Does America Still Work?


If companies ignore the powers of society, they'll be out of business because society can complain to government and the government can regulate and government can do the one thing they do very well and that's over-regulate and that will hurt your business...but, you know, we had a thing with a tariff in 1983. The U.S. government provided a tariff for the U.S. motorcycle industry. It gave us an opportunity to grow our business. We knew we were not where we should be. We said: these are the things we are going to do, and when we do them, the tariff should go away. We asked to have the tariff taken back early, because we thought we were where we thought we had to be...All businesses aren't sitting around waiting for a handout. If they are given the opportunity to might find they will do the right thing.

When I talk to CEOs about government, they say, we don't want government in our business. But when you talk to them more specifically, do you want a tariff to protect yourself? Do you want a bailout if you get in trouble? Do you want tax incentives for retraining? Do you want tuition reimbursements? Do you want tax breaks for equipment costs? It's, 'Well, yes we do.' And I say, 'Isn't that government?' And they say, 'Well, yes, but that's government helping us.' ....You can't really have it both ways.

I think that regulatory initiatives would be an unmitigated disaster for corporate America, for the financial markets, and for U.S. workers. That would really be deja vu the 1970s. It would be altering the efficiency by which corporate America desperately needs to maintain its competitive edge. However, it is the threat of those initiatives, and the possibility that we may be on the cusp of seeing some of these laws come to pass that, I think, will bring corporate America to its senses and begin to alter many of the restructuring practices that have caused this uproar across the land.

Government wasn't successful with those programs. That's what we're talking about, getting government out of those things. Why would you want to take industry and get them involved in those things and make them less competitive and ultimately the system starts to crumble...There isn't any question that there are a lot of things that government can do that would help. In some cases there are some training funds made available --basically from the states -- but they are relatively minor compared with the total investments that are necessary. Basically with respect to changing the culture of the company -- we have to do that.

I think government has a role in essentially creating an appropriate set of incentives. And government should not be providing a set of incentives for companies to do things which are bad for America's living standards, which is what government policy often does. Government should have a tax system which provides an advantage for mature, high wage, high capital investment companies and plants vis a vis new low investment plants. There ought to be a higher minimum wage because if you couldn't get workers for five or six dollars an hour, there would be an awful lot more incentive for people to think about investing in labor saving machinery.

Speaking of local government -- not the federal government -- I think there's a role that they have to provide the right environment for manufacturing to succeed. Police protection, in the case of the inner city, is very important. Improved transit. We have to have safe, easy, convenient ways of getting our workers to the plant. Many of our workers are the second employee in the family, and they can't all afford a second automobile, so transit is an issue. I think the biggest issue we face today is education. The public schools are not turning out skilled workers at the rate we need them in order to sustain the workforce here.

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