-provided health care.

The cost of health care in this country is a fixed amount. I'm not really seeing how spreading that cost out to the tax base is going to reduce it at all. Sure, The Company won't have to pay half of my health-care costs...but if my salary goes up by the exact amount that my insurance bills go up, then what have we gained? The money still goes away.

The reason Chinese manufacturing is cheaper is that the Chinese government sets the wage its workers are paid.

>You mean Europe hasn't produced
>anything scientifically? Or Asia?

...well, no. Compared to the research done (presently, and in the past) in the United States, Europe is a very minor player and Asia is nonexistent. And this is because America has all the money.

>Scientists invent for status all
> the time, not just for money.

Ho, ho, ho. It takes money to invent, even if you do convince yourself that you're doing it for status.

>That's news to me because our
>infant mortality rate is higher
>that many socialized medicine
>countries, and our life
>expectancy is lower than many as
>well.

Hm. Always nice to see a statistical statement with no statistics. If nothing else, I'd like to see some demographics comparing this death-riddled, disease-ripped shithole we live in to these wonderful clean countries like China where everyone is beautiful and thin and lives forever.

You are advocating an entirely nationalized economy as the solution to the automobile industry's problems. Get back in your garage and shut up.
 
Actually, I believe legacy costs are what is holding back the big three. They have more retirees than actual workers, especially since now we live LONGER after retirement age. They promised huge benefits and now have to deliver. This is why we need a switch to a defined contribution infrastructure instead of a defined benifit infrastructure. My company isn't tied to funding my retirement beyond what they pay me while I work here. It might not be as beneficial to me as the unending pension, but my company won't have the problems of the big 3 twenty years from now because of legacy costs.
Socialism is not the way to go here..as they are finding out in pretty much every socialized nation. Canada now has a judicially-mandated two-tiered health-care system because people could not get reasonable care. Hell, my home town of Cleveland, OH is the place to be for elderly Canadians getting replacement surgeries.
Finally, I can't think of ONE conservative who looks to China as a model of capitalism. It's a COMMUNIST country after all.
 
Halo--

Read the links above, that is where I get my statistics moron. The Big 3 themselves are saying healthcare is holding them back, but I guess you know more than Rick Wagoner. Check out the CIA factbook and see where we rank in infant mortality. 48th place in the world. Terrible. And that's from our own government. New rule for you--think before you speak.
 
Folks, I don't know where you're getting this that Canada's health care system is worse than ours, and that they are debating moving to our system. I watch Canadian news every night on cable through the NWI network, and they spend at least once a week making fun of our system. The sad fact is, Canadians in general love their health care system. And the other sad fact is, many Americans hate ours which overcharges them, and doesn't even serve them if they can't afford it. Please refer to the links which will inform you.
 
Rick,
Just recently a judicial decision in Canada ruled that Canada must end it's laws prohibiting medical practicioners from giving medical care outside the government-supplied health system. They ruled that people wern't getting reasonable care. That decision was a little more informed than a 20 second news item sandwiched in between the missing women and pediphile pop star stories that are the main focus of "news" shows these days.
http://www.cbc.ca/story/canada/national/2005/06/09/medical-ruling-reaction050609.html

Also, I find it odd that while the Big 3 moan over health care cost, their rivals thrive in the same health care system. Here in Ohio, the most cars were made by Honda last year. And their cars sell for full price. Even Hyundai can justify building cars in the U.S. Seems to me there may be more at work here than the evil U.S. healthcare system...like maybe the Big 3 make crap automobiles no ones wants. Just a thought. I personally drive a Ford Focus that has less than 70,000 mi and has a faulty fuel pump, faulty alternator, garbage ignition, poorly fitted interior, cheap seats that have brittle interior supports and a rear seat designed by a moron...and this is a newer model after they supposedly fixed a lot of "problems" with earlier ones. Health care is just a scapegoat for dying business models. Really, why do we still have to deal with Pontiac or Buick? Anyone?
I'd remark how unions are helping drag down American automakers, but Nissan is apparently able to do well despite that, too, so we'll gloss over that for now.

Lastly, find me one instance where someone died because they were denied health care service in the U.S. That's right, you can't because it doesn't happen. Even if they can't find a charity to help them out, it's illegal to turn away a patient with life-threatening problems because they can't pay. Contrast that to your socialist paradise where judges have to overrule a government who forces people into a system where people die waiting their turn at the state-sponsored trough. Not really a contest. Sorry to seem snippy, but this crap gets me tweaked.
 
