Perhaps my experience is not so different from yours. I have owned four non-Japanese cars—my Chrysler caught on fire while I was driving it, my GM stranded me 300 miles from home on a bitterly cold day, the engine of my Ford had the dangerous habit of turning itself off while I was driving the car, and my Volkswagen blew its head gasket at 12,000 miles. In contrast, my Toyotas and Hondas have never needed more than routine maintenance. Am I biased when I shop for a car? Of course! Am I un-American when I buy a Japanese car? Of course not!
Consider the new automobile bailout. Although Senate Republicans have temporarily defeated this measure, President Bush has announced he will spend part of the $700 billion already allocated on such bailouts. We need not revisit again how blatantly unconstitutional such actions will be.
In one way it is easy not to get too incensed about the money—it is comparatively small, “only” $14 billion; and we are ready numb to this reckless assault on our economic future. Yet, we all know that this $14 billion is just a small down payment towards many more future payments. How could it be otherwise? If $14 billion was enough to save GM, Chrysler, and Ford, private investors would be rushing to get in on this marvelous bargain. GM and Ford stock have almost approached the penny per stock level; and if the forecasts are correct of those who advocate the bailouts, this would be a tremendous opportunity for investors to get rich. Of course, we know it is no opportunity. Those who promise us a return on our taxpayer investment are either ignorant of the basic laws of economics, or they are lying. They are promoting the interests of a few over the rest of America.
We are told that GM, Ford, and Chrysler are victims of a crumbling economy. This is either a confusion of cause and effect or another calculated lie. Their failing businesses are not the effect of a crumbling economy, they are one of the causes. Lew Rockwell has calculated that GM loses about $4000 for every car they sell. Thus, they are a cause of wealth destruction in America. This destruction of wealth was hidden for many years by the cheap credit bubble of the Fed. Left to its own devices, the marketplace will begin a healthy transfer of capital and labor away from failed firms to those firms that can best serve the most urgent needs of the consuming public. This will promote—rather than hinder—an economic recovery.
In the 1980s, Japanese cars were imported rather than built in the United States. Perhaps you can remember when Lee Iacocca successfully fought for import restrictions on Japanese cars. He helped to fan racism against Asians, and the quotas helped to push up the price of the average car by $2500. In 1982, in a hate-filled rage, two laid-off autoworkers killed Vincent Chin, a Chinese-American who the men mistook as Japanese. This past Friday, in a Detroit suburb, the tires of five “foreign” cars—a Honda, a Hyundai, a Mazda, a Toyota, and a Volkswagen—were lashed, and “Buy USA” was scrawled on the sides of the vehicles.
I put “foreign” in quotation marks because chances are that most of those cars were American-made. Buying a Japanese car built in Tennessee or Kentucky instead of a GM car built in Michigan is no more un-American than buying oranges grown in a grove in California instead of a grove in Florida. The United Auto Workers (UAW) as well as Ford, GM, and Chrysler, would like to confuse us on this point; but we don’t have to believe their self-serving nonsense.
Let’s make no mistake about it; automobile bailouts are about supporting firms and unions who are more interested in serving themselves then in serving Americans. It is their selfishness—of course, selfishness is not limited to the automobile industry—that is at the heart of our problems. By selfishness I mean they want to get without giving. The foundation of capitalism is to get by giving. In other words, you earn a profit by satisfying the most urgent needs of the public better than someone else does.
Even before there were Japanese auto plants in America, those who bought Japanese cars manufactured in Japan were improving the health of the economy of America. If you doubt that, consider how impoverished America would become if it stopped trading with the world. The results would dwarf the catastrophic effects of all the bailouts to date.
Leo Gerard, president of the United Steelworkers, advocated lawlessness last week: “If we have Republicans who oppose us, we are going to take to the streets, we are going to occupy places.” Gerard was referring to a proposed $900 billion “Main Street bailout.” Not content with having helped to destroy the steel industry in America, the unions are now threatening overt criminal behavior. No doubt these threats and actions will become increasingly commonplace as the economic depression, created in part by their previous actions, gains momentum.
Kathy Ward works in a Nissan plant in Tennessee. Her pay has been cut this year by about $5000, and she rightfully resents the fact that she will be forced to support UAW members who have refused to take a pay cut. She’s glad she still has a job and wants to see the Nissan plant continue to be prosperous. Unlike her UAW counterparts who have the power to steal from their fellow Americans, she has no such power.
Is stealing a strong word? Would you voluntarily send a check to the UAW or Chrysler or Ford or GM? No, I didn’t think so. Steal means “to take [the property of another or others] without permission” and this is exactly what is being done.
You would think the choice would be clear—voluntary transactions that raise the well-being of both parties in a trade, such as Honda selling you a new Accord, or involuntary transactions that steal from one group to give to another. America continues to make the wrong choice, and we will all suffer in the process. Those who advocate such theft are the real Un-Americans.