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July 3, 2005 6:22 PM   Subscribe

Workers in the U.S. South Too Uneducated to Build Cars? Automobile manufacturer Toyota announced that it would build a new car factory in Woodstock, Ontario, even though several US states offered greater subsidies and tax breaks to the company. The reason?
[M]uch of that extra money would have been eaten away by higher training costs than are necessary for the Woodstock project... Nissan and Honda have encountered difficulties getting new plants up to full production in recent years in Mississippi and Alabama due to an untrained - and often illiterate - workforce. In Alabama, trainers had to use 'pictorials' to teach some illiterate workers how to use high-tech plant equipment.
(Also a contributing factor -- Canada's national health service, which apparently drives down the overall cost of each individual worker.)

To be fair to the US South, the problem may be more apparent there because of the region's zealousness in competing for automobile factories. But the point remains -- Toyota is saying US workers are so poorly educated that it's not worth the effort to train them. Whom to blame? And how many more factory (and other) jobs will have to be lost to better-educated workforces in other countries before this pings on the national radar?
posted by jscalzi (87 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Uh-huh...I'm sure people in New York City aren't considered bright either, which would explain why so many movies and tv shows are shot in Montreal. How's that old saying? "The smart money's overhead..?"
posted by Smart Dalek at 6:35 PM on July 3, 2005


Don't look at me like that, NYC MeFites! I still love youse!"
posted by Smart Dalek at 6:36 PM on July 3, 2005


The thing missing from this article is the shear numbers of auto workers around Woodstock vs depressed town Alabama. If your used to bolting seats in Dodge making the switch to a Toyota isn't much of a stretch. Plus facilities to ship cars out and supplies in already exist. What is maybe more surprising is they aren't setting up shop in someplace like Flint.

PS: four paragraphs in a FPP is a bit excessive.
posted by Mitheral at 6:53 PM on July 3, 2005


I think the New York / Montreal thing has much more to do with the costs for shooting in the various locations. The pool of highly educated people in New York is high, and finding people to work on film / TV projects there is, I think, a buyer's market. But the cost of doing business there is scaring off a lot of producers - the rise of filmmaking in New Zealand rather than Britain or California is happening for similar reasons.

But it's a heartbreaking comment on the state of education in America if the skill level of the populace is too low for blue collar manufacturing jobs. If this is true, I wonder what the state governments of the south have to say about it.
posted by Chanther at 6:55 PM on July 3, 2005


"If this is true, I wonder what the state governments of the south have to say about it."

"This textbook contains material on spelling and grammar. English is a theory, not a fact, regarding the text based communication of ideas between humans. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully and critically considered."

Problem solved!
posted by spazzm at 7:02 PM on July 3, 2005 [1 favorite]


School systems down here are too busy fighting those who want to teach creationism as science, and who want to make sure bullies remain free to bully gay kids. They don't have time to teach.
posted by BoringPostcards at 7:03 PM on July 3, 2005


But it's a heartbreaking comment on the state of education in America if the skill level of the populace is too low for blue collar manufacturing jobs.< ?em>

.

posted by R. Mutt at 7:04 PM on July 3, 2005


Numerous statistics demonstrate how southern states spend less than northern states. The problem isn't that Alabamians are stupider, the problem is that "Bama" and many of its neighboring states are letting down its children.

Basic literacy and healthcare are a good investment in the future of any state.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 7:09 PM on July 3, 2005


I kin fix eny car y'all want, cause cars is just created by men jus like me, jus liek men is created by God in His image. Don't give me none that EVIL-ution, ok?
posted by orthogonality at 7:10 PM on July 3, 2005


Thank you, spazzm. Your comment made my day.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 7:10 PM on July 3, 2005


You took my post a bit too literally, Chanther. In the example of media production, location is mainly used as a crutch. (The NY Film board jumped through a number of hoops to bring more studios in - the bottom line, however, is that Canada's economy is lower, thus easing on the amount of pay divvied out for wages, expenses, tips and benefits.