Brainy--

Thousands of people die from not getting medical care. How else do you explain our lower life expectancy than most of western europe and Canada, and our higher infant mortality? Sure these people get emergency medical care at the end of their lives, but ask any doctor, you need regular checkups to stay healthy, especially when pregnant. Also when people get emergency medical care in this country, and don't have insurance, the hospital charges them thousands, and if they don't pay, they'll foreclose on any of their assets. Please read the above link to the American Medical Students Association, it should straighten out some of your mistaken beliefs.
 
Rick,
Using one source for all your beliefs is foolhardy, especially one so obviously pandering an ideology. If you were to read more sources..say even the World Health Organization, you would find that a lot of factors bring down these rates that don't necessarily have to do with health care. We have a very high murder rate, which brings down our life expectancy. Not the fault of the healthcare system. We have a lot of smoking-related cancer and heart disease, a product of our wealth, which is a personal failing and not the fault of our healthcare system (and I say this as a 270lb glutton). We also have high rates of HIV, again a personal failing..especially with condoms so easily available.
And yes, some people would see the doctor much more often if others were footing the bill. That's good for them, but maybe not so much for those paying for it. It would benefit some, true, but would open the door wide to abuse that could be just as bad.
Finally, my daughter, who just turned 2, was born at 27 weeks...almost 3 months early. My wife had the best prenatal care and the Childrens hospital performed miracles to keep my daughter alive. I have good health insurance, but am by no means well off. I recieved all my training in the military or on the job and have not finished a college degree, although I am working towards one, so I haven't done anything that anyone else would not be able to do to get the job that supplies my insurance. I;m not saying it's easy, but it is possible.
I also noticed you didn't even bother refuting anything else I wrote...should I consider those points made?
 
autoguy: I don't care what side of the aisle you are on in terms of the political spectrum, but this country being the only one outside of sub-saharan Africa not to have socialized health care is wrecking what little manufacturing base we have left, and for that matter harming entrepreneurs.

If the lack of socialized medicine is the root of Detroit's problem, then why are Honda, Toyota and Nissan, which have their home offices in a country with socialized medicine, opening up plants in this country? Toyota, in particular, has been EXPANDING its manufacturing, engineering and design presence in America. (It's building a huge new truck plant in Texas.) BMW and Mercedes, which also hail from a company with socialized medicine, have opened up plants in the U.S. So they must find the climate for manufacturing quite hospitable in this country.

If socialized health care is the panacea for Detroit's woes, why aren't Honda, Toyota, Nissan, BMW and Mercedes expanding their presence in their home countries? When I was in Germany last summer, the big news was that Mercedes and VW were demanding CONCESSIONS from their employees to remain competitive. They were staggering under an uncompetitive cost structure - even with Germany's generous cradle-to-grave social welfare system.

Autoguy: Can you imagine opening up a restaurant in this day and age, with miniscule profits, and then on top of it all having to pay all your employees' health care?

Most restaurants do not offer health insurance to their employees.

Autoguy: The Republicans say they are on the side of the small businessman, but I can't see how that can be when they are shafting him with expenses that make his business uncompetitive with foreign ones.

Since when did Republicans mandate that employers offer health insurance? They haven't, so they can hardly be blamed for "burdening" businesses with this expense.

A big reason the Big Three aren't competitive is because of Cadillac-level (or Lexus-level) health care benefits contained in the UAW contract. The UAW has said repeatedly that it will not make any concessions to help GM or Ford with health care costs. These burdensome expenses are the result of policy decisions made in the headquarters of GM, Ford, Chrysler and the UAW. The Republicans have had nothing to do with it.

Incidentally, the UAW could avail itself to "socialized medicine" by simply allowing retirees to be covered by Medicare. But - surprise, surprise - the UAW refuses to make even this concession to help out the Big Three. The UAW wants to keep its gold-plated benefits package - understandable, as no one likes to make concessions. But the union's cry for universal health coverage rings hollow in the wake of its refusal to allow retirees to be covered by solely by Medicare. But that would mean a cut in benefits.

