January 25, 2008

Ford’s Buyouts: PC Wins, Workers Lose, Media Dozes

For personal and professional reasons, it gives me absolutely no pleasure to say that I saw this coming, and that it came sooner than I thought it would.

Here’s the news, assembled from wire reports by the Cincinnati Enquirer, in an article that should be entitled “Ford to Workers: Go Away” (bolds are mine throughout) —

Ford Motor Co. will offer buyout and early retirement packages to 54,000 U.S. hourly workers, or 93 percent of its hourly work force, in an effort to cut costs and replace those leaving with lower-paid workers. Thursday’s announcement came as Ford said it narrowed its losses in 2007 but warned that the outlook for U.S. sales in 2008 remains grim.

Ford wouldn’t say how many people it hopes will take the offer, but Chief Financial Officer Don Leclair said Ford has about 12,000 U.S. workers eligible for retirement, about 22 percent of its hourly work force.

Ford is offering eight different packages for employees, including a $50,000 lump-sum payment for non-skilled workers and a $70,000 lump-sum payment for skilled workers. That is sweeter than 2006, when non-skilled workers were offered $35,000.

….. The buyouts come in addition to a 2006 round of buyouts in which 33,600 U.S. hourly workers left the company. This time around, they could be replaced with lower-wage workers. Under Ford’s new contract with the UAW, which was signed in November, Ford can pay new workers $14.20 per hour, or about half the wages of a current worker. Under the contract, up to 20 percent of Ford’s U.S. hourly work force may be paid at the lower wages.

A Chicago Tribune report claims that buyout offers are being made to all hourly employees.

A Dow Jones Newswire report isolates the problem:

North American Losses Continue

Ford, since early 2006, has been trimming jobs and closing plants to match changing market demands, especially in North America where it reported a pre-tax loss of $1.6 billion for the fourth quarter, versus $2.7 billion a year earlier. The auto maker was profitable in all of its other regions.

It’s going to take more work than I have time for now to get hard numbers together, but you can’t help but think that the 778,000-plus who have signed the American Family Association’s boycott pledge over the company’s support of homosexual-activist publications and causes, along with AFA’s 3.35 million members, 40-plus other boycott-supporting organizations, and likely 3-5 word-of-mouth sympathizers for every AFA member, have collectively been a factor contributing to Ford-North America’s dire circumstances.

Yet Old Media continues to pretend that the boycott doesn’t exist, even as Ford’s sales have fallen far more than the other two Detroit-based carmakers during the almost two years of AFA’s boycott. Ford’s media pals have enabled the company to kid itself about the scope of the AFA problem, and to risk corporate suicide in the name of political correctness. For Ford hourly and salaried employees, a difficult day of reckoning has arrived.

Too bad the people who caused it aren’t the ones paying the price. Normally, a situation such as this, which I believe is unprecedented in size and scope, would be expected to lead to the killing of hundreds of trees and the consumption of terabytes of bandwidth to accommodate press outrage over high CEO pay coupled with workforce reductions — especially if a politically incorrect company were involved.

But for Ford, I’m supposed to believe all of this is just a bad break caused by bad market conditions.

Give me a break.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

Wide Open, Part Deux at the Akron Beacon Journal (UPDATE: Coming Back?!? — !!!)

Filed under: MSM Biz/Other Ignorance,News from Other Sites — Tom @ 11:12 am

ABJthrowout

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Tip-Top of the Line Update, Jan. 26, 12:15 a.m.: The ABJs say the dueling Ks will be back in days

We hope on Monday to reopen the blogging by Democrat Kyle Kutuchief and Republican Ben Keeler. There are no guarantees we won’t hit more bumps, but we’re determined to give it a try.

Now here, it gets interesting:

Their mission is to comment on politics important to Ohioans – from their distinct partisan positions. However, if they are playing an active role in a campaign – such as working for a candidate or running for office – they cannot use our resources in an attempt to persuade voters, and they cannot be paid. Pay and commentary may resume once that active role in the campaign ceases.

Indeed, this is a limitation of freedom of speech. Kutuchief and Keeler know that they have a choice – maintain their own sites where they have complete freedom – or experiment with us in creating a central location for Ohio politics and elections that promotes public discourse while staying within the spirit of the law.

In the next several months there will be plenty of fodder for these two friends who sit on opposite sides of the aisle, even if they have to avoid comment on a couple particular races.

So, let’s have at it.

The sentence I bolded would make it appear that the dueling Ks have been asked to abandon their own blogs (why else would it be an “or” situation?). Unless I’m missing something, if that’s true, it seems wholly unnecessary.

Also, at the risk of opening an old wound, but on the plus side for ABJ and the dueling Ks, I think what we’re seeing here is a willingness to work through the issues that unfortunately wasn’t present at Wide Open. I’ll leave it to others to allocate the blame on that.

