Detroit, the new Greece | July 23, column
UAW largely broke Detroit's back
Paul Krugman asserts that the Detroit tragedy debate has been hijacked by people who would liken the issue to the Greece crisis. Krugman himself hijacks the debate by asserting that market forces brought about the automobile industry decline. Not so! It was UAW excesses and government actions (local, state and federal) that brought about the demise.
• Federal law required the Big Three to recognize and deal exclusively with the UAW, which would then sequentially "target" them for strike action, relying upon loss of market share as a threat to bring the selected company to terms.
• Michigan law allows for a "union shop," which furthered strengthened the UAW's hand.
When I worked in the auto plants:
• I witnessed numerous acts of sabotage by fellow union workers (e.g., pouring nuts and bolts into crevices of auto bodies, assuring a lifelong rattle). When workers were infrequently caught in the act, they were fired — only to be reinstated after wildcat strikes devoted to such reinstatements. The same was true for workers caught being drunk/drinking on the job.
• Walkouts occurred in the summer because "it was too hot to work." Sabotage of the numerous fans on the production line was a factor, as were windows that were broken. The walkouts correlated strongly with days on which the New York Yankees visited the Detroit Tigers for baseball.
• Walkouts occurred in the winter because the plant temperature was too low. You guessed it — broken windows were still in abundance.
• In the '70s, Detroit made enormous investments in automatic tooling for engine production (as a means of offsetting the competition's lower operating costs). Congress soon followed with pollution reduction requirements that obsoleted the engine and tooling; it gave the Japanese/Honda stratified charge engine a real opening. To amortize the tooling investment, Big Three management continued with the existing engine design/tooling and used Band-Aid expedients, like feedback hoses from exhaust back to combustion. Poor performance resulted (I recall my 1975 Chevy having significant "hesitation" in response to accelerator pedal commands). This is the origin of the "American cars are no good" propaganda — furthered by some bombs like the Chevette and Edsel. These bombs and some management compensation excesses are valid criticisms, but their real effect is negligible compared the previously delineated considerations.
Donald Barnhill, Trinity
Not whether to test our children but how July 21, column
More testing isn't answer
Jeb Bush, in his opinion piece, continues to push the idea that more testing is the answer to the problems that beset our educational system in spite of the recent evidence that this approach has failed. Notably, Bush uses the words "test" and "testing" a total of nine times. "teacher" twice and "teaching" not at all. Throwing more tests at children is not the answer. The problem requires an integrated approach in which families, teachers and administrators all play a role.
Families must be responsible for nurturing, in their children, a readiness to learn; teachers must be qualified and supported in their efforts to teach, and administrators are called on to arrive at an assessment process that is authentic and reliable.
Cary Sipiora, Tampa
Now that's a racist agenda July 26, letter to editor
I find it sad this letter writer doesn't see the rampant prejudice dripping from his "observations." First off, minorities aren't "gleefully" doing anything. Caucasians are having fewer children and Hispanics are having more. There is no minority plot that is being gleefully hatched against anyone. Minorities are just living their lives. It is simple math.
Second, if the letter writer will employ some basic research and math, he will find that the largest amount of food stamps flow to Caucasians, not minorities. And more important, because food stamps aren't bad per se, the vast majority of people on food stamps are job holders, children or seniors over 65!
So having taken down the two lies put forth by this letter writer, we are left with the realization that this man is just prejudiced and uses Republican talking points to justify his "outrage." He appears to hold the view that people are poor because they are lazy. He might want to ask white people who collect food stamps after working eight hours a day whether they agree with him. I find it amazing looking at the shambles that is the Republican Party these days how any logical person could vote for Republicans.
Philip Ryan, Land O Lakes
Long-term plan halts door-to-door delivery July 25
The cluster box problem
Perhaps the day of at-home delivery should cease, but what is so labor intensive about delivery to street-side boxes? Going to cluster boxes may make sense in condos, but in residential neighborhoods it requires people with walkers or wheelchairs to somehow make their way to the cluster box. Will busy parents ask children to go and retrieve the mail from a remote location? Will there be video surveillance? Because I already know what the next problem will be.
Years ago I suggested that, where practical, use H-shaped street-side stands holding two adjacent property mailboxes. This would cut delivery time and wear on postal vehicles in half. That idea was rejected by the postmaster general. Before I would embrace cluster boxes I would easily accept deliveries on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. That would create solvency without risking anyone's safety.
Leonard Di Nardo, Seminole
Consider private casinos
When will our legislators wake up and do what's right for Florida? Last year alone, Seminole Indian casinos earned $2 billion and employed 55,648 in direct jobs and 14,269 in indirect jobs. Can't these legislators count? Can't they see the benefit to the state in terms of taxes?
It's time to consider private casinos. Religious groups don't want them, and why not. Many of them sponsor bingo. State-allowed private casinos benefit everyone. The state's recent decision to do away with Internet game rooms put many people out of work, and senior citizens who found some pleasure in this form of entertainment now sit at home and think about their illnesses.
Jobs, jobs and more jobs should be what's on minds. It helps our economy, takes people off unemployment and food stamps, and really helps out the middle class by offering them new opportunities. Open the doors for those things that help the state's finances. And bring back the Internet game rooms for entertainment.
Vic Gonzalez, Spring Hill