I just reread Lee Iacocca’s book, Where Have All The Leaders Gone? Lee was President of Ford when I was a Ford-Mercury dealer. I always admired his accomplishments at Ford and later at Chrysler.
The book was published in April 2007, and starts out as a Bush bash. Iacocca says we are in “A hell of a mess”, and blames President George W. Bush. He mentions the deficit, manufacturing decline, health care costs, gas prices, lack of an energy policy, schools in trouble, borders like sieves, and says “The middle class is being squeezed every which way”.
Lee talks about all the rhetoric and the lack of action. He states, “I’m starting to get the suspicion that maybe the point of government is the bureaucracy, not the results.” He is dead on. Government certainly does not represent the working middle class.
He predicted in the book that China would become the #1 economy. That is now a reality, and they now own a substantial portion of our debt. He felt that part of the problem was an open trade policy that is not fair, and put us at a disadvantage in the world market.
Lee is incorrect on a couple points in his book, but we have to keep in mind that he wrote it in 2007. He does not think oil supplies will last a hundred years and he does not think we can supply our needs domestically. We now know that due to American ingenuity and hydraulic fracturing, we can supply our oil and gas needs domestically for two hundred years or more.
The other mistake he makes in his book is that he agreed man-made carbon emissions were causing global warming. We now know this is false, but in 2007, many people were accepting the financially motivated propaganda.
Lee was concerned with our civil litigation system. Ninety percent of the world’s civil actions are in the U.S.A. He said punitive damages are completely out-of-line and not justified. That type of litigation restricts and limits innovation and entrepreneurship.
Lee gave an example of how our unfair trade policies and the out-of-control heath care costs put us at a disadvantage. He mentions a GM plant in Arlington, Texas and a Toyota plant in San Antonio, Texas. The cost for health care at the GM plant was $1,525 per car, and the cost for healthcare at the Toyota plant was $201 per car. We clearly have problems with manufacturing, trade, and health care.
Lee felt the solution may be strong political leadership, American entrepreneurs, and American ingenuity. He said the government and unions had to let America compete on a level playing field. He mentioned when Henry Ford Senior reduced the workday from 9 hours to 8 hours, and increased the minimum pay from $2.34 a day to $5 a day. Everyone thought he was crazy, but it worked.
He had a problem with mergers, because bigger is not necessarily better. He discussed the Benz-Chrysler merger. That did not work out well. There was also the problem of the government having to bail out corporations because they were Too Big to Fail.
He was very concerned with our debt, and didn’t think the public understood that the debt is real money. He felt the debt “racing up toward $9 trillion” should shock people. What does he think today, with the debt doubling to over $18 trillion in a few short years?
This is what Lee says about politicians helping the middle class. “The middle class is useful to politicians during election season, when the slogans are flying. It doesn’t matter if it’s Democrats or Republicans. Everyone presents themselves as champions of the middle class when they’re trolling for votes. They love to shake hands at the factory gates, but once they get to Washington, they can’t be bothered with helping to keep those gates open.”
Iaccocca criticized Bush for many things and most of them were justified. What does he think today, when Obama is many times worse on every point on things he criticized Bush for?
It is clear that electing a career politician that is a Washington insider and part of the political elite will only continue to grow the government and hurt the middle class. We elected President Obama twice. Since he spent all his time as a U.S. Senator campaigning for the Presidency, it was hard to think of him as a Washington insider, but he had no experience. His lack of experience, knowledge and leadership soon proved a disaster.
How do we find an experienced leader with a history showing he does what he says, and who is not part of the political establishment? Options include someone from the military, the private sector, or a state governor. Maybe a state governor is a good possibility. That has shown good results in the past.