George F. Will: Don't rescue Detroit from consequences of unchecked power

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  • Itsjstmeagain Merritt Island, Fl
    Aug. 6, 2013 7:26 a.m.

    Why are working people who are public employees so demonized in Washington, States and Cities? The people who beat constantly on them have only one issue I can see: when choosing a career, they chose poorly.
    What I do see is a total lack of integrity in the elected officials today: promise them anything but give them the boot or the rod when politician and executive excesses drive the Governments to the brink. NY State employees were not given pay raises for years in exchange for better retirement benefits. A lie, they are now being reduced because "we can't afford it". Politicians won't end the Bush "buy your vote" tax cut because their new masters of commerce will be upset and their under the table income will dry up. Shame.
    If you think austerity is the answer, look at Europe.

  • Howard Beal Provo, UT
    Aug. 2, 2013 8:52 p.m.

    Robocop might be the most accurate futuristic movie of all time. It got Detroit's future setting down to the detail.

  • 2 bits Cottonwood Heights, UT
    Aug. 2, 2013 9:59 a.m.

    LDS Liberal,
    Love the way you try to speak for Conservatives, and any group you want to vilify.

    It's probably true Conservatives only want a Plutocarcy. Heck, that's all I've ever wanted!

    And it's probably true I want everybody in America to have wages comparible to Communist China. I push for that all the time!

    But then I remember my Free Market principles. Which are... that I can only prosper if EVERYBODY prospers. I can make all the widgets I want, but if nobody can afford them, I fail!

    So in truth... most Conservatives want everybody to succeed... so they can buy more stuff, so I will need to open more stores (which employes more people), and order more supplies (which employes more people) so new factories are needed (employing more people), who can now afford to go out to dinner, so people open more resturants, providing even more jobs, so even more people have money to buy my stuff. So more people working and the more they earn, the better for me...

    You may be right that Conservatives just want people to fail, but I think it's highly likely you are wrong.

  • Redshirt1701 Deep Space 9, Ut
    Aug. 2, 2013 8:14 a.m.

    To "LDS Liberal" once again, you are wrong.

    Conservatives want to restrore our freedoms, and let the free market work.

    If we had a free market working, the wealthy would not have any more power than the poor because 1 vote is still 1 vote.

    Under this current administration it is more of a Plutocracy than it could ever be if the conservatives got their way.

    You seem to forget that during Obama's first term, the wealthy could get a personal meeting with Obama for a mere $500,000. How about all of the wealthy Obama donors that received political appointments. It seems like the Plutocracy you fear is being implemented by your Progressive leaders.

  • procuradorfiscal Tooele, UT
    Aug. 2, 2013 7:55 a.m.

    Re: ". . . you may be interested in inching toward a new socialism . . . ."

    Oh, we are. Although it's more of a headlong rush than an inching.

    But, it should be said -- there's no such thing as "new socialism." It's just the same old, drab, gray, thoroughly discredited soviet-style oppression.

    Liberals keep painting new lipstick on this tired old pig, but it can't change its essential its essential nature.

  • Mike Richards South Jordan, Utah
    Aug. 2, 2013 7:07 a.m.

    Everything has a value. That value is not set by the union, but by the customer. I can value my time at $200 per hour, but that doesn't mean that my customers will pay me $200 per hour. (They won't.) The fear tactics that so many liberals use when they say that auto workers will get Chinese labor pay, is insulting to all of us. Properly run automakers, world wide, pay their workers well. Those workers earn enough to live comfortably. Those workers are trained. Those workers use technology properly. Those workers don't insult the customer by building inferior products. Those workers are paid the value of their work. Those workers know that the customer sets the "value", not the labor union. Ask yourself why you buy $20 shirts when you could by a "union label" shirt for $100.

    When Detroit learns that unions and public officals don't set value, then Detroit might have a chance to work its way out of bankruptcy. But, I doubt the those officials and those labor unions care about value. They care only about their own job security no matter what it does to Detroit.

  • UtahBlueDevil Durham, NC
    Aug. 2, 2013 6:00 a.m.