A large number of lower-skilled workers certainly exist in the South. But rather than invest in improving output and quality-of-life, Big Money would prefer to find cheaper yet more capable labor elsewhere.
posted by Smart Dalek at 7:21 PM on July 3, 2005


Of course people will be bitching about it, but it makes perfect sense. Now if the dumbass republocrats would react and start to work on the schools and not making sure everyone has a bible to quote, we might be getting somewhere. Hell, a lot of the people can't read the damn thing anyway. O Canada!
posted by damnitkage at 7:26 PM on July 3, 2005


School systems down here are too busy fighting those who want to teach creationism as science

Hahaha, that's a good one, BoringPostcards. You think those who are actually doing the teaching are too busy? I know you're kind of joking, right?
posted by tomplus2 at 7:28 PM on July 3, 2005


It isn't because the people are dumber, it's because all the smart ones have already gotten better jobs than car manufacturing can provide.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:37 PM on July 3, 2005


Uhmm.... I think the poster might need a little literacy retraining. Toyota didn't say the southern workers sucked or was the company even quoted in the article. You really think saying these types of things would be a good PR move?

In fact, the actual quotes about the illiterate workers down south might be a teency bit biased- "said Gerry Fedchun, president of the Automotive Parts Manufacturers' Association, whose members will see increased business with the new plant." I believe that's the head of a Canadian auto workers union.

For another views on the status of the car industry in the South:

NyTimes June22,2005
"In Alabama alone, Mercedes-Benz has doubled the size of its plant outside Tuscaloosa in the last year, while Honda has done the same at its factory in Lincoln. A new plant from the Korean automaker, Hyundai, opened just last month in Montgomery. And Toyota is adding 300 more workers here at its two-year-old plant in Huntsville to produce powerful engines for the big pickup trucks that will be made in a factory opening next year in Texas."

But, don't let me stop the south bashing...
posted by superchris at 7:37 PM on July 3, 2005




But it's a heartbreaking comment on the state of education in America if the skill level of the populace is too low for blue collar manufacturing jobs.

I've worked in the autoparts industry in Southwestern Ontario. One of these Toyota jobs is like an unattainable dream. You might spend your life putting a bolt on a piece of metal, but you could walk down to the bank and get yourself a mortgage on a standard middle-class house.

There's some sophisticated engineering happening in these places. A lot of robotics, computerized controls on every station. They need trained maintenance and technical people able to analyze and quickly repair problems. And their quality and production control procedures require a lot of tracking, there's paperwork everywhere. Sure, a lot of the time you - as a blue collar worker - find yourself doing jobs that are routine, and you'll find more than one idiot amongst your co-workers, but they need people who are able to learn just as much, if not more, as any other industry.
posted by TimTypeZed at 8:01 PM on July 3, 2005


superchris - You're absolutely right, the negative comments about education in the South were made not by the people who actually made the decision to build the plant in Ontario, but by people who benefited from the decision. I'm glad you pointed this out - the article, then, doesn't prove that education levels in the South were the crucial deciding factor for Toyota.

Aside from this article, though - which would be only anecdotal evidence even if true - there is plenty of statistical evidence that education levels are a problem in many southern states, even after correcting for a lot of demographic differences with northern states. And there's yet more evidence to suggest that the problem is fixable - school districts and states that have put major effort into improving education have seen results. In the south, the major success story has been North Carolina.

There's some sophisticated engineering happening in these places.

You're right - my comment about blue collar jobs was too flip. It's more complicated than that now. I stand corrected.
posted by Chanther at 8:16 PM on July 3, 2005


clevershark: Excuse me if I don't get your reference, but . . . are you meaning talk about the quality of the vehicles built in Alabama? That would be peculiar, for the plant doesn't make the car (the CSX) that is the subject of your linked page of complaints. The plant between Tuscaloosa and Birmingham makes the M-Class SUV, and the Grand Sports Tourer (GST) was supposed to go into production this year.
posted by raysmj at 8:18 PM on July 3, 2005


As someone who has been to Woodbridge and to Alabama and Georgia, Woodbridge is by far a more educated place. The schools are better and a lot less ideological, and the politics are a lot cleaner. The literacy level and basic math skills are higher in Canada. Teaching your kids to ignore science and to believe what feels good, ultimately hurts them.

It isn't because the people are dumber, it's because all the smart ones have already gotten better jobs than car manufacturing can provide.

Your comment betrays a lack of exposure to educated blue collar workers.Your comment seems to suppose that people who do factory work have no lives off the assembly line. Some people work factory jobs BECAUSE they have rich lives they need to support.

