Saturday, 31 January 2009

In Passing

Beggar your suppliers: Not good for the long term

Monday’s Wall Street Journal featured a front-page article, “Bankruptcy Fears Grip Auto-Parts Companies.[1]”  The tale: Slumping production by the Big Three has put pressure on the auto industry’s parts makers, some of which may be forced into bankruptcy or out of business altogether.  Either event could generate production problems for other carmakers (Toyota and Volkswagen, in particular, were mentioned), due to delays in supplies or, at worst, the disappearance of suppliers.

One factor that received only a passing mention is the automakers’ continued push for rock-bottom prices, often with special concessions on top of them.  (The Detroit companies have long been particularly noted for this.)  A parts contract with a Big Three company can be extremely tempting: Enormous potential volumes, although at minimal margins.  And once a supplier gains one, it can be sure that the buyer will be back next year, looking for a price cut.

The Big Three’s attitude towards their parts suppliers has traditionally been, “Take it or leave it.  Don’t like our business on our terms, fine.  Somebody else will be happy to get it.”  If you asked industry executives if their suppliers were profitable, the answer would often be, “What do we care?”

But things have changed since the 50s.  The narrow margins (and declining volumes) of the parts business forced the less-astute suppliers out of it:  Some closed, others moved into less cutthroat markets.  Meanwhile cars became more complex.  More sophisticated engineering and the press for improved quality meant fewer commodity parts, and fewer still that could be successfully produced by a run-of-the-mill metal basher.  And the American economy’s shift away from manufacturing left fewer domestic vendors capable of fulfilling an auto maker’s requirements, or interested in doing so.

Many of the parts manufacturers that remain have little financial reserve.  The endless push for lower prices produces an endless cycle of spending the majority of this year’s profit on technology and innovation needed to keep next year’s contract, on which the profit will be less.[2]  All of which is exacerbated by bad economic conditions: While a healthy company can survice a canceled order or a delayed payment, either can put a fragile company on the ropes.

Beggar-thy-vendor may have been a successful strategy in the past. It may still be one, provided your company is a WalMart, selling commodity consumer goods obtained from a seemingly endless collection of interchangable Asian suppliers.  It’s less wise when the business involves custom-made items for which an alternate supply– or supplier– may not be readily available.

The irony is that, at a time they find themselves in a fight for their existence, the Big Three have to start worrying about the health of their suppliers, and realizing that, in a truly successful business relationship, everybody involved has to make money.

Related, later (090203 01:41):  C.G. Hill explains why car companies can’t be run like Google (and, maybe, why Google doesn’t want to run a car company):

...Almost all decisions, design and otherwise, in the auto industry have to be filtered through the interminable mesh of governmental mandates before coming to any sort of fruition at all...

[Auto manufacturers will never be flexible and nimble]... until Congress gets out of the regulation business — or until Google buys Congress and shuts it down entirely...
The latter idea is becoming increasingly attractive.
[1]  No link, couldn’t locate on the WSJ site.  The article is: “Bankruptcy Fears Grip Auto-Parts Companies” by John D. Stoll and Jeffrey McCracken, published January 26, 2009.

[2]  Another group in precarious financial condition are the now-independent parts suppliers which were formerly divisions of the auto manufacturers.  Many of these companies were spun off in an effort to raise cash while getting out from under onerous union contracts; for some, their ability to survive was questionable even before the current economic crisis.

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Are we stimulated yet?

Two great posts (and a scary graphic) from Suitably Flip:
Stimulus, Illustrated

So how big is the resulting $1.2 trillion [expenditure+interest] [stimulus] spending package? Big enough to dwarf any government program in history, even after adjusting for inflation. It’s bigger than the New Deal and the Iraq War combined. The interest alone will be costlier than the Louisiana Purchase or going to the moon. The $18 billion in bonuses paid legally by private Wall Street firms in 2008 - decried by the President as “shameful” - is vanishingly small in comparison (smaller even than the bill’s incremental food stamps expenditures).
What else can we get for our $1.2 trillion?
Excusing employers from... [the employer’s share of the payroll] tax would cost an estimated $455 billion per year (ignoring the growth effect of removing hiring disincentives).  With $1.173 trillion to play with, you could fund a payroll tax holiday for more than 2.5 years...
Extrapolating from estimates by Heritage’s Center for Data Analysis, a 1-point change in the payroll tax rate ratchets the pace of job creation by 147,000 per year.  Eliminating the employer-side payroll tax completely would be a 7.65-point reduction.  ...Using that as a general guide gets us to 1.12 million incremental jobs per year.

Over 2.5 years, that's good for more than 2.8 million new jobs.

Via:  Joanna

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In fine fettle

A couple of days R&R (along with the right meds) have restored Roberta X to full capacity. Today she’s after the Democrats (but the Republicans have no cause to feel safe!). Go read:

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Friday, 30 January 2009


Alaska volcano gets set to erupt...

...and “tyree” pre-scripts the coverage (just to make sure that all the talking points get covered):

“Today in Alaska the failed Republican Vice Presidential nominee, former beauty contestant Sarah Palin proved impotent to stop the erupting volcano which was caused by global warming...”

Background story at CNN.
Via:  IP

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In Passing

More midwest weather fun

And another reporter heard from:

The wife and I were watching The Weather Channel, hoping for some on-the-scene Jim Cantore-brand hyperbolic doomscreaming.  He didn’t disappoint.

