The announcement that the federal government will bail out Citigroup to the tune of $20 billion is quite revealing and should get our attention as workers, as representatives of the middle class, and as Americans. This decision, presented as a "no brainer" to the press, illustrates the influence and power of the corporate banking elite in this country. AIG executives enjoy a $500,000 celebration (at taxpayers expense) but automotive execs are scolded like children who threw a baseball through the neighbor's window for flying in private jets to D.C.
Clearly, the decision not to bail out the auto industry is the newest form of union busting. Foreign companies (Mercedes, Toyota, Honda) receive governmental largesse while American companies and their retirees are left to hang. What will be the consequences if one or all of the Big Three collapse? I wonder how my father, who worked every day of his life, will respond to a lost pension?
How does one respond to these kinds of things? I don't care what class, political spectrum, or region you come from, the loss of any worker's pension should get your attention. Apparently, we haven't raised our voices loud enough in protest of the loss of our fellow Americans' life work. Who will clamor for you when it happens to you? At least we'll be able to borrow money from Citigroup at 25 percent interest.
If it is true that there are perhaps 3 million jobs on the line if the Big Three collapse, and perhaps another 2-3 million retirees who could lose their benefits, then I have a possible solution to the problem.
Create a holding company that would sell bonds for, say, $1,000. The bonds would have a 5 percent return compounded annually but not be payable for seven years, when they would be worth about $1,500.
The bonds would be aimed directly at the 6 million mentioned above who have an interest in seeing the automakers succeed in coming out of this situation as healthy corporations again.
If they could buy just five bonds each, the automakers would have more than you are asking the government for.
Then there are the thousands of retailers and concerned citizens that would consider it in their interest to have a viable American manufacturing base. Plus, if the turnout is good, other investors will come along for the ride.
If successful, the holding company could become an alternative source of credit for any manufacturer with a solid business plan. The politicians will probably do something, some time. How much and however late that may be, they will put on a grand show, with the usual disappointing results for most of us. Time is wasting away. Do it the American way; stop begging and just do it.
James P. Struble
Now that the election is over, the voters and union members in Ohio and Michigan who helped put the Democratic Party in almost complete control are being thanked by those same politicians.
Previous politicians "helped" our area with more jobs by passing the North American Free Trade Agreement. Now, they have done us another "favor" by throwing Michigan Rep. John Dingell off his chairmanship of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. They appointed Henry Waxman, who will do everything in his power to help the area auto industry to succeed by implementing standards that will enable the auto companies to create more jobs for Ohio and Michigan.
Obviously, Mr. Dingell spent too many years ruining the auto industry by standing in the way of legislation designed to help the auto makers. Thanks Democrats, for helping to elect such wonderful people to help our little region of the world. I just can't wait for the changes to start coming. You ain't seen nothing yet.
Here's my suggestion for saving the U.S. auto industry: Have them save themselves. How? Use the assets of their employee pension/profit-sharing/401(k) plans. Change the pension laws to allow these plans to invest in a large way in their own companies. Suspend the rules on self-dealing and fiduciary obligations so that they can make these large plays.
Take General Motors, for example. Allow the GM plans to invest, say, $25 billion of the plan assets in newly issued GM stock and/or bonds. Just like we do not want the government to give GM a blank check, the employee plans shouldn't either. As holders of probably greater than 50 percent of the stock, they could determine what changes need to happen (e.g. board members, management changes, plant closings, model discontinuations, etc.).
Similarly, suspend all bonus payments and issue new stock. Cut all salaries and wages 10 percent and issue stock in their place. This solves the problem of an immediate cash need and, long term, creates a great incentive for all GM employees to save the company, their jobs, and their retirement benefits.
Instead of all of America taking the gamble on a bailout, those who have benefited the most from the great benefits of working for GM would take the risk. If the GM employees and retirees do not want to take on the risk, perhaps they are telling the rest of us that the company should go into bankruptcy. If they take the risk and they succeed, they should be entitled to great rewards.
James E. Schaefer
In a recent story, Blade staff writer Tom Henry pointed out the potential for a "cap-and-trade" system to curb carbon emissions and fight global warming. Kudos to Mr. Henry for his stalwart attention to environmental issues.
We face a crisis that rivals the current economic crisis: global warming. It threatens our livelihood and the future of humanity just as surely as the looming deficits and the credit freeze. We need leaders who see that swift action to stabilize our climate is just as important as efforts to stabilize the economy and move just as decisively to remedy it.
We can use American ingenuity and determination to ramp up renewable energy production to reduce our dependence on dirty fossil fuels.
As we move to fight global warming, we also bolster the economy by creating good-paying jobs in America and give consumers real options for saving energy and reducing our dependence on oil.
When Congress and the new administration return to Washington on January, I hope solving the global warming crisis will go hand in hand with efforts to restore our economy.
I've owned the same house on North Haven Street since 1972. The street has one-side parking only so visitors park on the side of my house, which happens to open onto an unpaved street. No one in my neighborhood has ever complained about this, nor have Toledo police ever notified us that this was not allowed. Recently, however, a police officer stopped at my house when she saw my nephew's car parked beside the house and told my sister that they've been told to target vehicles in yards and pass out tickets.
I think tax money that pays for police protection should be used for better purposes, such as solving crimes. If Mayor Carty Finkbeiner needs more money for the city budget, he should have police target speeders or the many unsafe drivers that cause accidents every day on our city streets. He doesn't have to target property owners for parking on their own property unless there is a specific complaint from a neighbor. I really see this as unnecessary harassment.
There is an old saying: I wouldn't vote for him for dog catcher. For my money, I would rather vote for our dog catcher than vote for a mayor who would allow residents to be harassed by the police in this manner.
Roy F. Smith
North Haven Road
St. Francis de Sales High School: Be who you are and be that well.
St. John s Jesuit HIgh School Inc.: Who are we this year?