    WRZ.... no.... the federal government has been borrowing money from the these funds year after year... to fund general operations. I find it odd that anyone would a huge debtor best use of funds if to borrow from itself. To have the left hand take on more debt because the right hand has some extra makes no sense.... and seeing how they keep raising the retirement age, now the republicans want to move it to 70, I do have a real problem with that.

    On the Toyota comment.... one plant does not make a company. Have you actually looked at what the human cost of building a car is? In today's factories, it is one of the least of the cost. What used to take an army of thousands, now takes a few hundred. The big three's problems were not "human capital" cost problems. No one lets a $200 - $500 cost differential decide what car they buy.,, at at best that is what we are talking about in union versus non union cost.

    But it sounds good....better than blaming the guys on the top floor, or the designers for the problems.

  • marxist Salt Lake City, UT
    Aug. 1, 2013 10:59 p.m.

    The Detroit "Big Three" automakers have been bailed out. The big banks (who created this recession BTW) have been bailed out. But when it comes to employee pensions - well they are not going to be bailed out. This hardly seems fair (it isn't), but why are things done this way? Because American capitalism requires that the top be saved first, and if there's anything left, such will "trickle down" to the plebes.

    If you think this stinks you may be interested in inching toward a new socialism where such inequities are not allowed.

    The pensioners, who do not have lavish pensions for the most part, should be saved.

  • wrz Pheonix, AZ
    Aug. 1, 2013 7:58 p.m.

    "The population of Detroit dropped because jobs dropped."

    And why did jobs drop? Because the main industry, vehicles, dropped. And why did that happen? Because of the greed of unions. Toyota manufactures vehicles in Alabama, has no unions and is doing quit well.

    To exacerbate the problem, Detroit employee unions got in on the largess with obscene pay and benefits.

    The fear now is the federal government will bail this city out... using taxpayer money. Taxpayers who had no seat or say at the wage/benefits bargaining table. And if Detroit is bailed, how many other states (i.e., California) will seek federal help when they go belly up? States should bail themselves and leave the fed out of it.

    Mountainman.... I do agree the raiding of the 'trust' funds needs to be stopped, and should not be used to balance the budget..."

    Trust funds were not raided... They were invested in 'special' government bonds held in the trust. What else would you suggest the government do with excess trust funds? Stuff them into a desk drawer at Treasury? Invest them in the stock market? Think about it.

  • procuradorfiscal Tooele, UT
    Aug. 1, 2013 6:35 p.m.

    Re: "It has now been 38 years since the U.S. ran a trade surplus. Ever wonder why?"

    No need to wonder -- it's liberals in Big Government and Big Labor. Those that so loudly demand that American workers be paid more than the market can possibly bear, then demand bailouts to "protect" jobs in the industry.

    Other high-labor-cost industries adapted by making workers more productive, primarily by reducing costs -- and the number of jobs -- through automation and modernization.

    The hidebound, union/government-controlled American auto industry was not permitted to make those changes or investments, however, until foreign automakers set up non-union or reasonable-union shops outside the rust belt, in states not controlled by Big Labor.

    By then, it was too late for Detroit.

    There were similar short-sighted labor/government spoliations of the railroad, steelmaking, mining/smelting, lumber, garment, electronics, and many other manufacturing industries.

    Result? The entirely foreseeable -- and foreseen -- trade imbalances we've seen over the past several decades.

    And, if liberals have their way, it'll continue into the future.

  • LDS Liberal Farmington, UT
    Aug. 1, 2013 6:00 p.m.

    Conservatives won't be satisfied until America is a Plutocarcy, and American workers are making wages comparible to Communist China.

    Meanwhile --
    Germany and Japan are UNION workers,
    living in SOCIALIST countries.

    But go ahead,
    blame it on Unions, and not Executives.

  • 2 bits Cottonwood Heights, UT
    Aug. 1, 2013 3:50 p.m.

