Closing, Closing Everywhere!

A couple of years ago I wrote of the attempts by the St. Louis suburb of Hazelwood to retain a Ford plant there. The important issues were: loss of jobs, and loss of revenue, especially to the school district. The question of whether it was economically feasible (sans bribes) to continue the operation of the plant didn’t seem to enter into the discussions.

Yesterday, the paper had similar news regarding the local Chrysler plant, in the suburb of Fenton. The plant manufactures Chrysler minivans, and has a third shift available to manufacture — VW vans! (Chrysler manufacturing VW vans? Well, I’ve long believed that we’re heading toward a One Company, One Bank (and currency) and One Government world — so why shouldn’t Chrysler manufacture VW vans?) The paper reported that local government and Chrysler-Daimler are in "negotiations" regarding this proposal. Offhand, it seems odd that a government would "negotiate" a deal to manufacture minivans, but that probably reflects the fact that I’m an antique who can still remember when governments didn’t enter into business deals — at least not openly. Modern, more realistic citizens, realize that government accepts no limits to what it can do; it does just as it pleases. So, for the sake of additional employment, and tax revenues, it will bribe whoever needs bribing to convince VW to allow Chrysler to manufacture vans in Fenton, Missouri. Government representatives are keeping mum, but the newspaper headline reports that Missouri will offer "millions to land Chrysler plant deal." Once again, the simple economics of building the vans here versus building them elsewhere doesn’t tip the scales.

And then, of course, there are the base closings! Horrors! Again the newspaper headline gives us the scoop: "Area loses bid to keep 2400 defense jobs." The word "bid" caught my eye. What could the state bid? Although immensely profitable, it still gets money the old-fashioned way: it steals it. The feds, on the other hand, print it. It’s pretty hard to out-bid the counterfeiter! The St. Louis area will lose 2100 jobs at something called the Human Resources Command, and another 300 at the Defense Finance and Accounting Service. The concern, of course, is with the loss of these jobs, and the tax revenues produced by these enterprises, not whether they need doing in the first place, or whether they could be done more efficiently elsewhere. You might think that at a time when we’re being kept on the edge of our seats with worries about terrorism, and the need for a strong government response to it, that downsizing the government would be met with an outcry. But the only outcry is about loss of jobs and revenue: tacit admission, I guess, that the government can protect us from terrorists about as well as sainted grandma could protect us from muggers — unless the old dear gave us a pistol!

There is, of course, a solution that would please everyone: shut the operations down and sell off the property, but continue to pay the salaries of the now-unemployed workers, and whatever property taxes Uncle Sam paid to the local governments. As I mentioned above, the government prints money; when you hear a government program being espoused as a "money-saving" measure, you know you’re being lied to. On the other hand, it is essential to maintain the money illusion: that the money is scarce and valuable, and the government simply couldn’t exist without taxation.

Perhaps the workers left without jobs will apply for some kind of government welfare. Gosh — where will the government find the money to pay them a dole? Why, from the base closings, of course! See how everything works out? You can get money for not working, with which you can buy a car that is being produced — perhaps inefficiently — by Chrysler for Volkswagen! Fuzzy pipe dreams trump hard economic reality every time — if you’re the government. Let the experts figure it out. Just put your cerebral neurons on standby, grab a beer, and watch some TV.

Dr. Hein [send him mail] is a retired ophthalmologist in St. Louis, and the author of All Work & No Pay.