Autoguy: The argument that socialized health care would prevent medical scientific progress is a poorly done argument that is usually trotted out by drug companies in defense of their continued fleecing of Americans. You mean Europe hasn't produced anything scientifically? Or Asia?

If you think only drug companies have made this argument, then you need to read more about this topic. And the simple fact is that the U.S. remains the leader in medical and drug research, precisely because it is more profitable to conduct the research here.

Autoguy: Here's an informative link from the American Medical Student Association.

If "informative" is now synonomous with "slanted, biased and presents only one side of the issue," then, yes, that site is informative. Most of us, however, have a different definition of the word. Considering that the American Medical Student Association favors a single-payer plan, I'm not surprised that it marshalled "evidence" to support that view. (Incidentally, if only 2/3 of Canadian doctors are either "satisfied or highly satisfied," I hardly consider that a ringing endorsement of the Canadian healthcare system.)

Autoguy: A successful capitalist economy relies on government support, contrary to the libertarian fantasises of many Americans.

As opposed to the fantasy that socialized medicine is going to cure what ails the Big Three, and it's those mean, small-government Republicans and Libertarians who have their heels on the necks of hapless Big Three and heroic UAW members.

Autoguy: Governments are responsible for roads, water to desert cities, product oversight agencies that stop corporations from making dangerous items, the cleanliness of the air we breathe, etc. China is heralded by many conservatives as the way to run things, well they are incredibly socialized, far more than we are.

The most China is noted for is its economic growth (which may be overstated, as it's difficult to get a handle on accurate figures). Plus, when a country grows from virtually nothing, it's not hard to post impressive growth figures. Conservatives do not admire its government, or its economic structure.

Autoguy: I believe this country is selling out its domestic manufacturers.

No, clueless management and shortsighted union leaders are selling out the manufacturers. The roots of this problem are found in Detroit, and will only be solved in Detroit.

Autoguy: To some extent foreign competition has improved American cars, but I would argue government oversight is the real factor in improving them, and all cars sold in this country for that matter.

You can argue that viewpoint, but you'd be wrong. Government regulations are concerned with whether a vehicle is clean (from an emssions standpoint), crashworthy and meets CAFE standards. The government does not care whether the vehicle is stylish, handles well, accelerates quickly and smoothly and boasts a rigidly constructed, beautifully finished body. Over the years, manufacturers have produced vehicles that met every government standard and were abysmal in every way (most American vehicles built from the late 1970s through the late 1980s; Korean vehicles in the 1980s and 1990s).

The simple fact is that foreign competition has brought about dramatic improvements in workmanship, build quality, handling, braking, comfort and performance. Foreign competition has even spurred the domestics to go beyond the government mandated standards in emissions control and crashworthiness. Thanks to fierce competition, manufacturers have begun selling safety and cleanliness to help them stand out in the crowd. Which is quite remarkable when you read about their attitude on these subjects in the 1960s and 1970s.

Autoguy: We are losing manufacturing jobs to foreign countries.

In the auto industry? I guess if we ignore the Japanese, Korean and European transplants, along with the supplier base that they bring with them, that would be a true statement. But most analysts today recognize that the auto industry is no longer limited to the Big Three and the UAW. It isn't 1965 anymore.

Autoguy: Thousands of people die from not getting medical care.

Low-income people are eligible for Medicaid in this country. Most states have programs for the working poor, and pregnant low-income women are eligible for a variety of federal government programs that are supposed to help them and their babies. The simple fact is that any higher mortality rates are caused by their own poor health habits. They have poor diets, don't exercise (and this is a personal choice, not because they can't afford anything better), smoke more often and take a lackadaisical attitude toward their health (and the health of their children).

The idea that the poor can't get health care, and that this is the root of their problems, is a myth.

Back to the Big Three - what ails them is an uncompetitive cost structure caused by overly generous healthcare provisions in their contracts, along with the bar on plant closures contained in the UAW contracts. The simple fact is that benefit costs are out of line, and the UAW won't budge.

The other problem is that GM and Ford have too much capacity, and need to close several plants, and shut down several divisions - Pontiac and maybe Buick at GM; Mercury at Ford. (Granted, the dealers are also preventing the closure of unnecessary divisions.) Those are the problems that ail Detroit.
 
Yeah, what Mr. Carblogger said.
Oh, and pox on you for suggesting that the government can do something better than private business.
 
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