Monday, May 01, 2006

The Invisible manufacturing czar - 04/28/06 - The Detroit News

The Invisible manufacturing czar - 04/28/06 - The Detroit News:

Deb Price, Detroit News columnist and long time Barney-Frank-for-President campaign manager has issues with Albert Frink, President Bush's "manufacturing czar." Honestly, I didn't realize such a person existed or if they did what they'd do. Most people would expect that title be held by either GM's Richard Wagner or Toyota's Hiroshi Okuda.
"Michigan lawmakers had hoped that President Bush's manufacturing 'czar' would be a powerful voice in support of the state's battered factory sector. Instead, they're seething in bipartisan anger over what they see as his lack of clout -- and accomplishment.

For instance, Albert Frink, U.S. Commerce Department assistant secretary for manufacturing and services, has rarely even been in the same room as President Bush in his first year and a half on the job."
The article includes multiple uncomplimentary quotes from various Michigan politicians including US Representatives John Dingel, Mike Rogers, Pete Hoekstra and US Senators Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow. They wonder why Mr. Frink doesn't spend more time in Michigan. Why should he? Manufacturing, like our retired seniors, is leaving the state for warmer, friendlier clines in the south. If he wants to see manufacturing he can visit it there. The south is gaining manufacturing while the north is losing it. If we had to relive the civil war it would be a different ball game.
"Michigan officials wanted a go-to person on manufacturing who brings together the president, the Congress and trade policy officials on tough, immediate steps to take. In contrast, Frink tours manufacturing plants, prepares letters and reports, and has testified -- twice -- before congressional committees, including last June 8 when he described the outlook for manufacturing as 'good.'"
What Michigan officials really wanted was Harry Potter, or a professor from the fictional Hogwart's School of Witchcraft and Wizardry to cast the "amnesious" charm and roll back the clock to the early 1900s--when Japan wasn't a threat, unions hadn't invaded, government regulations non-existent, and oil hadn't been discovered in the middle east.

Michigan's manufacturing problems are home-grown. The home of democracy's arsenal has become a rehab clinic for manufacturing's oblivious.

Mr. Frink (and President Bush) had nothing to do with how it got that way.

What Michigan politicians don't know is somewhere in Alabama, Tennessee, or any of several states in the south with shiny new plants, think the new commerce secretary is doing a great job. Companies are hiring. Production is ramping up. Pay and benefits are good.

Mr. Frink had little or nothing to do with that, either.

Those states attracted manufacturing by being attractive to manufacturers. I'm unsure of those states' other natural resources but I'm confident their being non-union was one of them. It probably ranked right up there with water.

Ms. Price and our politicians won't let the obvious get in the way of a good conniption.

Mr. Frink didn't impose unaffordable pensions, gold-plated health care benefits or inflated pay. He didn't create a jobs bank with 12,000 workers that don't show up for work every day, unlike illegal aliens who only skipped Monday. According to their detractors, President Bush and Mr. Frink aren't competent enough to have accomplished that much in their short tenure.

These problems have been creeping up for over 30 years and won't disappear with the appointment of a "manufacturing czar" or any other title they may be given. It will take time and leadership in Michigan to fix Michigan's problems -- hopefully before manufacturing become another state's problems.

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