Is the GM/Chrysler Merger Dead?

From Reuters:

A deal to merge General Motors Corp and Chrysler LLC has hit an impasse after the Bush administration ruled out funding for it, three people with direct knowledge of the talks said.

This puts any merger of the struggling automakers on hold until after the U.S. presidential election, the sources said.

The development adds a new element of uncertainty for the embattled U.S. auto industry as Detroit’s political allies warn the sector faces a deepening financial crisis that threatens tens of thousands of jobs.

It also opens the door for Cerberus Capital Management, which owns Chrysler, to restart talks with the Nissan-Renault alliance run by Carlos Ghosn. The private equity firm has seen that option as a backstop to an outright acquisition of Chrysler by GM, one of the sources said.

And a little later on in the same article:

With merger aid off the table, talks about combining GM and Chrysler are on hold until after the November 4 election when the parties hope to sit down with representatives of the new administration, the sources said.

This may mean that the incentive packages that were slated to be distributed on November 5 may be delayed, but I wouldn’t bet on it.  But then there is the political aspect that could be a problem for everyone.  Again, from the same article:

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama told NBC news in an interview he would meet with Detroit automakers and union representatives if elected.

“My hope is if I’m elected, that I’m immediately meeting with the heads of the Big Three automakers as well as with the United Auto Workers,” Obama told NBC. “And to sit down and craft a strategy that puts us on a path for an auto industry that can compete with anybody in the world.”

Republican John McCain’s campaign has said he favors moving to disburse the $25 billion in low-interest loans already approved for the industry as a first step.

All I can say is that if Obama is elected, and later supports a GM/Chrysler merger that costs a significant number of Union jobs, Michigan could turn from a Blue State to a Red State overnight.

Personally, I think that this latest development is good news from the thousands of people that would be affected by a merger.  Neither company is bankrupt (yet), and it will be several months before that would happen.  A merger, from a personnel standpoint, would be disastrous to Michigan as well as across the country.  This leads me to the following thought:

Chrysler’s owner, Cerberus, wants out of the automotive business in the worst way, and does not care how many people will be hurt. 

I’ve heard on the radio that several different analysts are disputing the reported benefits of a merger.  Numbers of people that would be affected could run close to 100,000 if you count GM & Chrysler workers, dealers, and suppliers.  Most would be in Michigan, but those numbers would be spread throughout the country.

Where this will all lead to is anyone’s guess.  I’m hoping that I’ll still have a job past the end of the year, and business rebounds quickly.

Chrysler Buyout Details

While looking around the Internet and trying to figure out Plan “B”, I ran across the details of what Chrysler could be offering it’s salaried workers in order to ease them out of the company.  From the Detroit News:

Voluntary severance programs will be available starting in November, and take effect Nov. 30. Involuntary measures would follow, taking place by year’s end.

The basic Separation Incentive Program (SIP) consists of $50,000 in cash and a vehicle voucher valued up to $25,000, as well as 100 percent health-care eligibility credits. The SIP is offered to employees aged 60 or older with 10 or more years of service as of Nov. 30.

A Special Early Retirement (SER) plan is available to white-collar workers aged 51 to 62 (previous plans started at age 53) who have 10 or more years of service, making less than $100,000, as well as to select employees aged 53 to 62 (previous plans started at age 55) with 10 or more years of service who earn more than $100,000. This plan offers full retirement benefits (not reduced for age) and 100 percent health care eligibility credits.

In an unusual step, Chrysler is offering Voluntary Incentive Buyouts (VTIPs) for employees with less than 10 years of service as of Nov. 30. They still can leave with $50,000 in cash, a voucher worth $25,000 towards the purchase of a vehicle, and six months of health-care coverage.

Now mind you, I’m getting this out of the newspaper, not my management!!

What is really bad is that I just turned 48 last Thursday, and have almost 9 years with the company.  Of course, the economy is Michigan is lousy, and this action, combined with GM, is just going to make things worse.  What jobs that I do see posted are approximately 20% less than what base salary I’m making now.  Can’t sell the house & move unless I want to lose a ton of money.  I’ve got choices to make, but none of them are good.

And I know that there are people in worse shape than I am.

I can only hope that my department will be spared the brunt of the layoffs & terminations.

Chrysler & GM to Cut More Jobs

According to an email this morning and later by news reports, Chrysler is going to cut 25% of its salaried and contract workers by the end of the year.  The cuts are going to start at the end of next month.

