Listener and reader discretion is advised .. this is a Ford column, but it’s not about Rob, it’s about Henry Ford.
He was a true giant of North American free enterprise. He struck gold in 1908 when he manufactured the first Model T , and sold it for $825 . Eight years later Ford was selling a quarter of a million Model T’s a year, and the price dropped to $360.
One of the key lessons that Henry learned and passed on to other industrialists, ‘pay your workers enough so they can afford to buy the product themselves.’ I’ve lost track of who is running Walmart these days, but it sounds like they need to re-read the Ford story.
Profits have been falling at the ‘World’s Largest Retailer’, but it’s not because they’ve been paying their employees too much money. Walmart generally pays a little more than minimum wage. They do whatever they can to avoid giving out luxuries like pensions and medical benefits, and they stage all out legal war to prevent unions from getting hold of their people.
It was more than a little embarrassing this month when we learned that a Walmart in Canton Ohio was asking low wage employees to donate food, so that their co-workers who make even less could enjoy American Thanksgiving.
North America became the envy of the world while Henry Ford was still alive thanks to the rise of the middle class, the people who bought cars and homes in the suburbs, and raised their families to follow a similar pattern. In 2013, we have a middle class that is rapidly disappearing as we race to the bottom.
The auto industry that Ford and others built is struggling to compete with 4-wheeled products from several other countries. They call it the global economy, and it’s not so grand.
I’m Roger Currie