A poster named Lenard Neal wrote in a comment today taking me to task for my commentary regarding the Ford plant in my previous post.
Lenard is apparently upset because I said that the unions killed off the massive Ford Motor Co. Rouge plant after Ford weakened it by failing to reinvest in it when they had the money.
Lenard replies that Henry Ford made the plant work by paying his employees a living wage that allowed them to buy his cars. Well Lenard is right on that, and I've never argued otherwise. Lenard also claims that Henry Ford was not a Democrat. Again...Duh. No issue here. Henry Ford did a lot of things back when he built and ran his empire. Some were good, and some were not. All in all though, I personally admire the man despite his flaws. He exemplified "capitalism" and showed what a man could do if the government would just stay out of the way.
But Henry Ford ran the company from 1906 until 1945, when he was replaced as President by his grandson, Henry Ford II. He was and is ancient history as far as Ford Motor Company is concerned. My claim stems from some of Ford Motor Company's decisions in the 1960's and 1970's, long after Henry Ford was away from the helm. In the days following World War Two, American industry was on top of the world. As about the only country with an intact industrial infrastructure left, we were making everything for everybody and life was good. However, many of our heavy industries, to include the steel and automotive industries, took the record profits that they made in the post-war decades and reinvested them in other areas, all too often failing to upgrade aging plants and machinery. As a result, a day came when new European and Asian steel mills and auto plants came on line, able to make better products more efficiently because they were using state-of-the-art technology while our firms were still using the same old stuff from decades past.
You see these furnaces at Rouge, Lenard?
Let me date those for you. Furnace A came on line in 1920, and Furnace B in 1922. Furnace C, the most modern blast furnace there today, came on in 1948. And Rouge Steel still uses those antiques today (except for the one that finally blew up in 2001, nearly killing two workers), supplemented by two electric furnaces that they added in 1976--furnaces that were fine for the 1970's but which are unable to produce steel as good or as cheap as newer plants do overseas today. Add to this Ford's decision in the 70's to stay away from production of small, fuel-efficient cars that cost them a lot of their market share, and suddenly it's obvious why this plant and Ford Motor Company in general went into the red, big time. Ford's steel demand actually dropped off so much due to declining car sales that they told the Rouge plant to start selling excess production on the world market, a market in which the inefficient plant could not compete, especially when handcuffed by the unionized workforce that demanded higher pay than any other auto workers or steel workers anywhere in the world. So yes, Lenard, Ford Motor Company was crippled and nearly killed off by bad business decisions in the 1960's through the 1980's, and the unions made it nearly impossible for them to compete with European and Asian companies that were using newer technology and processes and a trim, non-union workforce to made better cars cheaper. That's why Ford Motor Co. finally sold the Rouge Steel plant off in 1990, retaining a mere equity interest and buying roughly 30-40 percent of the mill's output these days. A Russian company, Severstal, owns those blast furnaces today and the big Dearborn Assembly Plant where so many of the cars were once made is gone now, replaced like many other auto plants by a vacant lot. How many union workers get a paycheck from those vacant lots, Lenard? The unions could have been content with a living wage, but they demanded buckets of cash for the most menial worker, topped off with lavish benefits and pension plans that no company today can afford to pay out. In many instances, labor unions have priced themselves right out of work by placing too high a value on the labor while refusing to let plants modernize with new technology because it might replace a few workers who pay union dues. And if the workers are total boat anchors who suck at what they do because they drink or use drugs or have bad attitudes? Too bad, because unions exist to keep just such people employed no matter how big a drain that they are on the company.
Now we could have discussed this like grown-ups for a while and maybe even had some fun doing it, but Lenard had to go and get personal and launch off into a screed about what he thinks my life and background are. Aside from the fact that he totally missed the mark, why do so many people do that when there's no need for it? A little civility and who knows, but we could have had quite the debate. But as it is, Lenard proved the need for comment moderation when he went to the personal and began hurling obscenity in lieu of trying to convince me with facts or sound theory.