Friday, December 12, 2008

Knowing when

Last night I was chatting with a woman who works for Playboy – we were talking about the big changes going on at that company (Christie’s recent resignation, a new web site, etc.) and I just couldn’t resist.

Hef’s gotta go. Seriously. It would do wonders for your brand.”

“Yes, he comes off as a creepy old dude,” another woman agreed.

“Does he have a son? Someone to represent a new generation?” I asked.

“They’re teenagers.”

Oh well.

Don’t get me wrong. Hugh Hefner is an icon. And Playboy is one of the world’s most recognized brands because of his vision. It’s more than a magazine, it’s a lifestyle – a lifestyle whose target audience (young urban men and women) is reading Maxim because they can’t-won’t-don’t relate to a scrawny ol’ perv wandering around in a bathrobe, regardless of how many blond bimbots are blowing him.

My point is, you can do amazing-super-pooper-duper-fabulous things with your life, but if you don’t know when to quit, it’s kinda pointless.

The auto industry is another great example. Da and me got into a mildly heated argument about it yesterday.

He says they deserve a government bail-out for helping make this country great by providing hard-working folks (who didn’t have a shot at college) a solidly middle class lifestyle and the opportunity to give their kids a better life.

“You benefited from the auto industry, Hedy, whether you realize it or not,” he said.

I do realize it. And he’s right. The auto industry did some great things.

But just like Hef in his silly silk robe, the auto companies have rested on the great things they did 50 years ago, assuming that consumers would continue to buy their over-priced-out-of-touch-gas-guzzling crap cars because of nostalgia and Bob Seger songs.

I know, I know. They’re not all crap. And the unions are what truly fucked the auto industry (and the fucking continues as they refused to take concessions yesterday that would have helped the rescue plan pass the Senate.)

Thomas Friedman said it best: “instead of focusing on making money by innovating around fuel efficiency, productivity and design, G.M. threw way too much energy into lobbying and maneuvering to protect its gas guzzlers."

You can kill a brand or a company or hell, an economy, by not knowing when to step down and let new minds improve on what you’ve built.

Here’s hoping that Hef steps aside before he dies. And here’s hoping the same for the leadership of the Big Three.
I am listening to: The Playboy Holiday Party Mix
I am reading: Neil Steinberg in the Sun-Times
And I am: Happy


Cindiloo said...

My worry is if we do not bail out the auto industry in some way, what then? Our only choice would be foreign imports. Don't get me wrong I drive a Mitsubishi and love it, but what will that do to the price of cars in America if we are no longer manufacturing them. Prices are bad now can you imagine what they could be. Will we be able to afford a decent car? and what about all the people that will be out of jobs. Somthing has to be done to fix all these wrongs including the banking industry!!! Our economy is in the tanker already, I can only imagine what this will do to it.

Anonymous said...

"And the unions are what truly fucked the auto industry"

Whoa Nellie!!

This was not written by me but my extensive research confirms the accuracy of this statement…
(The average GM assembly-line worker makes about $28 per hour in wages -$14 for a new employee, and be assured you that GM is not paying $42 an hour in health insurance and pension plan contributions. Rather, the $70 per hour figure is a ridiculous number obtained by adding up GM's total labor, health, and pension costs, and then dividing by the total number of hours worked. In other words, it includes all the healthcare and retirement costs of retired workers.)

The average non-union Tennessee fender-slinger makes about the same... and they are subsidized by the states! And these are foreign companies!

Good god Hedy... please do not perpetuate the "union is the problem" myth. I’m not a fan of unions but if you want to shed light on the problem I suggest you leave the auto industry alone and focus on the financial industry. For instance... Goldman Sachs became a commercial bank two weeks ago... hmm does this now qualify them for TARP funds... ugh...

I’ll be in the doghouse if you need me...


Hedy said...

Please don't get me wrong - if the financial institutions that created this problem can get $900b, then certainly our gov't can afford to bail out the automakers. But if they do get bailed out and continue business as usual, then that's a problem.

As for you, Master G, I'll let You Know Who respond. I'm sure he's more than willing ot enlighten us.

Anonymous said...

And during the Financial Industry bailout (TARP) where were the questions about the wages of the folks in that industry? This whole UAW thing is a red herring distraction.
Unions need to make some changes but to say that they are the problem... please...
How about cutting back on all of the relentless obnoxious "goodwill" advertising they do?
And You Know Who needs look no further than his own mothers pension plan if he wants to find solace in union efforts...
I'm gonna bite someone!!

Anonymous said...

Furthermore... another point I will pass along...