From another news report, GM is going to do much the same.  Not sure about how many will be affected, but it will be painful nonetheless.

Both companies are accelerating their plant closings, mostly due to the sales slump.

Needless to say, I’m not a happy camper because this comes on top of some news that I received on Monday.  The project that I had been working on for the past seven months was canceled.  All the work, effort, and travel to Germany disappeared in minutes.  I was then assigned back to my old supervisor, which is OK, but everything happened very quickly.  The assignments and evaluations that I had with my current (now past) supervisor will have to be redone, and that is a long process.

And yes, if the cuts happen strictly by seniority like they are supposed to and my department is affected, I can lose my job.

We have many different theories about why this is happening beyond the obvious sales slump.  This one seems to be the most plausible:

I read a couple of news articles that stated that “Chrysler management is closely following the negotiations” between GM and Cerberus (Chrysler’s owners).  What this is telling me is that the cuts are to lessen the number of bodies that would need to go if the two companies merge, or GM buys Chrysler outright.  It’s also telling me that Chrysler management isn’t involved in the negotiations.  I’m still trying to figure out what GM gets out of the deal, but I know what Cerberus would get:  The rest of GMAC and discards a bad investment.  All I can surmise is that Cerberus is strong-arming GM to take the deal.

There are some theories that a Chinese or Asian company would buy Chrysler, but from news reports, those talks aren’t very far along.

Hopefully, next week will reveal more details about what is going on.  But there is one part of that email that makes me wonder if they have a clue as to the tremendous pressure they are putting on their employees:

… During these tumultuous times, I encourage you to help each other to keep a sharp focus on the important tasks at hand.

Thank you for your continued dedication.

A bit hard to keep focus when you are looking over your shoulder for HR to come looking for you with a pink slip in their hand…

I don’t know how much I’m going to be visiting everyone’s blogs this weekend.  Lots of honey-dos and now spiffing up the resume.  It’s going to be a long weekend…

So Who’s Going For The Goldfish Vote?

The day after I post on the importance of the right to vote, this comes along (from MSNBC.com):

The only “agent of change” Princess ever supported was the person who freshened the water in her fishbowl. So election officials in Chicago’s northern suburbs want to know why voter registration material was sent to the dead goldfish.

“I am just stunned at the level of people compromising the integrity of the voting process,” said Lake County Clerk Willard Helander, a Republican, who said she has spotted problems with nearly 1,000 voter registrations this year.

Beth Nudelman, who owned the fish, said Princess may have landed on a mailing list because the family once filled in the pet’s name when they got a second phone line for a computer.

“There was no fraud involved,” said Nudelman, a Democrat who supports Barack Obama. “This person is a dead fish.”

The paperwork sent to a “Princess Nudelman” likely came from the “Women’s Voices, Women Vote” project, which sent nearly 1 million mailings to Illinois households in August using a list that mistakenly included some pets, said Sarah Johnson, a spokeswoman for the not-for-profit group that encourages single women to vote.

The mailing list, purchased from a vendor, included names from warranties, magazine subscriptions and other sources, Johnson said. The group attempted to screen out obvious pet names.

“Fido’s not going to be left on there, but if a cat is named is Polly, she may be,” Johnson said. Princess could be a person’s name, she insisted. “I went to high school with two Princesses.”

Nudelman said the only address on the registration card was the Lake County clerk’s office. She said she wrote election officials a humorous note explaining why the fish was ineligible to vote.

The Illinois mailing generated 63,500 returned voter applications, Johnson said. Applicants were instructed to fill in a driver’s license number or the last four digits of their Social Security number so election officials would be able to validate their identity.

“We obviously don’t want to add more work for any election official,” Johnson said. “At the end of the day, our goal is same as theirs: To give as many people as possible the chance to make voices heard in our democracy.”

Steve Sturm, legal counsel for the Illinois State Board of Elections, said the mailing generated numerous complaints from residents throughout the state.

Lake County election officials contacted Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office Monday afternoon, said spokeswoman Robyn Ziegler. The sheriff’s office and state’s attorney’s office were “already working on it,” she said.

And people wonder why the election roles are so screwed up.  Part of it is because the do-gooders, while the intentions are admirable, screw things up with stuff like this.  Yes, encourage the masses to register to vote, but don’t send them the material.

