Celebrate Christmas Then Envision the Future!
Commissioner Tommy Adkisson
December 15, 2005

If Thanksgiving gives us a chance to count our blessings, Christmas provides an opportunity to explore the greatness of the season and perhaps find ways to extend it to beyond just Christmas time. This is a moment in which to consider the status of those things that are physical as well as fiscal, personal health and wealth and public economic strength. Most all of us seek to have some of the things money can buy and all of the things money can never buy such as health, family and happiness.

Not long ago our community went through the (Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process. In a City and County with the largest concentration of military outside of Washington, D.C., we have much for which to be grateful. We are "net economic winners" when it comes to measuring gains versus losses locally! Underlying our national security capacity reflected in our significant federal and military installations however is our national economic strength!

Ronald Brownstein of the Los Angeles Times writes that "No industry did more to build the American middle class than the big domestic auto manufacturers.

The postwar labor gains at GM ‘provided a basis for advances in the general wage level of everyone,' said Nelson Lichtenstein, a labor historian at the University of California, Santa Barbara. ‘It created, for a moment, a working class with the world's highest standard of living.'

Today, the domestic auto industry is wasting away like a patient in a terminal ward. Employment at GM has dropped from its peak of 618,000 in 1979 to 142,000. (Emphasis added) Last week, the beleaguered giant announced it would cut 30,000 jobs and close 12 more plants over the next three years.

Delphi Corp., GM's largest parts supplier, has filed for bankruptcy protection, largely to shed pension and healthcare costs for its retirees. Ford Motor Co. recently announced that it would cut its white-collar workforce by 10 percent, and is rumored to be planning a GM-like round of plant layoffs as soon as January.

Some say it doesn't matter if the domestic manufacturers (which include DaimlerChrysler, the merger of Germany's Daimler-Benz and the old Chrysler Corp.) continue shrinking because Asian and European companies will simply build more cars in the U.S., and create more jobs, as their market share here grows.

To an extent that's true. But replacing the sale of a GM car with the sale of an Audi or Honda is still not an even trade for American workers. Foreign manufacturers now assemble in the U.S. about 44 percent of the cars they sell here, up substantially since the 1980s. But GM assembles in the U.S. about 97 percent of the cars it sells here. Although foreign manufacturers are also using more American parts in the cars they assemble here (a Honda Accord, for instance, now has 70 percent domestic content), the domestic manufacturers typically buy even more in the U.S."

The American auto industry now must prepare to put in the hard work and sacrifice required to be competitive. Part of this problem has been brought about by the auto industry's narrow-minded congressional defenders. Brownstein asks, "Does anyone doubt the Big Three would be in a better position to compete with the Japanese today if they had not blocked federal efforts to mandate greater fuel efficiency?"

The public purpose and prospect must outweigh the private sector's unwillingness to remain relevant, long-term. But long term national economic strength requires change. And, there is no growth inside the comfort zone!

We can and must compete in every way possible. And, there is no doubt we can do anything we set our minds to doing. Locally, we need look no further than to Toyota and its outstanding work ethic and corporate culture. Let us resolve to have a rebirth of American economic leadership in 2006 and beyond!

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