The GOP is demanding that the UAW take pay & benefit cuts to bring them down to parity with workers for Japanese firms. I didn’t see anything in their speeches, however, suggesting that all the Big 3 executives and management have their salaries & benefits cut to the same level. American CEOs make about 300 times the salary that their employees do, while Japanese CEOs make about 10 times the workers’ salary.

Where are these voices in the "right wing" media?


You Know Who said...

Grommie you ignorant mutt.
You are indeed entitled to your own opinions (irrespective of how inane they may be) but when citing fact, you really should know what you're talking about. Your extensive research is wrong. Contrary to your canine conjecture, the facts are as follows: According to the UAW themselves, the avg Detroit auto worker makes $28 an hour, while the avg non-represented worker for Toyota, Honda, and others make $19. According to the NYT (arguably a liberal rag) "keeping unions out has helped foreign auto makers maintain significant leads in mfr'ing efficiency". "last year the avg Honda produced in North America required 31.2 hours of labor, compared to 39.3 hours at the big three". Now Grommie, if you run a time and labor cost model, you'll see that Honda manufacturing is 47% more efficient that the big three. (sounds complicated but it's just a simple math problem Grommie) The UAW controls the labor cost and the productivity rates at the Detroit plants, and according to them, it's perfectly ok for their represented employees to work 20% slower and make 60% more than their Honda and Toyota counterparts just a few hundred miles down the road.

While unions are the bane of our overall economy, some people certainly do benefit individually from representation. For example: I'm not sure what your current rate of pay is for lying around the house all day licking your nut-sack, but if you and the other mutts in the hood were unionize, you could end up with double the amount of dog biscuits, a 20% increase in potty breaks, and a new progressive discipline policy that dictates you cannot get in trouble for humping the sofa unless you've been previously warned in writing several times in the past 90 days. It's a win win for you. You get more for continuing to lick your bag as you've always done. Sure Jim and Hedy will feel the pinch with the extra dog treats, and someone else will have to clean up the unspeakable mess you left on the sofa cushions. But hey, that's a much smaller problem that what the UAW has done to the auto industry, so candidly I don't give a shit of you organize or not.
Sorry to disappoint you, but my mother was never part of a union and has no pension. Like me, she didn't see the purpose of paying dues so someone else could think and speak on her behalf.

Dave said...

Missing in all of this is the fact that $13 billion is peanuts, wasted or not.

The auto companies and their unions are there own worst enemies. Neither is worse than the other.

This particular maybe bailout is no worse and no better than the quickly and ill conceived financial bailout.

None of us, voters/taxpayers, politicians, unions, banks, insurance companies and auto companies have clue.

Throw money and hope it doesn't melt.

Dave said...

Note to self, type slower and proofread comments. I know you get the idea, but I'm not as stupid as I read.

Charmaine said...

I totally agree with you on the Auto industry thing. I see no reason to bail out people who seem to intentionally fail with impunity.

I read somewhere that a better solution would be to give each hard working American with a jog a $10,000.00 credit with the understanding that they use it to purchase one of said in need of bail out auto manufacturers. This way people who did nothing wrong get helped, GM gets to sell it's cars without getting handed free money and all is right with the world.

GM are the guys who created the first electric car. They refused to sell it. They would only lease it after which they demanded the car be returned and they destroyed them.

Although millions flocked to add their names to wait lists for these vehicles, GM REFUSED to manufacture them.

I'm against giving money to morons. I just am. Maybe if I were dumber someone would give ME money. grrrr

That said, I gotta say, love your blog.

Anonymous said...

Bottom line. This crisis we are experiencing has ZERO to do with the UAW and labor costs. Z-E-R-O.
The only reason this (UAW labor costs) is an issue is that it is easy for the simple minded folk to understand.
Tough financial issues and real cost analysis are beyond most peoples comprehension so when the UAW/labor cost issue comes up... BANG... everybody with a third grade education has an opinion.
Bottom line is no matter whose numbers you want to refer to... this coming crisis is not a labor problem. It is a MANAGEMENT/WHITE COLLAR problem.
Check out the name Bernie Madoff and see how he made 50 billion dollars disappear! All by himself according to some.
You want to DO MORE than piss and moan about seven dollars an hour? Then EDUCATE yourselves people!!
BTW - Please make sure “you know who” gets this missive.
Let go of the old tired "labor is the problem" mantra… we can’t keep chasing our tail if we’re going to stop this nonsense!
Four years of BUSINESS school and I still find it hard to get through to you liberal arts and computer geeks.
What a mess…

Anonymous said...

