Eating us alive — a bite at a time

Eating us alive — a bite at a time
Date July 21, 2005
Section(s) Columnists
By Sen. Dennis Black  
Iowans are anxious regarding the future of Maytag. Every day seems to bring news reports that keep the pot stirred and we common folk are fairly confused about what’s going on. Unquestionably those most affected, the working men and women, are investing their one, productive life in a job that they initially sought because it was a great job with a great future in a stable company with a bright future.

These folks don’t deserve this uncertainty. The work ethic of the Maytag factory worker is known across the nation. The symbiotic relationship that existed between labor and management resulted in a company with a product that was the envy of the industrial world.

Then, in the 1980s, the internal decision was made for Maytag to take on new product lines. Not products that were manufactured in Newton or even Iowa, but elsewhere. That was the beginning of the slide down that slippery slope, and here we are today, with every business analyst and consultant attempting to second-guess the ramifications of a buy-out. The question is “Who,” and then the question becomes, “Now what?”

I MADE A BIG MISTAKE a couple weeks ago by picking up the May 9, 2005, Newsweek. The Special Report, being the focus of this edition of the magazine was, “Does the Future Belong to China?” One has to assume that Newsweek is pretty adept at getting their facts straight prior to publication, and thus one would consider this report to have validity.

The Haier Group (pronounced higher), is the behemoth Chinese appliance maker and one the media has reported to have indicated an interest in Maytag. According to Newsweek, the Haier Group “aims to create a global brand.” And, another quote from Newsweek, “Haier is one of the world’s top five producers of household appliances, with 30,000 employees and more than $12 billion in revenue.” The CEO of Haier, Zhang Ruimin, is “an influential member of the Chinese Communist Party.” The Newsweek article on Haier’s CEO Zhang is entitled, “A Jack Welch of Communists.” The inference is that Zhang would emulate Welch, the legendary chairman of General Electric, purported to be a take-no-prisoners tough-guy who supposedly will get his corporate desired results at any cost.

Reading this article ruined my day, because it was just another reminder of what is occurring in America. We’re doing it to ourselves when we purchase goods not made in America. Yet, the opportunity to buy “American” is less and less as each day passes. Most of our hard and soft goods are already imported. When outsourcing and foreign “competition” displace America’s manufacturing workforce, who will have the money to purchase the goods that are being manufactured outside the continental U.S.? Will we continue as a superpower, able to protect our borders from ideologies inconsistent with ours and at odds with our political, economic and moral values?

On Monday we learned that Whirlpool has joined the auction. Who’s next? But at least Whirlpool and Ripplewood Holdings LLC are domestic corporations. Then, to further raise my ire, the market analysts suggest that “antitrust concerns” could result in government scrutiny because Whirlpool/Maytag/Jenn-Air/Amana would approach 50 percent of the U. S. market. What? No concerns that a “collective company” with Chinese Communist ties wants to consume a major domestic corporation in the heartland of North America? Surely, Fred Maytag is shaking his head in disbelief.

ANYONE NOT CONCERNED about America’s future has their head in the sand. America is being consumed, and by our own doing. According to Newsweek, “Last year Wal-Mart imported $18 billion worth of goods from China. Of Wal-Mart’s 6,000 suppliers, 80 percent are in just one country — and it isn’t the United States.”

Americans must look to our President and Congress to get a handle on this insanity that is erasing our rich tradition and heritage of hard work and product creation. The free-enterprise system at work, you say? Competition in its purest form? Under normal circumstances I could buy that! But not when we’re competing with these countries in a global market where human rights, civil rights and environmental concerns aren’t even remotely part of the equation. America will not step to that level, for to do so would violate and negate the very precepts upon which this nation’s Constitution and Bill of Rights were created.

The legacy of this generation’s leaders will be written as to how they met and conquered this voracious monster that is eating us alive — a bite at a time.

Questions or comments? Write me at Box 1271, Newton, 50208; or, e-mail


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