    Lew Scannon
    Detroit is already gone. What remains is not Detroit. It's something, but it's not Detroit (at least the new Detroit is not the old Detroit). Let's hope it's reinvented as something that can be sustained. With a government for the PEOPLE (not government for the Unions and the businesses and the politicians).

    Bankruptcy is just a process. But the population loss is real. The city is the people. And most of the people are not there anymore. They live somewhere else now. Let's hope they don't do what they did to Detroit to whatever city they have relocated too.

    And lets hope the people who stayed are rewarded for sticking around (with prosperity and a sustainable fiscal policy)

  • 2 bits Cottonwood Heights, UT
    Aug. 1, 2013 3:15 p.m.

    You can deny that Union greed and 50 years of Democrat control of Detroit had nothing to do with their downfall... but you have to admit that Democrats couldn't find a way to save Detroit. So why expect them to turn the US around?

    Republicans don't do any better (neccessarily). But at least we now KNOW that the policies of Democrats won't work.

    Maybe we should quit trusting BOTH of them, and try something new (like libertarians or independents). When was the last time we had an administration that was nether Democrat OR Republican? Maybe it's time has come.

    I know... I was just joking. Libertarians have many good ideas, but they can't be organized worth beans. They have no dogma (they are independent thinkers). No platform. No base. No party rhetoric to beat the drum to every election. It's been said that organizing Libertarians is like hearding cats. It's imposible becasue they all want to go their own way.

    So I guess we're stuck with the groups that are good at organizing minions under their party banners. The groups that got us where we are today.

  • samhill Salt Lake City, UT
    Aug. 1, 2013 2:22 p.m.

    "Auto industry executives, who often were invertebrate mediocrities, continually bought labor peace by mortgaging their companies' futures in surrenders to union demands."


    The scariest part of this whole farce is the fact that, because of the same short-sightedness in Washington and the national electorate (Obama's 2nd term being ample evidence), we, as a nation, are far down the path to the same fate as Detroit.

    In fact, were it not for the fact that we, as a nation, are able to essentially manufacture money, we probably would have had to declare bankruptcy already.

    Dishonesty is bad business.

  • Lew Scannon Provo, UT
    Aug. 1, 2013 2:13 p.m.

    Gee, Mike. You make it sound like Detroit is going to vanish because it declared bankruptcy. Poof, gone, just like Sodom and Gomorrah. Aren't we being a little hyperbolic here? Detroit has serious problems, but it's not going anywhere, and it will survive. It just won't be the center of the universe it thought it was during its heyday.

    See Kent's comment above. Are you seriously suggesting America's auto workers should just keep accepting lower and lower wages until, well, until they are making what Chinese workers earn? Also, when did a union ever tell a worker he didn't have to work? Unions aren't the disease, Mike. They are a symptom of the disease. Without bad management, unions would never have existed in the first place.

  • Mike Richards South Jordan, Utah
    Aug. 1, 2013 12:56 p.m.

    Detroit died by suicide. Government corruption was one of the "pills". Unions were other "pills". Greed was a "pill". Drugs were "pills". The biggest "pill" of all was "something for nothing".

    Our parents taught us to work hard for what we want. God told us that we would eat bread by the sweat of our brow. Unions told the workers that they didn't have to work; that they were worth twice their value; that they could retire just when they were starting to become trained; that if the workers held together that the world would give them whatever they wanted.

    It was all just a bunch of lies.

    Now Detroit is preparing for its funeral. It killed itself. It has no one to blame but those who made false promises and those who believed those false promises.

  • RedShirt USS Enterprise, UT
    Aug. 1, 2013 12:31 p.m.

    If it wasn't the unions and liberal policies by Detroit leaders and Michigan, then can one of you liberals explain why the manufacturers went to Canada for some product lines, where the labor costs are MORE expensive? See "Ford seeks to close $15 an hour Canada labor gap with U.S" in AutoNews. If union and liberal policies did not drive the auto manufacturers out, why it is that labor in Canada is more attractive than the labor in Detroit?

  • Badgerbadger Murray, UT
    Aug. 1, 2013 12:21 p.m.