First of all, uneducated doesn't mean dumb; it means limited opportunities. What depresses me about some states is the wasted potential you see everywhere.

Secondly, building cars is not the worst job, and it does take a lot of skill, discipline and hard work. There is such a thing as the educated working class-- very smart people making good money in manufacturing. I went to school in a factory town, and I was impressed by a lot of people who did jobs that I was not raised to respect. Personally I'd rather live next to a literate factory foreman than a soul-less banker or fundamentalist preacher anyday.

We're really going to regret the lack of investment in our industrial base and our lack of respect for blue collar workers.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 8:26 PM on July 3, 2005


As someone who has been to Woodbridge and to Alabama and Georgia, Woodbridge is by far a more educated place. The schools are better and a lot less ideological, and the politics are a lot cleaner. The literacy level and basic math skills are higher in Canada. Teaching your kids to ignore science and to believe what feels good, ultimately hurts them.

It isn't because the people are dumber, it's because all the smart ones have already gotten better jobs than car manufacturing can provide.

Your comment betrays a lack of exposure to educated blue collar workers.Your comment seems to suppose that people who do factory work have no lives off the assembly line. Some people work factory jobs BECAUSE they have rich lives they need to support.

First of all, uneducated doesn't mean dumb; it means limited opportunities. What depresses me about some states is the wasted potential you see everywhere.

Secondly, building cars is not the worst job, and it does take a lot of skill, discipline and hard work. There is such a thing as the educated working class-- very smart people making good money in manufacturing. I went to school in a factory town, and I was impressed by a lot of people who did jobs that I was not raised to respect. Personally I'd rather live next to a literate factory foreman than a soul-less banker or fundamentalist preacher anyday.

We're really going to regret the lack of investment in our industrial base and our lack of respect for blue collar workers.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 8:26 PM on July 3, 2005


I don't know, I live in Alabama, and the creationist nonsense is always a big newsmaker, but it isn't really the problem here per se. I mean, it is a waste of time and money, but there just isn't that much you can waste on it, as far as I can tell.

You can look at this the other way too. The money that Southern states offer companies in return comes from somewhere, and it could be that money that should have gone towards educating the general populace.

See, Alabama politics has always been about Good Ole' Boys, in the classic sense of the term. Politicians are funded by timber companies and large landowners here. They may make a big stink about values to gain support from the lower-middle class, but the fact is they have nothing in serious competition. I don't really think the values nonsense even matters that much in local politics, but I could be wrong.

Alabama's property taxes are obscenely low, (I don't know how low, but I think it was one of the 5 lowest. I think at one point only Mississippi had it worse.), and I think I've also heard that these revenue streams are good local sources for funding of local things, like schools.

The money they offer up front to companies is the easiest way to see what Southern politicians value, rich people. The poor, (often black and increasing hispanic), gets no benefits from living here.

One of the really sick things about all this is that there are two really good, (very high in national rankings), public school systems in Alabama, (maybe more but there are two I know of). Auburn, (cause of the University), and Mountain Brook, (cause that's where the rich people are). The problem here isn't values and religion like you see in national politics, IMHO. You've got to realize that that battle isn't even fought here. Justice Moore might have gotten national headlines, but all he did here was waste a little bit of time. He's not what is doing the real, serious, damage.

And honestly, Creationism is stupid as all getout, but it doesn't prevent you from being a competent factory worker. Having a state government that does not care at all if the poorer 50% of the state cannot read does that.

Disclaimer: This is my impression from living in the state, and talking with other people who have lived here. Other opinions about why we're all screwed down here may be more valid, this is just my impression.
posted by SomeOneElse at 8:26 PM on July 3, 2005


First, born and (mostly) raised in South Carolina. Well educated. Blah blah. I clicked the link to this thread fearing a raft of "SOUTHERNERS ARE TEH STOOPIDZ!" comments. For the most part, this discussion has been mature, on topic, and rather interesting. Good stuff, Mefi. Quite mature tonight...
posted by socratic at 8:59 PM on July 3, 2005


scalz, is this what you're doing when you're supposed to be writing a sequel? Websurfing Canadian news sites for America-bashing stories? And why isn't anybody in Canada literate enough to write an understandable webpage title? "Toyota-New-Plant, 2nd Writethru Bgt"?!?!?!? What a bunch of hosers!

