Friday, June 19, 2009

MILLIONS of Unsold Vehicles

This morning I experienced another side of Modern America. The Freedom... to fall and to fail, in an economic "downturn," recession, or depression.

I went to Denny Hecker's Toyota north of Baxter on Highway 371 to get an oil change, tire rotation, and radiator flush.

You've heard the news about Denny Hecker. He has opened some 26 auto dealerships around the Midwest in recent years. The newest is just north of Wal-Mart and Fleet Farm in the Brainerd Lakes Area. Yesterday a photo of his mansion on Cross Lake appeared on Page 1 of the Brainerd Dispatch. Hecker owes Chrysler about $500 million, and he is deep in bankruptcy.

The Toyota dealership I went to is the only place bearing his name that is still open. The employees who serviced my vehicle, according to news accounts, are being paid directly by Toyota. I was told to make my check payable to "Brainerd Imports." There are fewer than half as many new cars on the lot than there were four months ago on my last service stop.

A couple years ago the USA manufactured AND SOLD over 16 million vehicles every year.
The most recent market estimate was down to about 9 million. Dealers like Hecker and Tanner and Dondelinger took on foreign imports, in addition to the American Big Three - Ford, GM, and Chrysler. Today there are millions and millions of unsold, never-owned cars and trucks of all makes and models.

With your investments and savings in the tank, your job in question, and your kids in school, who is hurrying out to pick up a bargain-priced new Buick? Or Lincoln?

The auto workers who assembled the vehicles have been paid. The lines of credit of the thousands of dealers who display all these cars are now overdue. And like Denny Hecker, they cannot pay for what they haven't been able to sell.

A skeleton Toyota crew this morning answered my question about a "plug-in hybrid" Toyota Prius (no announced date yet), and gave my Highlander a free washing with the routine service. Free coffee, popcorn, and Pepsi are still available. The donuts are gone.

Unemployment nationwide continues to climb. Hard times go on for many. Government services and private charity are sorely needed at all levels to repair our torn safety nets.

Somebody has to pay for it, and I pledge to do my share. It's a pity that Minnesota's governor has opted out of the crisis and withheld or postponed funding for the health, education, and welfare of so many citizens.

Monday, June 8, 2009

HEALTHCARE For Sale, Again

The healthcare debate in Congress is heating up. Especially in the Senate, where the 60th cloture vote is still tied up by Norm Coleman's campaign trust. With enough GOP money, weeks or months of stalling will continue for the Republican Caucus.

Meanwhile, what about the issue? Is healthcare a "right" of every American?

Does one have to be 65 years of age or older to get health coverage at a reasonable cost through Medicare?

Or must you be a member of the Armed Forces, performing Active Duty?

Or be a Member of the U.S. Congress?

Or one of a million plus Federal Employees? Or a dependent of these government employees?

The Health Insurance Industry has spent substantial dollars to support the election campaigns of strategic Senators and Representatives in this healthcare debate. It is not only a matter of Republican or Democrat, Liberal-Progressive or Conservative, Compassionate or Cold-Hearted.

An entire industry is threatened. Like the Automotive Industry and the Financial Industry. The Telephone and Television Manufacturing Industry (already offshore).

The Health Insurance Industry simply sells us a product that we can do without - when everybody has healthcare coverage like the above cohorts - geezers, troops, feds, their spouses and kids.

The president wants a bill on his desk, this year, that only provides a government alternative kind of healthcare coverage. You can keep paying for an insurance plan. You can keep your same doctors. But you can also buy coverage under his bill into a basic doctor and hospital schedule of benefits. And there will be no one refused under any situation because of a pre-existing condition.

I think this sounds pretty good. I think we should also provide retraining for all health insurance industry employees who lose jobs - just like we should for the auto workers, auto salesmen, and unemployed recession sufferers, generally.

And I will pay the needed tax increases.

After all, I received a four-year Navy college scholarship before serving 17 years in the Navy. Two of our three babies were born on or near Naval Air Stations. My wisdom teeth were extracted by a navy dentist. Flight surgeons provided us with excellent care for the personnel aboardship and for our families back on the beach.

An old classmate of mine, from grade school through university, grouses about the possibility of Obama's "Socialized Medicine." He also is now on Medicare and deposits his Social Security checks.

Let's call the new 2009 healthcare legislation "Everybody's Medicine."

- Gord Prickett, Commander, USNR