    UAW (United Auto Workers)

    Retire at age 38 with a pension
    Starting salary more than double that of college grads (equivalent to about $300,000 salary today)
    Generous benefits package

    All for unskilled 18 year olds.

    Anyone who thinks this was reasonable is nuts.

    And it is important to realize that as they lived so high and mighty, so many others in this country struggled to make ends meet, and had to pay high prices for those cars so the UAW workers could have those wages.

  • Noodlekaboodle Poplar Grove, UT
    Aug. 1, 2013 12:17 p.m.

    But the 47% number of people who take entitlements does include SS and medicare recipients. They ARE part of the 50% that you call freeloaders for receiving government services. You either consider medicare and SS unearned entitlements or your numbers are wrong.

  • UtahBlueDevil Durham, NC
    Aug. 1, 2013 11:54 a.m.

    Mountainman.... I do agree the raiding of the "trust" funds needs to be stopped, and should not be used to balance the budget... what ever that means. Its wrong, needs to be stopped.

    But the programs you mention... the receiving benefits does not even come close to the 47%...not by a wide margin. Abuse within those other systems is rampant, and not only by the poor, but also the rich. The company I work for - not in my division - makes software to detect fraudulent claims. Many times the offenders are well off Dr. clinics billing for services that were never performed, on patients they never saw. It is a huge problem.. robbing money from those who truly are in need.

    So were not that far apart... but to say 47% of americans are on entitlements, ones they don't deserve, I think stretches the numbers.

  • Kent C. DeForrest Provo, UT
    Aug. 1, 2013 11:47 a.m.

    I agree with the conservatives on this one. The autoworkers in Detroit should have long ago dumped the union and demanded wages and hours similar to their competitors in China and other low-wage countries so that their employers could remain competitive (and their CEOs could increase their pay).

    A couple of years ago this paper ran a story about autoworkers in a Chinese Honda plant who were "striking" because they were tired of low wages and 12-hour workdays, seven days a week. If we can't accept similar working conditions and wages, we have no business producing products in America that try to compete with those produced in Third World countries. We need to just ship all production jobs off to low-wage countries. Our job is to consume. And if we can't earn enough from our superfluous service-sector jobs to buy more stuff, then we need to rack up gobs of consumer debt. Oh, wait. This is exactly what we've been doing. It's worked out well, don't you think.

    It has now been 38 years since the U.S. ran a trade surplus. Ever wonder why?

  • Steve C. Warren WEST VALLEY CITY, UT
    Aug. 1, 2013 11:35 a.m.

    So, it was the unions that did in Detroit?

    Strange, but I was under the impression that auto company owners and executives, who continued to mandate the production of gas-guzzling cars when the Japanese and others were offering fuel-efficient cars, might have had a lot to do with it.

    In fact, my first three cars were a 1957 Chev, a 1961 Chev and a 1968 Ford Galaxie. Beginning in 1980, however, almost every car my family has owned has been made in Japan or Korea. And by the way, I noticed that the pay of auto company executives soared as sales declined.

  • Shaun Sandy, UT
    Aug. 1, 2013 11:24 a.m.

    It is sad George Will seems happy that Detroit is where it is today. Here are interesting statistics who think Utah is the best run state.

    Utah's structural debt is just over 23 billion with it's debt to gdp ratio at 19.1 percent. Michigan, which is considered a blue state, structural debt is 83.4 billion with a debt to gdp ratio of 18.8 percent. It's debt per citizen is $7832. Utah's debt per person is 8192.

    Just looking at the numbers it appears Michigan is better managed state than Utah, except the key factor left out it the unemployment rate. Utah is about half of what Michigan and Detroit is in the mid teens.

    So Detroit's demise comes down to unemployment. Which could happen anywhere. What if the federal government did decide to shut down Hill Air force, Dugway and other federal facilities? Washington county's Unemployment rate was 11.7 percent in the height of the recession. It relied and still relies on construction just like Detroit relies on Auto manufacturing.

