A new (and justified) big rant written especially for you my readers by Chris Callen, Editor in Chief of Cycle Source Magazine.
Thinning Of The Herd Hurts All Of The Industry.
I remember a few years ago, as motorcycling started its “Downward Trend” hearing so many people spout off about the effects they believed this change would have. Like some of them I even let me thoughts drift towards the idea that in some ways a lean economic period might somehow drive out the profit hungry and leave our industry in better standing for it. Well, here in good ol’ 2009 that has surely happened but the hard times have also started to take with them some of the most revered of our ranks as well. This all came to mind as I read the news that Randy Simpson of Milwaukee Iron was closing his doors. Randy has been a good friend to me for some years now and for that reason alone I felt a pain in my heart but as I further explored my emotional reaction to this sad news I began to see that what is going on right now is actually the opposite of what many had forecasted.
Take Randy for instance. Milwaukee Iron and or Randy personally have been responsible for quite a few innovations in our industry. The pop-up gas cap for one is probably his most notable but how about the fact that before they were doing custom steel fenders on the open market most all of them were fiberglass or plastic, other than those that you could buy as one offs. So here is a man that has made constant improvements to his craft, starting out in his mother’s basement, working over a twenty five year period to build his company into what it has become today, or was until a few days ago. So is this all the work of a struggling economy where no one has the money to buy parts I asked myself? Hardly!
Now, don’t get me wrong, the economy does have its challenges right now as I well know as a small national publisher but to get to the root of the problem I ask that for just a minute you put away preconceived ideas about protectionism, separatism and rights to a global market so we may discuss this a little further. You see, one of Randy’s biggest challenges, and I know this from talking with him personally, was the lackadaisical approach our government has towards foreign trade. Many people will argue that our unions are the reason why America can’t compete in the world market and I won’t even go there but instead I will mention that compared to the manufacturing restrictions and additional expense that American companies must factor in, union wages aren’t even the half of it. So for a company like Milwaukee Iron, working hard, paying their taxes, dealing with the EPA, making good quality steel products here in the USA and employing American Workers, is all for not if the federal government won’t do for them what they should be doing for all of us and that is create a level playing field for all manufacturers. If the Chinese government doesn’t enforce the same EPA standards then their product prices should be adjusted at our borders; PERIOD. It worked in the late eighties when Reagan did it for Harley and it might be the only way we save manufacturing here in our country today. When you add in the fact that there are no international trade mark or patent laws to protect the intellectual property of those innovative minds like Randy Simpson, then you have what has become common practice in our world today: Get a good idea, ship it overseas, they knock it off and sell it back for less money than we can make it for.
This is by no means a problem that the motorcycle industry has alone either. Everything from textiles to furniture, electronics that have long been gone and even larger amounts of our food production is starting to be imported all the time. Once great companies like GM have been branded the great swindlers of the modern age and with good reason. Even as GM sits and waits for additional monies from the “Pension Fund” oh, I’m sorry, the Stimulus Plan, after bankrupting on the first thirty million of taxpayers dough, theyalready have another plan to emerge from bankruptcy by shifting a considerable amount of their manufacturing to factories in China….American cars, manufactured in China, and shipped here to be sold. Only thing they haven’t announced is who will be left here with enough money or credit to buy them once their five year plan is complete. Right now we are seeing not only factories leaving this country but our infrastructure, our very ability to defend ourselves. Factories like the York Final assembly plant were once munitions facilities during World War II and hopefully will be there if our Country needs them to fit that purpose in the future.
So back to our industry and our problems. You might not think when you pick up a catalogue and order your parts and accessories that there isn’t anything wrong with getting more for your money by buying products that have been made in China that are clearly forcing Americans out of work and out of business but brother you’re wrong. Call it protectionism if you like but for me and my family choosing to support our friends and neighbors is patriotism. To not choose this higher road is not only personally irresponsible but when you put another countries government or their people ahead of yours, then it is the very definition of treason. And in case that last sentence offended you let me lay a quote on you from one of the great men in our countries history who also thought this way:
If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude than the animated contest of freedom, go from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen! – JOHN ADAMS