This is why I believe that voters should register in person with the County Clerk, and not by mail.  Proof of eligibility (as in citizenship, residence, breathing, etc.) and appropriate species can then be verified.  But I’m still wondering…

Which candidate is trying to get the goldfish vote?

Our Votes

One of the most important rights of our Republic is the ability to change our government through elections by the citizens of this country.  This right alone distinguishes this country’s citizens from most of the rest of the world.

So when this right is infringed upon and tampered with by the media, voting machine errors, groups like ACORN, voter fraud, and crooked election officials, people tend to get upset.  And that includes me…

Where I have issues with the media is that the majority of the media outlets are promoting one candidate – Senator Obama.  Yes, there are some media outlets that are promoting Senator McCain, but why must any media outlet endorse any candidate?  Consider the original intent of the First Amendment paraphrase “Freedom of the Press” was to allow the media of the day to criticize and otherwise expose the malfeasance of government and/or politicians.  It was not meant to allow the media to promote one candidate over the other, but to provide a fair and honest evaluation of each candidate so that the public can make their own decisions.

Voting machine errors are as varied as there are ballots.  Who can forget the “hanging chad” and “dimpled chad” controversies from the Florida ballot recount in 2000?  In many respects, intent of the voter does not count as an actual vote, but at the same time, there must be no question as to the validity of the ballot cast.  One would think that a totally electronic ballot machine would solve the problems of a paper ballot.  That isn’t necessarily the case.

In the documentary “Hacking Democracy,” it was shown that loading up a memory card with values intended to skew ballot results is possible.  Computer files can be manipulated, pictures can be Photoshopped, so why cannot election results?  The efforts to simplify and expedite the voting process with technology has introduced its own problems.  In many respects, the old mechanical voting machines were more reliable and trustworthy than the paper ballot counting or electronic ballot machines.  To go further, hand-written paper ballots that are hand-counted by a bi-partisan counting committee have the potential for less error (providing there is enough coffee on hand for the counting team).

While I do not have a problem with the idea of organizations having voter registration drives, there are two problems that I do have with these organization’s activities.  The first is the current problem with false registrations that these organizations invariably collect.  The second is based on a previous post with a video of Craig Ferguson.

False registrations cause nothing but trouble for our elections.  They cause doubt of the election process, and call into question the validity of the results.  When they are found, the absurdity of the registrations cause anything from mild amusement to cold outrage depending on the outcome of the election and the name found (Mickey Mouse, indeed – must be voting for the Rodent Party…).

Craig Ferguson calls the voting process a duty, and lambastes those who have to be “sold on their right to vote” by these organizations.  In some respects, if you do not have the sense of civic duty to register to vote, then you shouldn’t moan & bitch about how the elections turn out.  In essence, you are giving up your rights if you don’t vote.

Coupled with the two previous points is voter fraud.  In some states, you do not need to be registered to vote nor even have a photo identification to cast your ballot.  Instead, a signed affidavit is all that is needed.  In earlier days of where a person’s word was their bond, this would not be a problem.  In today’s world, this becomes a problem – ballot stuffing now becomes very possible.

Crooked election officials are a whole different story.  These people, while few in number, have the potential of skewing election results in a variety of ways.  Ballot stuffing, voter role manipulation, and so on with portions in conjunction with the above points in whole or in part of the above is entirely possible.  We have all heard some stories through the years of voting commissions determining elections by a variety of means.  I have no doubt that there is some of this going on by representatives of both political parties.

Does this mean that your vote will not count?  No, it does not.  Your vote will count providing that fair elections are held.  This is something that you have to trust – not easy to do in this day and age.

Here’s what I think should happen:

The media should stop the endorsement of any candidate – this is not their purpose.  The media should instead report the results of investigations of voter fraud and other problems with registrations originating either with organizations or officials without regard to political affiliation.  The media must remain neutral.

Voters should register and be able to prove their eligibility to vote with some form of identification.  With those people with objections to photo identification, then matching signatures would suffice, but everyone must register before the election, not the day of.  This is a right of citizenship that should never be legislated away because of “convenience.”  Please note that I state “citizenship” – only citizens of this country should be allowed to vote, not illegal or resident aliens.

Voter fraud of all kinds & forms should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.  Period.

Election equipment should be manufactured and tested so that there will be absolutely no failures, breakdowns, or questions about the validity of the results of the election.  Situations of voting machines breaking down or a “hanging chad” should never be allowed to happen.

OK – that’s my list.  What are your thoughts?