Given my interest and love for Michigan one might expect I’d have developed a resistance to inept politicians, but I learned this week that one must continuously live in the Great Lakes State to develop full immunity. I’m not shy about expressing my low regard for Governor Gretchen Whitmer, Attorney General Dana Nessel, and Rep. Rashida Tlaib. Their ineptness is among the reasons Michigan can’t attract meaningful corporate investments and why even longtime companies like Ford are itching to bail.
Until Tuesday, I wasn’t all that familiar with Debbie Stabenow, Michigan’s senior U.S. Senator whose various committees including finance. I’m still reeling about a comment Stabenow made at a Senate Finance Committee hearing gleefully admitting she doesn’t care about the cost of gas because she now drives an electric vehicle.
Here’s the statement:
I just have to say, on the issue of gas prices, after waiting for a long time to have enough chips in this country to get my electric vehicle, I drove it from Michigan to (Washington, D.C.) this last weekend and went by every single gas station and it didn’t matter how high it was,” Stabenow said. “So I’m looking forward to moving to vehicles that aren’t going to be dependent on the whims of the oil companies and the international markets.
Stabenow’s asinine comment sent me into a tailspin, as it served as yet another reminder of the cluelessness of Michigan’s leaders. I published this commentary for Deadline Detroit explaining why Stabenow is unfit to hold such an influential position, but I’ll give you the 30,000 ft. version.
Trucks are critical for the delivery of food, medicines, and other supplies. Recall the panic and disruption when protestors blocked just a few Canadian border crossings earlier this year for a few days. Most U.S. transport trucks run on diesel fuel which at the end of May averaged $5.57 a gallon compared to $2.39 in May 2020. In some states, diesel fuel is more than $6 a gallon. Industry experts say gas prices will continue to rise.
To someone like Stabenow, who collects an annual salary of $174,000 a year and an annual state pension of $88,000, the increases are no financial biggie.
But truckers can’t afford the soaring prices. According to statistics cited by the New York Times, the mean annual pay for a truck driver last year was $50,340, compared to $110,000 in 1980 after adjusting for inflation. The pay can be even lower for new drivers, or independent contractors, as they sometimes must absorb training fees, maintenance, and fuel charges. Little wonder people aren’t lining up to drive rigs, hence the driver shortage contributing to the supply chain crisis.
A social media post by Austin Smith, the owner of a transport company with a fleet of three trucks, went viral this week after he warned the trucking industry was on the brink of collapse.
Here’s an excerpt:
“Trucking companies are going under left and right. (Literally hundreds weekly). If you’re not aware, what you’re wearing, what you’re eating, what you’re living in, what you’re driving, what you’re reading this on, was delivered by a truck. If something drastic doesn’t change in the next few weeks/months, I promise you, you’ll see empty shelves everywhere you look. You’ll see chaos are people fight for the basic necessities of everyday life. Food, medicine, etc.”
If you want further proof, here’s a link to a local Houston television station report featuring truckers saying they are giving serious consideration to parking their trucks and not working. And here’s a link to an insightful interview a local Houston television reporter conducted with the head of Texas’ trucking association. I haven’t yet figured out why local Houston stations understand the trucking crisis better than the national media.
Given the direness of the situation, one can and should expect that President Biden, Transportation Secretary Peter Buttigieg, and Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm are working 24/7 putting together an emergency plan on how to keep truckers to keep on truckin’.
But that’s not what they’ve been up to.
On Thursday, the Biden Administration issued this news release touting that the Department of Transportation, in partnership with the Department of Energy, is proposing new electric charging standards to make electric vehicles “convenient, reliable, and affordable for all Americans, including when driving long distances.” (emphasis mine.)
Let me put this into perspective. Less than 1 percent of the 250 million cars, SUVs and light-duty trucks on the road in the U.S. are electric. Focusing on electric charging stations in the midst of the current trucking crisis would be akin to the captain of the Titanic announcing plans for a more energy efficient engine while the ship was sinking.
Indications are the U.S. economy is sinking. The Labor Department said on Friday that the consumer-price index increased 8.6 percent in May compared to the same month a year ago, the fastest rise since December 1981. Contributing to the alarming increase was a 35 percent increase in energy prices, and a 12 percent increase in groceries.
Unless truckers are offered some relief, the costs of goods will soar because of a severe supply shortage on critical everyday needs.
The conversion to electric cars could be derailed because Americans won’t have the financial wherewithal to buy them. The average cost of an electric vehicle is $56,437, but that figure is misleading because people with money to burn are paying a huge premium to get their hands on one.
And therein is another detail that should stick in the craw of working-class Americans.
Ford’s red hot Mustang Mach-E crossover SUV has a base price of $44,000, but buyers are ponying up more than $20,000 more to buy one because the vehicle is in short supply. These buyers can get a $7,500 federal tax credit and additional financial goodies in most states.
Ford makes its electric Mustangs in Mexico, where the company pays its workers $3 and change an hour. The low-cost labor helped Ford CEO Jim Farley earn $23 million in compensation last year.
At the end of the day, the electric vehicle tax subsidies benefit the wealthy who obviously don’t need to be incentivized to buy fancy schmancy electric vehicles and the managements of the companies that manufacture them.
Yet the Biden Administration hasn’t announced an emergency plan on how to save the trucking industry from collapse. I haven’t figured out why truck driver wages are half what they were in 1980 after adjusted for inflation, but it’s reasonable to expect more trouble ahead for the cost of transporting goods. As I feared, private equity is buying up transportation companies, and that means more disruption that will benefit the billionaire class. Little wonder why Blackstone and other private equity firms are among Debbie Stabenow’s campaign contributors.
It would be nice to believe that super smart people are managing America’s conversion to electric vehicles, but the sinking of the Felicity Ace burst my bubble. That was the ship carrying more than 4,000 vehicles, including Bentleys and Porsches, that caught fire and sank, causing considerable environmental damage to the delicate ecosystem of the Azores.
Electric vehicles were among those that caught fire. While it wasn’t determined the EVs sparked the fire, it couldn’t be extinguished because no one thought to outfit the ship with the specialized equipment needed when electric batteries burst into flames. Even I would know to have an action plan in place for that very real statistical possibility.
Buttigieg and Granholm are way over their heads. Buttigieg is the former mayor of South Bend which hardly qualifies him to manage the trucking crisis. Granholm is a former governor of Michigan and was an unquestionable failure. Here’s a compendium of Granholm’s Green Energy Boondoggles.
While the Biden Administration is clueless, Americans understand what’s happening. U.S. consumer sentiment plunged in early June to the lowest on record as soaring inflation continued to decimate household finances.
The University of Michigan’s preliminary June sentiment index fell to 50.2, from 58.4 in May, Bloomberg reported Friday. The figure was weaker than all estimates in a Bloomberg survey of economists which had a median forecast of 58.1.
The last thing on the minds of most Americans is where’s the closest electric charging station.