One more quick point... the amount Bernie Madoff made disappear was 50 BILLION!

That is THREE TIMES more than the auto bail out.

Now… will we find the simple minded folk digging into this?


Why? Because they think it is to hard to comprehend. Whereas any high school drop out can understand hourly wage math.

But when hedge fund managers come looking for a bail out it won't do any good to gripe about UAW workers making $7 more than state subsidized foreign owned bible belt workers.

Please, please, please people. Let us stop regurgitating the same old tired arguments of our fathers. It only perpetuates the problems and leaves the real issues to march on unchecked.

And I wonder… did “Mr. You Know Who’s” father have a pension? Did his truck shop mates organize their labor force? Just curious.

By the way... I'm not for a bail out. I just want the intelligent people to stop taking the "UAW is the problem" bait!

Bernie Madoff... educate yourselves... and don't let them sluff it off as a simple ponzi scheme... this was a group effort. And the SEC should be investigated.


Thinking outside the catbox!

You Know Who said...

Grommie, taking the same class over and over again for 8 semesters, is not the same as 4 years of Business school. Now pay attention, we're not talking about Bernie Madoff here. We're talking about Organized Labor. Do I think the Big Three Brass has made all the right moves? Nope, not even close. But do I think that $65k a year is too much money for an unskilled labor worker to attached a predetermined part on a predetermined car all day long. Yes I do. Do I think the UAW pension legacy costs (approx $2,000 per car) with the big three are out of line with reality. Yep. And it's gonna get worse. Much worse. According to the good ol UAW themselves, the avg GM employee is 47 years old and has been with the company for 23 years. According to the UAW contracts, everyone at or above those avg figures is eligible to retire sometime in the next 5 years, AND (here's the real beauty) if they retire before social security fully kicks in, they get an EXTRA UAW negotiated supplement to keep them whole. The supplement is 100% funded by the employer. So some inbred fuck-wad retires at 52, and it's the big-3's problem to support him the rest of his life, including a fat kicker for all the years in between now and when the federal government says he should/could retire. And guess who pays for that?
God help them all if the big 3 goes down, because the pension funds WILL dry up and many of those same ill-advised fuck-wads have saved nothing for their own retirement because in an effort to keep them all in need of representation, the UAW routinely publishes this to their rank and file(and I quote): "Because the value of individual 401(k) accounts can vary a great deal depending on market performance, they are not, a reliable vehicle for a secure retirement income".
Brilliant. Find me another financial planner on the planet who would direct his clients NOT to participate in a retirement savings plan. Just fucking brilliant.

Anonymous said...

"Now pay attention, we're not talking about Bernie Madoff here."

And therein lies the problem –

One Trillion in bailout and loans to the financial industry and not a peep of your ideological wisdom.

50 Billion (3X the auto bailout) disappears from under the SEC’s nose and your passion for fairness is mute.

But 14 billion gets directed toward the auto folks and your ideological bent spews forth like Richard Pryor on a coke binge.

Bottom line is I think the auto companies should go under… and if they do I assure you some other entity will fill in the gap and have great success.

My problem is that people like you (and intelligent people) need to stop with the obvious, cliched and tired responses to the problems in this country. Get off your ideological Fox News talking points and become a real American patriot!

We need to create a foundation of trust and pissing and moaning about issues is just taking the bait and playing the old shell game by picking the red herring every time.

Put your energy toward this... What were the rating agencys doing while large companies were dieing on the vine?
Looking the other way?

And why in the hell would anybody trust anything a rating agency has to say? Moody’s, Fitch, Standard and Poors. Give me a break...

And the SEC?!? What are they doing?
Answer - Looking the other way

While you beat the "Unions are the problem" drum – Rome burns!!


And by the way – I love you...

Hedy said...

Whew. Quite a heated discussion here. Thanks, guys. I've read a lot more since writing this, and my opinion really hasn't changed on unions. I do agree it's completely unfair that the financial firms got a no-questions-asked bailout package while blue collar types were asked to make concessions they likely couldn't afford. That said, I don't agree with handing money over to ANY industry with a failed/corrupt business model. It's all too political and illogical and I'll be glad when/if things begin to right themselves in the new year. Thanks again for being here. Love you, too.

Anonymous said...

Until the "free market" functions in a transparent environment and until enforcement of rules cannot be bought off or ignored… and until Americans stop taking the bait… nothing will change… even if we have industries with corrupt free ‘business models’.
Time to treat and address the causes and the symptoms be damned…
That said… “you know who’s” points are valid. But it does no good to complain about a missing button when the whole coat has been devoured by moths.
Next topic…