My mother, a quintessential Canadian of her day, imbued in me a respect for authority. Even when a local Toronto rabbi engaged in behavior unbecoming for a spiritual leader, she kept her disappointed to herself. “He’s still a rabbi and rabbis must be respected,” she insisted.
Although I’ve long regarded President Biden as a political grifter and cheat, I was angered when Elon Musk earlier this year dismissed Biden as a “damp sock puppet.” I was aghast when Musk doubled down on his Biden insults a few weeks ago, comparing the president to Ron Burgundy, the fictional character in the TV news spoof “Anchorman” whose only thoughts were formulated by a teleprompter. While I shared Musk’s disdain for Biden, I viewed the disparagement as undermining the institution of the presidency, a process that Donald Trump initiated, and Biden promised to reverse.
Especially bothersome was Musk’s great awe of Communist China, whose leader for life, Xi Jinping, regards the entrepreneur as “a technology utopian with no political allegiance to any country.” Musk’s undermining of the presidency abetted Xi’s goal of achieving world dominancy.
Reading this past weekend about Biden dissing Musk’s space exploration efforts and the president’s misrepresentation of Ford Motor Company’s investments in Michigan, I found myself suddenly cheering for Musk and became appreciative that he’s got the guts to say out loud what the legacy media continues to deny: “The U.S. Emperor has no clothes.” Polls show that most Americans overwhelmingly agree that Joe Biden is a failure, so Musk only says what most everyone else is thinking.
It’s difficult to show respect for an institution when the person leading it figuratively appears in his birthday suit on a regular basis, a practice Biden literally pursued when he was vice president.
Biden’s petty snark
After Musk tweeted that he had a “super bad feeling” about the economy and planned to lay off about 10 percent of Tesla’s workforce, Biden contrasted Musk’s corporate cutbacks with Ford’s deceptive announcement last Thursday that it planned to invest $3.7 billion and add 6,200 factory jobs in Michigan, Missouri and Ohio to manufacture electric vehicles.
“While Elon Musk is talking about (layoffs), Ford is increasing their investment overwhelmingly,” Biden said.
Biden then took a gratuitous slight that flaunted his unfitness for the Oval Office.
“Lots of luck on his trip to the moon,” Biden said
Musk’s SpaceX company in April was awarded a $2.9 billion contract to build a moon lander for American astronauts. That a privately-owned U.S. company is responsible for resuming America’s moribund space exploration efforts was unimaginable not all that long ago. Space exploration is a major source of American pride and fascination, but it’s obviously no big deal to the current White House occupant who views SpaceX’s ambitious efforts as an opportunity for petty snark.
Ford’s and Whitmer’s common trait
Ford announced with great fanfare it planned to invest $3.7 billion to create 6,200 jobs in Michigan, Ohio, and Missouri. I’m not sufficiently familiar with the politics of Ohio and Missouri, but I know to be wary of any claims made by Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, who trumpeted Ford’s announcement as one of her political accomplishments. I previously lived in Michigan and regularly contribute to a feisty online publication called Deadline Detroit, so I’m reasonably fluent in Whitmer and Ford doublespeak.
Whitmer is a confirmed liar and deceiver. As but two examples, she lied about being in Michigan when the state was under a Covid travel advisory, and misrepresented some job commitments she claimed GM had promised to make in exchange for one of that company’s regular trips to the public trough. Michigan is the least transparent of every state in the union, enabling Whitmer and other officials to lie and mislead with abandon. If Democracy dies in darkness, Michigan has been without power for quite some time.
Ford also is an undisputed liar; the company this month agreed to a $19.2 million settlement with 40 states and the District of Columbia for exaggerating about the fuel economy and the payloads of some of its vehicles over a period of several years.
It’s a disgrace that Biden would tout Ford as being committed to America. Ford has been steadily offshoring its plants for years, and its much-touted electric Mustang is assembled in Mexico, where the company has announced plans to increase its manufacturing capacity. Ford also has disclosed it plans to significantly expand its workforce in India, where it already has offshored more than 11,000 jobs. The company has a significant presence in China, where it is building factories catering to that market and is expanding its presence in Vietnam.
In the greater scheme of Ford’s global operations, the company’s Michigan investments are an afterthought, one intended to give Whitmer some election year dignity in the wake of her failure to attract meaningful EV investments to her ailing state.
A $17.9 billion corporate moocher
According to the Detroit Free Press, an unabashed Ford cheerleader, the company plans to invest $2 billion in Michigan and create 3,200 union jobs, including nearly 2,000 throughout three assembly plants. One of the plants, the Rouge Electric Vehicle Center in Dearborn, will increase production of the electric F-150 Lightning pickup truck to 150,000 vehicles per year. The Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne will build a new Mustang coupe and the Flat Rock Assembly Plant will build a new Ranger pickup for North America.
In exchange for investing in its existing facilities, Michigan will give Ford $100 million and property tax exemptions worth nearly $50 million.
A person with even just a smidgen of fiscal sense should be asking why Ford is mooching taxpayer money from a state with a dire economic future to retool plants it must refurbish regardless. Ford in 2021 earned $17.9 billion on $136 billion in revenues, and it paid CEO Jim Farley $23 million.
