More Opinion by The Springboard

THE UPRISING OF THE AMERICAN PARTY "Clearly the voters are engaged right now, at least for sure on the republican side, and what they have concluded is that the republican party has not done their job. Thus, Donald Trump gets their vote."

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

HAVE YOU OWNED FORD STOCK, LATELY?

With unemployment in the U.S. hovering right around 8%, and with economists and other watchers seeing yet more job losses to come, not to mention the still tight credit markets, no one is taking the risk to buy a new car for fear that somewhere in the near future they may find themselves ultimately unable to pay for it. And, of course, that's smart thinking.

But Ford Motor Company is having none of that, and naturally, they want you to go out and get a car—a Ford, Lincoln, or Mercury no less. Their sales have been in the dumps for a long time now, thanks to all this economic gloom and doom and sky-falling speak, and it's absolutely vital to their survival that they do something to add to car sales.

Until June 1st, Ford is offering car buyers a payment protection plan good for one year's worth of payments of up to $700 a month if the buyer should suddenly find him or herself in the unemployment line. If you think about it, coupled with dealer incentives galore and zero percent interest financing available to qualified buyers, now may be just the time to buy that shiny new Ford.

It may also be the best time to buy the company itself.

Okay, okay. Ford is in bad shape if you compare it to its history. But then, the entire U.S. auto industry is in bad shape. Auto workers are being laid off. Plants are being shuttered. It's crickets in Detroit. And that ominous word "bankruptcy" is being tossed around an awful lot lately. So why on Earth would anyone want to invest in what seems like a sinking ship? I must be out of my tree.

The good news is that Ford is, for the most part, sound. It's getting its act together, thanks in large part to the brilliance of its current leader Mulally. It hasn't taken a single dime from the government. It's freed itself from Jaguar and Land Rover, which were costly and unprofitable enterprises. And it's landed concessions—and good ones—with the UAW. If anyone is going to come out on top when the proverbial manure settles after being hit by the fan, it is going to be Ford without a doubt. Besides, they still make the #1 best-selling truck in America, and their new line of cars are, in my opinion, looking pretty darn sharp. The new Lincolns are spot-on as well, and I think can easily give Cadillac, Lexus, and Infinity a strong run for their money. To borrow a phrase, these aren't your grandpa's Lincolns.

Granted, the company still has quite a bit of ground to cover before it returns to profitability, and who knows exactly when this economy is going to finally go off its life support. But this is a long-term play. If you have the time, are willing to be patient, and gradually build your position over the next 3-5 years, I think you'll be very pleased looking back.

Full disclosure: Jim Bauer currently owns stock in Ford Motor Company.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

FRENCH-FRIED AMERICAN FAT CATS WOULD SIT WELL ON THE MENU

It's not too often that you'll hear me speak well about anything relating to France. They continue to be on my "list" for a variety of reasons. But the recent development at a French 3M factory where the workers there have held their manager hostage in a labor dispute is something I'm finding myself applauding. Apparently this is a fast rising trend among French laborers unsatisfied with work conditions, or pay.

Of course, there are going to be throngs of those reading this who will surely disagree with me. And others, who have read my many rants, would know that I don't stand on the side of labor unions—that is to say, most of the time. And this French tactic is, with all due respect, a bit of a Gestapo tactic, if not a "union-style" one taken to the extreme. The tactic is, however, perhaps not without its due. Americans might do well to pay close attention.

I, and I'm certain I'm not alone here, am frankly getting sick and tired of the average American worker getting the raw end of the deal at every single turn. I'm fed up with fat cat CEOs and execs getting all the loot, all the perks, all the incentives and rewards, while wages just don't go up. I'm tired of it being okay to say that performance should be rewarded—but only when it applies to the CEO. I'm tired of the argument that "in order to attract and retain good talent we need to pay big bucks—again, only when it applies to the CEO. I'm tired of being told that I should just shut up, suck it up, and be happy to have a job at all. Perhaps if American workers grew more of a backbone as French workers have recently decided to do, we could go to the boss and say, "No, my friend, you should consider yourself the lucky one."