C'mon, John, if you're going to write a 4-paragraph FPP, do it on your own blog... except I think you knew this wasn't good enough for the Whatever. Is this some kind of a plot to sabotage MetaFilter while your 'guest bloggers' start evolving a "WhateverFilter" site? (I don't know why I'm so suspicious of everybody this weekend; I just am)

I'm just sorry the RAV-4 (one of my top 5 personal fave vehicle models) is going to be built so far away from me. I guess it's too late for anybody to bring back the workers of the long-ago-closed-and-converted-to-retail Van Nuys GM plant. Their skills are at least a decade out of date and I'm sure most of them found work in the Valley's booming porn industry. At least the justifiably-much-criticized LA School District is building a High School across the street from the former GM site (as well as the current sites of McDonalds, Burger King and In-n-Out). And the workers at the Home Depot there are quite knowledgable (well, they know more about paint than I do, which isn't saying much). Still, if the highly sophisticated robots should suddenly develop minds of their own, break free and start killing the people in the neighborhood*, I'm glad it'd happen in Ontario, Canada, and not 5.5 miles from LaCasa Wendell. And Alabama would've been just as far away. But it's hotter in Alabama, so Canadian RAV-4's would probably stay fresh longer, right?

*and I'd better not see that scenario in your next book, scalzi.
posted by wendell at 9:08 PM on July 3, 2005


I would take this with a grain of salt. Several studies have shown that there is little corellation between education levels and worker productivity. These studies were done in response to similar claims made during the eighties when it seemed that Japan might eat our lunch in more than just the auto industry.
I'd google for links, but I'm tired.
Some of this did show up in MeFI thread a while back, IIRC.

(But I still hate creationists, and the Republicans who are underfunding the education system, with a white hot passion. You would think the agricultural areas of the country would be familiar with the expression "eating your seed corn.")
posted by bashos_frog at 9:09 PM on July 3, 2005


Yes, if by "uneducated" you mean "black".

Also, what's the deal with all these asian car plants springing up in the south? We have a whole rest of the country guys.
---

Actualy, there are a huge number of auto plants down there, which is probably eating away at the qualified (but not qualified for better) workers.
posted by delmoi at 9:20 PM on July 3, 2005


The Montreal / NYC comparison is a poor one. The Canadian government subsidizes film production on a national level. On top of that, the Quebec government subsidizes productions that happen in Quebec. So any film or television production that shoots in Montreal enjoys the added benefit of double subsidization. The amount that's subsidized varies by the number of locals employed by the project, and the titles they're given. However, when I worked on a "runaway production" the producers frequently told me that combined the governments (and thus, taxpayers) were paying 50% of the show's production costs.

W/R/T/ the film industry, the loss of jobs to our neighbors to the north has very little to do with the nature of the Canadian economy and more to do with how happily the Canadian governments are willing to pick up the check.
posted by herc at 9:24 PM on July 3, 2005


The intresting thing was reading the fark thread about this. Farkers bitching and moaning about how japanese were Racist, etc. Yet they themselves were to illiterate to see that the actual quote came from some Canadian Auto Union flunkey.

Who knows what their real motivation was, but there are a lot of auto plants in those states. Hyundai is building more.
posted by delmoi at 9:30 PM on July 3, 2005


I would take this with a grain of salt. Several studies have shown that there is little corellation between education levels and worker productivity. These studies were done in response to similar claims made during the eighties when it seemed that Japan might eat our lunch in more than just the auto industry.

Actualy, Asian auto makers who built plants here saw no drop in productivity. A Toyota plant in america is as productive as one in Japan.
posted by delmoi at 9:32 PM on July 3, 2005


Being a Canadian that has spent time in Alabama, I wouldn't say that they are less intelligent at all.

But less educated than the average Canadian? Sure, I'll buy that, based on my experiences.
posted by Kickstart70 at 9:41 PM on July 3, 2005


We're really going to regret the lack of investment in our industrial base and our lack of respect for blue collar workers.

And outsourcing technical jobs such as programming leaving qualified people at home flipping burgers. Not smart at all.
posted by scheptech at 9:56 PM on July 3, 2005


fuck ya'll
posted by trinarian at 10:10 PM on July 3, 2005


trinarian: Wow, you sure proved me wrong about the southern education level!
posted by Kickstart70 at 10:26 PM on July 3, 2005


Also, what's the deal with all these asian car plants springing up in the south?