The electric F-150 Lightning pickup is the lynchpin of Farley’s bet the farm wager on Ford’s future. If that truck isn’t a huge success, Ford’s future as an independent company will be in serious jeopardy. The Free Press makes no mention if the new Mustang coup and Ranger pickup will be electric vehicles; if they aren’t, those vehicles will be phased out in a few years as part of Farley’s grand plan to sell only electric cars.
An automotive industry source tells me that it’s common to ramp up staff when manufacturing plants are retooled, but the number of jobs decline over time. Electric vehicles have fewer parts and therefore require less people to assemble them, so I wonder how many of Ford’s new jobs at its Rouge plant will still exist in a few years.
In Michigan, apparently there are no penalties for companies who receive tax subsidies for promised job creation and then fail to honor their commitments.
A packaging customer service center?
The Free Press said Ford will spend $35 million on an “all-new Ford Customer Service Division packaging facility that will create more than 600 union jobs.” The facility will begin operating in 2024 and “speed up parts shipments for customers.”
When I think customer service division, I imagine a call center with banks of cubicles occupied by persons earning low wages. My industry source quipped the newly created customer service division might be to manage Ford’s growing recalls, which are happening with disturbing regularity.
Even Farley admits Ford’s quality control sucks big time. “We are not satisfied at all with our quality performance, including our recalls and customer satisfaction efforts, which we need to quickly accelerate,” Farley said at Ford’s recent annual shareholders meeting.
I’m a big believer in unions, except the UAW, so I’m not impressed with Ford and Whitmer touting “union jobs.” The UAW has done a poor job protecting the wages of its members and some of its top former leaders are deservedly rotting away in jail. Whitmer has real guile touting union jobs; she remained silent when Beaumont Royal Oak, a once nationally respected hospital whose patient care declined because of her inaction, spent nearly $2 million to quash a union organizing drive by the hospital’s nurses. Beaumont Royal Oak is in the district of Rep. Andy Levin, Biden’s point man on union organizing. (Democrats only like unions with the means to make big campaign contributions.)
Net job losses
Even if one buys Ford’s and Whitmer’s representations of 3,200 new Michigan jobs, the conversion to electric vehicles will result in Michigan experiencing significant job losses.
Farley told an industry conference last week that Ford’s electric vehicles will eventually be 100 percent sold online with take-it-or-leave-it pricing. That signals considerably reduced profitability for a big swath of Michigan’s more than 600 franchised Ford car dealerships, likely prompting considerable consolidation and hundreds of job losses.
Farley also signaled a dramatic reduction in advertising spending, focusing instead on developing customer loyalty. The reduction will harm Michigan’s advertising industry, which when I lived there was substantial and nationally respected. (I previously worked at one of them.)
“If ever you see Ford Motor Co. doing a Super Bowl ad on our electric vehicles, sell the stock,” Farley advised.
As of May 2021, there were 534,000 people employed in the Automobile Dealers industry, earning on average of $55,000. U.S. car dealerships spend $10 billion on advertising, so television, radio, and print and online publications will take major hits if car dealerships are no longer selling cars. Car dealerships are major donors to local charities and civic groups. The California New Car Dealers Association in 2017 donated more than $49 million to a wide range of organizations, including a Bay area food bank, the Make-A-Wish-Foundation, and Alzheimer’s Association.
Converting to electric cars will also eliminate the need for service stations. The gas stations industry employs more than 140,000 people. More than 60 percent of America’s gas stations are owned by immigrants.
I’m doubtful that Biden or Whitmer have given much thought to the job losses, and my perception of Farley and GM CEO Mary Barra is they couldn’t care less.
Trump “vote of confidence”
While Biden touts Ford’s investment commitments, he’s likely forgotten that his predecessor played a role in the company’s 2017 decision to scrap plans to invest $1.6 billion to build a plant in Mexico and instead invest $700 million in its Michigan Flat Rock factory, creating 700 jobs.
“We see the pro-growth policies that (President Trump is) proposing,” then Ford CEO Mark Fields was quoted as saying. “So, this is a vote of confidence in what we think the president-elect is going to pursue and it’s right for our business.”
GM’s Barra in April last year signaled her confidence in Biden’s leadership by announcing plans to invest more than $1 billion in Mexico for electric vehicle manufacturing. Also signaling its commitment to America is John Deere, which announced last week it plans to move some of its Iowa factory operations to Mexico within two years.
When the economic chips are down, nothing runs from America like a Deere. Wouldn’t you know it, John Deere CEO John May sits on Ford’s board. May last year was awarded $20 million in compensation.
At the end of the day, Elon Musk was responsible for making electric vehicles a profitable business reality in the U.S. Yet President Biden prefers to celebrate Ford, which has yet to prove it can be a global player in electric vehicles. One must be a glass-is-nearly-overflowing person to think Ford’s success is assured.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration disclosed last week that Ford’s sixth-generation Bronco is under investigation over reports of “catastrophic engine failure.” Building electric vehicles is far more complex than gas engine vehicles, and despite more than 100 years of experience with the latter technology, Ford still can’t get it right.
Ford’s Bronco is emblematic of Joe Biden’s leadership. Perhaps that’s why Biden feels such a close attachment to the company.
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