Saturday, March 14, 2009


Owning stock is a way of owning part of a company.

Stockholders have the opportunity to have a say in how a company operates, especially if they are major stockholders.

Stockholders also have an opportunity to "earn" dividends, and, if the company in well managed, make money over time.

I've never owned stock before.

Now I do.

I own stock in General Motors, Chrysler, AIG, and other large corporations, thanks to the action of President BO, our representatives in The House of Congress and The Senate.

Well, to be perfectly honest with you (you DO want me to be honest, don't you?), I don't actually have a stock certificate in any of those companies. The Senate and Congress just want me to trust them that they will take good care of the part of these companies that is mine, via my hard-earned tax "contributions."

Actually, if I had had a choice, I would have chosen to "invest" my money in companies that actually were being run well and had a chance of bringing me some sort of income, perhaps at retirement.

One of those companies would not have been General Motors.

In the beginning, General Motors (well...In the beginning, God...but that's another story) actually did pretty well.

In fact, there was a saying: "As goes General Motors, so goes the country."

Today, that's a scary thought.

I'm old enough to remember two major "gas-at-the-pump" crises: gas rationing circa WWII, and long lines at the pump in the 1970s.

During the latter, two pipsqueaks in the car industry, Toyota and Honda, both Japanese imports at the time, burst on the scene with inexpensive, high miles-per-gallon cars that Americans were primed to buy.

American auto makers, who had previously enjoyed a wild, free ride selling cars in The United States, now faced real competition from these "foreigners."

The brilliant CEOs of GM, with their MBAs, thought that the Japanese imports were being helped by several factors: the low value of the Yen; unfair labor practices; high import quotas and automation.

They concluded that Toyota and Honda would be forever stuck in a small niche of "economy" cars, and that as Americans became acclimated to somewhat higher gas prices, the SMALL CAR BOOM would end.


As it turned out, American car manufacturers got caught up in the "we can make what we want, when we want, where we want, how we want" mentality and were following an almost non-existent business model.

Added to that was the greed of the UAW, who believed that every worker should make the same income as management, never minding that they wanted excessively high pay for (on average) less education, less risk, and less productivity.

In the mean time, those pesky Japanese were building the same number of cars that the "Big 3" were building, building them better and at much lower labor costs.

Say what you want about unions, the mathematical and business facts are that a company must make more on a product unit than it costs to manufacture it or they lose money. No amount of wishing, pouting, or denial can change that. If any union member were put in charge of the company, he/she would face the same hard, cold truth.

Not only do UAW laborers demand more wages, they demand a myriad of benefits, such as magnificent health-care, continued even after worker productivity has ended, extraordinary pensions, and something called "Job Banks," that virtually guaranteed that a worker could not be fired, productive or not.

So Rick Wagoner, GM CEO, told Congress that if they would just come up with $103 billion in bail-out money, they could get farther ahead in technology, new equipment and, to use his defining word, "whatever."

President BO, now in his 53rd day of his War on Achievement, urged Congress to go along with the request, which it did.

And now I am part owner of General Motors.

What do you want to bet I get very little say in how the company is run?

And as for retiring on my stock dividends and value side is hurting from the laughter.


Tom said...

You also forget - we are supposed to own our government, but we seem to have very little say in how it's run.

Joe said...

Tom: Own the government? Have a say in how its run? What a novel idea! Whoever would have thought of it?

My Daily Rant said...

Good job on this blog, it was very cleaver.

Joe said...

MDR: Thanks for stopping by and the kind words.

shoprat said...

When I worked in a parts plant we made more profit off of Toyota than the Big 3. We wanted Toyota work because they would let our boss make a profit which came down to us.

Z said...

"his war on achievement"
That is FANTASTIC, Joe!
excellent post!

Joe said...

I have to confess, I stole the idea of the War on Achievement from a great blog called: The Black Sphere. I recommend that you check it out!