  • Mountanman Hayden, ID
    Aug. 1, 2013 11:06 a.m.

    @ UtahBlueDevil. I think not! S.S. and Medicare are not really entitlements because we and our employers all paid into a "trust fund" for them. You can decide for yourself why the "trust funds" have all been raided and spent and the number of food stamp, housing subsidy and free healthcare recipients have more than doubled in the last 4 years. Detroit proves that don't you think?

  • Nate Pleasant Grove, UT
    Aug. 1, 2013 10:17 a.m.

    @UtahBlueDevil "Management at all levels of the big three failed to make products that Americans wanted."

    Most industries deal with a recession by becoming leaner, smarter, and more focused. They cut waste, and learn how to compete in tough economic conditions.

    The U.S. auto industry didn't learn any of these lessons. They got a bailout.

  • UtahBlueDevil Durham, NC
    Aug. 1, 2013 9:31 a.m.

    Mountainman... your right... my 75 year old mom pays no income taxes, worked for 45 years, and now is on social security and receives medicare benefits. She is unproductive now... we should just cut her off... right? She is now just a free-loader on society.

  • Badgerbadger Murray, UT
    Aug. 1, 2013 9:08 a.m.

    Labor unions priced their workers right out of the market. If they had been reasonable, they would still be doing well enough, but those poor workers might have had to work 35 or 40 or 45 years, to age 53 or 58, or heaven forbid 63 like the rest of us, to get a pension. Their pay would have been decent, but not double what a school teacher in Utah makes with years of experience and a college degree.

    But they behaved like parasites, caring not at all for the host industry they were sucking dry. They just figured they would find another host to leach off. The rest of us don't want to volunteer for that, not in federal aid, and not in trying to take new industry to Detroit, just to get sucked dry too.

    Perhaps we can feed some of the enemies of the US to Detroit corruption, like N. Korea, and Iran.

  • procuradorfiscal Tooele, UT
    Aug. 1, 2013 8:22 a.m.

    Re: "Where there is no or low demand, there are no jobs to create product."

    It's not low demand that sunk Detroit automakers, it was high cost. Foreign automakers continued to prosper, as Detroit sunk lower and lower.

    Foreign automakers -- even in Germany -- have been able to increase worker productivity to the point that labor costs, including the inevitable goldbricking and featherbedding imposed by unions, doesn't drive the cost of the product above levels real people will pay.

    In the US, federal intervention, labor "mediation," and regulation made that impossible. So labor costs drove us out of the market.

    Thanks to Big Labor, and its stooges in Big Government.

  • Mountanman Hayden, ID
    Aug. 1, 2013 8:01 a.m.

    Huge increases in taxes in order to pay for all the governance and pension funds forced taxpayers to flee Detroit in droves with their money and guess who were left? Its only a matter of time for the entire nation to experience the same fate. Need proof? 47% of Americans pay no federal income taxes today while about 50% get some type of government entitlement, mostly with borrowed money. Unsustainable, just like Detroit!

  • UtahBlueDevil Durham, NC
    Aug. 1, 2013 7:26 a.m.

    What a load of journalistic hogwash. If evil unions and liberals were to blame, how is it that automanufactures around the world, particularly in Germany, which offer greater benefits and retirement packages have not resulted in the mess Detroit now finds itself in.

    It wasn't just the unions who built decades worth of cars that were poorly designed, and didn't meet the needs of none suv and truck driving America. Management at all levels of the big three failed to make products that Americans wanted. Where there is no or low demand, there are no jobs to create product.

    The population of Detroit dropped because jobs dropped. It really is that simple. Pretending this is the result of some liberal political ploy ignores that products were the problem... not politicians.

    And while I have only worked one union job in my life, am not a supported of unions, I do think that if you tell an employee that if they stay loyal for 30 to 40 years, that they will be taken care of.... breaking that promise is a most serious breach of ethics. If the deal was bad, so be it. But you honor your commitments.

  • twells Ogden, UT
    Aug. 1, 2013 7:25 a.m.

    Can't agree more. Thank you George!