He was in Paducah, Kentucky[*], and when the studio weatherchick chirpily asked him, “So how are things down there, Jim?”, he paused for a couple of beats, put on his “My God, the horror...” face, then said in a grim, low monotone, “This reminds me of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.”

Except for the city-destroying flooding, the refugees, the death and the looting… yes, Jim, it’s just like Katrina. - “Dave S.”, in a comment at Blair’s place

UPDATE 090104 19:21: Well, some people who ought to know think it’s worse:
The word from utility workers with direct Katrina experience is that ice storm devastation to western Kentucky’s power grid is worse than that inflicted by the infamous Gulf Coast hurricane.

“We’ve got linemen here from southern Mississippi who were there when Katrina hit, who worked the area after the hurricane,” said Kevin Inglish, a spokesman for West Kentucky Rural Electric Cooperative Corp.” - Paducah Sun, February 3, 2009 [requires registration]
(except, as noted, for the refugees, death, and looting)

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In Passing

Merely a means to an end

Instapundit linked this:

Last week, the East Bay Express published an article regarding the California Air Resources Board’s (CARB) plans for aftermarket, plug-in hybrid conversions.

Proving once again that CARB is a political machine with something more than “clean air” in its agenda, the board is set to deal a punishing, bureaucratic body-blow to startup companies like 3 Prong Power and A123 Systems. - Gas2.0 weblog [links in original]
with the tag
“And yet they’re supposed to be anti-pollution.”
Glenn should know better.  What they’re really “anti” is the individual liberty that ownership of a car represents.  “Anti-pollution” is only the current excuse for taking control.

Once you understand this, everything else becomes clear:  Of course CARB will reject alternate solutions.  Of course it will make things difficult for their developers.  CARB and its supporters don’t want a solution, because solving the problem would mean the end of their power.

Remember, with the left the “issue” is rarely the issue.

(090131 17:38):  “Second verse, same as the first,” at Daily Pundit.

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Thursday, 29 January 2009


Your tax problems, solved

(Well, probably not yours.  Who do you think you are- some politician?)
Ask The Tax Guys:
Dear Tax Guys:
I've had a lot on my mind lately, and when I was going through some old receipt boxes in my filing cabinet I suddenly realized I haven't paid my income taxes for the past 8 years. Am I in trouble? Please help!
Forgetful in Fort Worth

Dear Forgetful:
Here at the IRS, we realize that many well-meaning taxpayers like you can be distracted by various family illnesses, baseball pennant races, political campaigns, and so on. The rules for late filing can be surprisingly flexible if you have the right qualifying circumstances.  According to IRS guidelines, you are eligible for the 306(b)(19) “I Forgot” amnesty if the following applies:
(1) Your total adjusted gross income in the “I Forgot” years was equal to or greater than $8,528,000; and
(2) You are a nominee to head a cabinet-level federal agency...
But Wait, There’s More:
All U.S. taxpayers would enjoy the same immunity from IRS penalties and interest as House Ways and Means Chairman Charles Rangel (D-NY) and Obama Administration Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, if a bill introduced today by Congressman John Carter (R-TX) becomes law.

Carter, a former longtime Texas judge, today introduced the Rangel Rule Act of 2009, HR 735, which would prohibit the Internal Revenue Service from charging penalties and interest on back taxes against U.S. citizens. Under the proposed law, any taxpayer who wrote “Rangel Rule” on their return when paying back taxes would be immune from penalties and interest.

Disclaimer: This information has been provided for entertainment purposes only, and should not be relied upon when preparing or filing your taxes.  Neither Old Grouch,, the internet, nor the Republican party assume any responsibility for any consequences of actions taken, or not taken, based on the aforementioned information.  I am not anyone’s lawyer, and this is not legal advice.  Persons having tax questions are advised to consult their attorney, accountant, tax expert, or Democratic precinct committeeperson.  Your mileage may vary.  Void where prohibited.  Have a nice day.

(“Rangel Rule,” HT NRO.)

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Hey, Al!

Inches away from the worst January on record for snowfall in Cleveland?

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Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Dear Diary...

We got that snow that somebody keeps asking about

Twelve inches worth.  (Picture in sidebar below the break.)

And I hope you’re satisfied!.

Later:  And somebody needs to ask the mayor which idiot in the traffic division thought today would be a good day for writing parking tickets.  Not to me, but I saw it on teewee, so it must be true.

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Tuesday, 27 January 2009

In Passing

Congressman Pete King (RINO-NY) wants your cell phone to go “click”

Every time you use it to take a picture.

Under penalty of law(Link fixed 090320.)

(“Camera Phone Predator Alert Act.”  Give me a break!)

Y’know, I’m really glad Congress has time to worry about stuff like this.


The Register wonders about “deaf chicks.”  And and more derision in the comments:
More to the point, my current CAMERA doesn't make a sound when I take a picture (as I've turned it off) likewise my pocket video camera makes no sound.
I’m promoting the idea that phones (and cameras, etc.) should emit a piercing sound, blinding light and pungent smell everytime you're about to take a video, a picture or turn on the microphone.  Yes, this would be a little annoying everytime you’re about to make or receive a call, but it's for the children.

More discussion and derision at Althouse.  (Added 090129)
Pete King official Congressional web page
Wikipedia entry, “extensively edited by the subject or an institution related to the subject”
Weblog:  Peter King Watch

Via:  Slashdot

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