MORE, Jan. 28 — Kyle at Chief Source elaborates. Good luck to all. I’ve blogrolled Chief Source and The Point (to avoid the need for a search warrant, the links are in “Other Localities and State Lists.” :–>). Also, here’s Ben’s original announcement of the relationship.

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Topline Update 1, 1:45 p.m.: Comment 1 below chides me by essentially saying that it’s not over yet. I’ll concede the possibility.

However, history gives me a reason to be skeptical. Jean Dubail’s final post at Wide Open (“Wide Open takes a holiday”) said that “we’re going to call an indefinite halt to the project and step back to regroup.” The “regroup” has been to post on what’s going on in the Ohio blogosphere. It’s reasonably well done (but I couldn’t find it just now starting from here). But it’s in-house, and I suspect the Plain Dealer will keep it that way for the foreseeable future.

For Ben and Kyle’s sake, I’d like to be wrong, but I wouldn’t bet the ranch on a comeback for The Point, or at least Ben and Kyle blogging there.

Topline Update 2, 3:15 p.m.: Bill Sloat reports that he spoke with Doug Oplinger, the ABJ’s managing editor, and that, per Sloat, “no decision has been made to kill the new blog off.”

Nor to continue it with its current pair of bloggers, I might add.

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My reax: Ridiculous and outrageous. Again.

I could go on and on, but what’s the point? Even with full disclosure, “they” don’t get it. “They” are Old Media types and the politicians who can’t handle competitive voices.

I would hope that the ABJ will give Ben and Kyle a final post. I’ll be surprised if it happens.

Alex Arshinkoff should fall on his sword and stop embarrassing Ohio Republicans.

Enough.

Others (will be added to as they are found and as time is available):

  • Psychobilly Democrat
  • NixGuy
  • Pho, with an echo — “The ABJ was right to be concerned, but why then weren’t they concerned before the launch?” As politicized as everything is any more, that logic could all too easily be extended beyond party offices to memberships on boards and other forms of community involvement (churches, activist groups, etc.; “Oh, he’s a member of the Chamber of Commerce, you’re giving Big Business an undeserved platform.”).
  • (This space reserved for WLST) Ah, here’s Jill (“Jeez-us…. Are they kidding?”). Get well quickly.
  • (This space reserved for Ohio Daily Blog)
  • Matt at Weapons of Mass Discussion — “….. when I hear that a GOP County Chairman whined to a 527 media outlet for having the audacity to hire a conservative blogger that opposses said county chairman, I have to think that it is time to send that county chairman packing.” A-bleeping-men.
  • Jerid at BSB — “Can’t say this is too surprising.”
  • Boring Made Dull — “At some point, if the MSM is going to engage bloggers, it needs to understand that it’s primarily engaging op-ed writers.”
  • Ed Esposito — “Consider this political free speech math: you can’t add to the debate by subtracting voices.”

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Related:
- Nov. 17, 2007 — The Cleveland Plain Dealer’s Dick Feagler Explains Why Blogs Exist, and Are Important
- Nov. 6 — My Last Boring Plain Dealer-Wide Open Follow-up Post
- Oct. 31 — My $.02
- Oct. 31 — The Jeff Coryell-PD-Wide Open Thing
- Oct. 31 — Since ‘Everybody’ Is Wondering (and Before Y’all Die of Boredom Looking)

Carnival Barking, and Catch-up (012508)

Filed under: News from Other Sites — Tom @ 10:04 am

The latest Carnival of Ohio Politics, assembled by Scott at Pho’s Akron Pages, is here.

The monster 100th Ohio Carnival was compiled in two segments last week (Part I; Part II) by Jill at Writes Like She Talks.

Boring Made Dull’s 52nd on Econ and Social Policy is here.

First Pajamas Media Column: “How to Keep the Bearish Business Press from Talking Down the Economy”

Filed under: General,News from Other Sites — Tom @ 9:53 am

I’ve been engaged to write for Pajamas Media.

My first column was Wednesday, and is here at PJM.

There is a 48-hour embargo on the work I do for PJM. Once the hold is off, I will, as I am doing now, post a reference to the identical blog post carrying the same date and time as the PJM post (but, if applicable, using my preferred title, which in this case is “How to Keep the Bearish Business Press from Talking Down the Economy”).

I am hopeful that the PJM relationship will be long-term.

Old Media and This Week’s Markets: Who Knows They’re Up — Quite a Bit?

Filed under: Economy,MSM Biz/Other Bias — Tom @ 9:20 am

The tone of this week’s reporting on the US stock markets would lead you to believe that even though Wednesday and Thursday were pretty good days, the markets are down for the week.

That’s completely wrong.

