Black Monday

August 6th, 2009

DRIVE-Editorial_tempThe inconceivable, though some say inevitable, happened today: GM declared bankruptcy.

Now, I’m a journalist, not an economist. But it’s easy to see why GM has come to this point-not because the cars haven’t been all that great for a while, (though they certainly haven’t been); or that it has been shortsighted in its decisions, (though it certainly has). It’s simply because of greed. Case in point: In the 1970s, Toyota showed up here, looked around and asked themselves, “What do we need to do to dominate the market in 30 years?” And they set out to do that. Conversely, GM asked themselves, “How can we squeeze every nickel of profit out of everything that we build?” And they set about doing that. Their motivations and visions for the future were completely different. Now, Toyota is the No. 1 auto manufacturer, and GM is bankrupt.

Why are we in this position? Why are our jobs going overseas? Why do we not manufacture anything in this country anymore? Greed. When businesses began worrying more about the almighty profit margin than the product they built; when they decided that building the product in some Third World country meant more profits, the end was in sight. I call it the “Harvard Business School Mindset,” and it’s touted by guys who never actually worked hard a day in their lives, and have no intention of doing so. They simply move numbers around on a spreadsheet. It’s not enough anymore for a company to simply be profitable; to make enough money to keep the doors open and its workforce employed. It now has to make more money this year than last, regardless of the economic situation. In the minds of upper management, the business has to hit some magic number to be “viable”. Never mind that this number was, in most cases, plucked out of thin air. And if it doesn’t hit this percentage increase, then the workforce and/or the quality of the product is cut. Whatever it takes to hit that magic number is done. The result, then, is what we are seeing in corporate America today.

I’m not saying the blame rests solely on business, either. The workforce has its own stake in this, as well. I’m all for hard work being rewarded, but when a trash collector is making six figures, something is wrong with that picture. We have become such an entitlement-based workforce, where a job is guaranteed regardless of the quality of the work being performed, that businesses can’t fire someone without being sued, which is wrong, too. And don’t get me started on lawyers.


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