Monday, November 17, 2008

Rationing Paperclips

My friend Mark uses a line to describe companies that are in financial problems: "Things are so tight they are rationing paper clips." Well according to an article in USA Today last Friday, it appears General Motors is doing just that.

On Veterans Day, Diana and I were off on a little day trip. We decided to head up north and cross over into Canada. Why not travel to a foreign country when you're only about three hours away? It's fun crossing the border and using currency different than your own.

We made a stop at the Windsor Casino and played a few pulls on the slots. A little extra blow money that had been saved. Let's say we earned some additional Canadian money while there. In addition, I decided to cross the street and head down to the water front aslong the Detroit River and look across the body of water to review the Detroit skyline.

It's sort of weird standing in one country and looking across the river to see you're just a few hundred feet away from the shores of another. Especially since the country you're standing in is so similar to your own.

It's like looking across the Ohio River into Kentucky or West Virginia, only instead of a state border, it's truly an international border. Somewhere on the surface tension of the water is a line that represents the divide between the United States and Canada. You just can't see it, but it's there.

So what does Windsor, slots and Canada have to do with rationing paperclips?

Well looking directly across the river was the silver skyscraper that serves as world headquarters to General Motors. There was a time when I would have given just about anything to work for the worlds largest automobile manufacturer. At one time you could count on a good salary, generous benefits, lifetime security......or so it seemed. Only these days, few people dream of working for GM. Now there is less retirment security, pay raises for non-union employees have ceased as have matching contributions to employees 401-k vehicles. As noted above, things are so bad, they are essentially rationing paper clips.

Maybe that's the wrong the attitude for me and countless others to take. Maybe the great working people should be looking to work for these very troubled American nameplates and be part of the turnaround team. For at one time, GM, Ford and even Chrysler were looked at as the shining examples of the United States manufacturing might. And maybe they could be once more.

At one time, not only were GM and Ford synonymous with prosperity, but so was Detroit. Yet as you can see by the picture of the office building with no windows, prosperity has long left the motor city. Literally, you can look into a window and see sky on the other side.

Even the neighborhoods of Detroit have seen decay that at one time probably was unthinkable.

I was recently reading an article of how Detroit was trying to transition itself from motor city to a next generation of prosperity city. Yet, I've got to wonder if the Big 3 do go down in the current financial crisis, will it ever recover to continue its climb from the depths of decay.

It was really sad to see a city that was once an icon of America's might and meaning so down on its luck.

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