The Dow is up 279 points (2.3%):

Dow012408.jpg

How about the broader S&P 500? It’s up almost 27 points (or 2.0%):

SandP012408.jpg

The NASDAQ, weighed down not by actual results, but by gloomy expectations from the likes of Apple and Ebay, is only up by a bit less than 21 points (0.9%):

NASDAQ012408.jpg

A quick review of business press coverage shows why most people probably don’t know that the markets are, heading into Friday’s opening, up for the week. It’s because there may not be anyone who’s actually reporting that fact.

Examples:

  • It’s not here at the New York Times (Jan. 25 — “With a Day of Steady Gains, U.S. Stocks Join in a Global Rebound”).
  • It’s not here at the Washington Post (Jan. 24 — “Wall St. U-Turn Pulls U.S. Stocks Out of Nosedive”; the Dow and S&P were positive for the week at the close on Wednesday).
  • This pre-opening report today from the Associated Press (“U.S. Stocks Head for Strong Open”) gets close as it describes the events of the week thus far in the second-last paragraph, but doesn’t actually say that this week has been positive.

This seems to be a pretty obvious piece of missing information business readers should know. Why is it missing?

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

Column of the Day: Kudlow on How Bill Gates(!) Doesn’t Get Capitalism

Filed under: Business Moves,Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 7:48 am

At Townhall.com:

….. Gates says he has grown impatient with the shortcomings of capitalism. He thinks it’s failing much of the world.

….. Gates is ignoring the global spread of free-market capitalism that has successfully lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty and into the middle class over the last decade. Think China. Think India. Think Eastern Europe. (Maybe even think France under Nicolas Sarkozy.) Gates wants business leaders to dedicate more time to fighting poverty. But the reality is that economic freedom is the best path to prosperity. Period.

….. The reality here is that the rising tide of global capitalism is lifting all boats that employ it. Capitalism works. It’s a good thing. It’s the key to unlocking a nation’s prosperity. In fact, free-market capitalism is the greatest anti-poverty program ever devised by man.

Apple fans might argue that Gates hasn’t been a capitalist as much as he’s been a copycat, but I digress.

The phenomenon of global capitalism lifting vast numbers of people out of poverty has been noted at this blog several times (here, here, here, and here, to note just a few). Microsoft’s products, as flawed as they sometimes are, have been among the engines enabling that to happen. Gates’s remarks at Davos merely show that you don’t have to understand or appreciate capitalism to benefit from it.

Businesses, and the capitalists that run them who carry out their functions properly, are fighting poverty every single day.

Positivity: Hero Medic Rushes to the Rescue

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 6:00 am

From Renfrewshire, UK:

Jan 7 2008

A GUTSY schoolgirl whose leg snapped in two places when she was hit by a car is desperate to meet a mystery paramedic who jumped off a bus and rushed to her rescue.

Last night, 15-year-old Melissa Colvin said she believes she might have lost her shattered limb if it hadn’t been for the quick-thinking actions of the Good Samaritan.

The teenager was in agony and semi-conscious as the off-duty medic attended to her horrific injuries. Witnesses said it was only Melissa’s boot that was holding her right leg together.

The Good Samaritan held the youngster’s hand and stayed with her until an ambulance arrived at the scene.

Then she disappeared – and no-one knows who she is.

Melissa had to go through hours of emergency surgery that led to at least four metal pins and support wires being inserted in her badly-damaged leg.

As she continued her recovery, she said: “I would love to meet the paramedic to say thanks. If it hadn’t been for her, I could have lost my leg.”

Melissa was with her 15-year-old pal Heather Gibson when the nightmare accident happened.

They had just got off a bus in Renfrew and were running along Paisley Road to catch another single decker when Heather was hit by a car.

In the seconds that followed, Melissa was also struck and thrown into the air.

The brave schoolgirl said: “I ended up lying on the road and I immediately tried to stand up but just ended up collapsing straight back on to the ground.

“I don’t remember much after that but I do recall that a woman was talking to me and encouraging me to stay awake.

“All I wanted to do was to close my eyes but a woman paramedic had got off a bus and rushed to my aid and was trying to comfort me.

“I was eventually carried into an ambulance and Heather came with me because she had a foot injury.

“The accident was my fault. I was running along the road with Heather to catch a bus, which was stupid of me.

“My carelessness has caused me a lot of pain and heartache. I urge everyone to take extra care when out on the roads. Just look at what happened to me.”

A close friend of Melissa’s family described the girl’s leg injury as “frightening.”

“Her lower leg bone had snapped in two places,” said the friend. “The leg was hanging at an angle and I think her boot was holding it together.

“I’m sure the prompt action of the off-duty medic saved her from losing the leg. There was also another woman at the scene who did a brilliant job of comforting Melissa.

“I know the driver of the car was in a state of shock following the accident but there is no blame there. Melissa admits herself that she was at fault.”

Melissa is now on the mend at the family home in Erskine.

Go here for the rest of the story.