At the end of the day everyone should be entitled—yes, entitled—to be rewarded if they perform well. They should be paid a fair and decent wage, and they should have their basic needs taken care of, provided they work hard and produce profitable results for the company they work for—just like we do for the CEO and his family. After all, anyone with half a mind knows that a good, solid economy revolves around productivity. People have to be productive and produce the goods and services people will ultimately buy. So then, who really is at the heart of that productivity? Of course it's the back-breaking, ball-busting American on the production line, or on the sales team, or on the retail sales floor. It's the gal serving you your sandwich at lunch time. So why aren't they getting their due? Why aren't they getting their respect or their reward? No one complains when a CEO gets millions of dollars in bonuses and salary, but try to push through a law—such as we have here in Milwaukee—that you must pay a worker sick pay and everyone is right away up in arms.

Hey Mr. CEO, have you ever heard the old saying that you should never bite the hand that feeds you? Don't forget why you are in your chair in the first place? Don't forget who makes the crap you get so well paid to be at the helm of.

I'm not really suggesting we start locking our own managers in their offices until we get our fair share of the loot. But I think it's high time we get really mad. And I mean fit-to-be-tied. It is the American mantra, "united we stand, divided we fall." If we stand up and say, together, that we're not going to stand for it anymore, the top echelon will have no choice but to listen. We need to leverage ourselves, not to become millionaires, but simply to get our fair share of the prize. Simply to be included in the successes achieved by the companies we break our backs for. And then, and only then, if the CEOs and managers choose to play deaf, I'll gladly hold the door while you throw away the key.

Monday, March 16, 2009

AIG IS OUTRAGEOUS, AND WHILE WE'RE AT IT, THE ENTIRE TOP ECHELON IN CORPORATE AMERICA ARE FULL OF CRAP

It is irritating, if not a little bit disturbing, to once again hear the arguments of already highly paid executives talk about "what they are entitled to" as part of a contract they negotiated, or for the sheer value of the work they do. That's exactly the case at AIG, and the goings on there should infuriate every single taxpayer in America. Maybe the government felt it necessary because of AIG's size to bail it out and save it from ruins—I too, wrote that AIG needed to be saved—but now the American people and other companies using AIG's services should consider casting a different vote and putting the company out of our misery after all. It is effectively walking all over us at this point. But it's not the only guilty party out there.

How many times do we have to sit and listen to millionaire executives justify exorbitant paychecks and bonuses while their companies crumble before our very eyes? How many times must we hear the argument that in order to retain good leaders that we must highly compensate them. I ask, with millions of dollars that you apparently don't have? And why is good talent only defined as people making over a million dollars a year? What about the guy at the bottom struggling to make a living? He is as important, if not more important than the guy sitting behind the mahogany desk in a marble-floored penthouse office. He makes the goods or provides the actual services that the company sells.

How often do we hear CEO's stand before their employees and speak to them about having to make sacrifices for the good of the company? You must understand that in times like these, we may have to downsize. That's right, your job is not important. Your future is not important. Your pay is not important. Yours. But they'll still kindly take their $20 million dollar paychecks and bonuses, and thank you very much, while you sit at home after losing your $50,000 a year job for the good of the company.

They say that they can't afford the high cost of health care. They can't afford to offer you a pension plan. They can't afford to match as much on your 401k plan. Yet they can pay out those bonuses worth millions. They can fly corporate jets. All the while they ask every employee to please turn out the lights before they leave the restroom because of course, electricity costs too much. Even the company I currently work for stopped putting my pay stub in an envelope in an effort to save money—even as the top executives were cashing their over $5 million in bonuses that were paid just weeks before filing for bankruptcy protection under Chapter 11.

I have long held that CEO compensation is egregious, and totally out of control. While the average worker gets the raw end of the deal time and time again, the top employees of the company lavish themselves with gifts and offerings fit for a king. They win the lottery every single day that they step into the office. And they use terms like you have to do what it takes, and you have to be willing to make sacrifices. You, you, you. Their fingers are always pointing at you. The guy who has to bust his tail for meager earnings, who receives no bonuses for his talents, who gets no perks for his performance, and who, when you fail at your job will be sent packing without so much as a handshake instead of one of those golden parachutes your CEO most certainly will get on his way out.

If nothing else this economic time has highlighted the case that CEO compensation is completely out of whack, and that the executive world is effectively out of touch with the reality that the average American is facing every single day. The fact is that if I can make do with the $85 or so thousand dollars a year that my wife and I bring home together, so can you Mr. CEO.

Back to AIG; I think it should burn to the ground and I'll be looking forward to electronically thumbing through the pages of Craigslist for the ads from it's former executives seeking work. As for the other companies out there? Don't forget who put you in that fancy leather chair to begin with. Each and every one of us average Americans who shell out our hard-earned money to buy your stuff, and who sweat to put it on the shelf!