Right to work states, startup subsidies, less tradition of unionism. Honda has a plant in Ohio, IIRC, but I can't recall whether that's "regular" Ohio or almost-Kentucky Ohio.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:40 PM on July 3, 2005


Ah, the 'ol myth of the uneducated workforce rearing its ugly head once again. The reality is, of course, just the opposite. Our workforce is overeducated, and thus asks for too much money (damned that minimum wage). Of course Canada looks a lot nicer: as the post alludes to, if you don't have to pay for health care, you can save billions a year.

This is the future, folks. Anyone care to guess what happens to a society when there's simply not enough work to go around?
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 10:41 PM on July 3, 2005


For the most part, this discussion has been mature, on topic, and rather interesting. Good stuff, Mefi. Quite mature tonight...

I kin fix eny car y'all want, cause cars is just created by men jus like me, jus liek men is created by God in His image. Don't give me none that EVIL-ution, ok?
posted by orthogonality


Of course, there's always a few ignorant trolls brave behind the key board, but for the most part, agreed.
posted by justgary at 10:58 PM on July 3, 2005


delmoi :
I would take this with a grain of salt. Several studies have shown that there is little corellation between education levels and worker productivity. These studies were done in response to similar claims made during the eighties when it seemed that Japan might eat our lunch in more than just the auto industry.
"Actualy, Asian auto makers who built plants here saw no drop in productivity. A Toyota plant in america is as productive as one in Japan."


I'm guessing (though without reading the studies, I can't say for sure) that that is exactly what the studies are saying. In the 80's, folks said the Japanese would kick the American's asses because even their assembly line workers were more educated than America's. Then actual plants were built in less educated states, and they were just as productive in America, indicating that there is little correlation between education levels and worker productivity.

So it's highly likely that you are not in disagreement with the original post, but in fact in agreement.
posted by Bugbread at 11:00 PM on July 3, 2005


Civil_Disobedient: Exactly what is happening now!

There is over-capacity in a lot of industries now, particularly in the auto industry.

If you look at unemployment and under-employment in the developed world it's clear that even with all the incentives and marketing to make people want more things there is still considerable spare productive capacity.

In the third world it's even worse, no one can get hold of the capital or the means of distribution or land titles.

The thing is, no one has figured out how we could share work around so everyone works 3-4 days a week and is as efficient as people working 5 days.
posted by sien at 11:04 PM on July 3, 2005


If you look at unemployment and under-employment in the developed world it's clear that even with all the incentives and marketing to make people want more things there is still considerable spare productive capacity.

My suggestion is switch some productive capacity to things like light rail systems, fiscal prority to schools and libraries, and spend a lot less time and money trying to "liberate" the barely-known Universe.

As for "efficiency", do you think people are actually that efficient on a 5-day week? And what do current schemes toward efficiency get but more grape-flavored Cheez Whiz?

Ask Sci-Fi author John Barnes what we ought to do. Seriously.
posted by davy at 11:17 PM on July 3, 2005


"Your comment betrays a lack of exposure to educated blue collar workers.Your comment seems to suppose that people who do factory work have no lives off the assembly line. Some people work factory jobs BECAUSE they have rich lives they need to support.

First of all, uneducated doesn't mean dumb; it means limited opportunities. What depresses me about some states is the wasted potential you see everywhere.

Secondly, building cars is not the worst job, and it does take a lot of skill, discipline and hard work."

Look, I agree for the most part.

But we need to break this down.

3 types of workers:

1. Morons lucky to be employed at McDonalds
2. People who can learn just about any job.
3. Smartasses who work as lawyers, buisnessman, etc.


#2 is the key to the American manufacturing economy and the group that is currently being screwed by our economic strategeries.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 11:44 PM on July 3, 2005


If NAFTA is implemented, all you will hear is a giant sucking sound as jobs go North.

Good example of how globalization works out in practice: jobs going to places with better education systems and stronger social security safety nets.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 12:24 AM on July 4, 2005


I'm all for better education in the South (got my public education there....and it ain't so hot), but I kinda doubt illiteracy is the real reason for this move. The heathcare angle is much more telling.

After all, do you really need to have a Master's to weld a car together? What is the South if it isn't a bunch of greasemonkey rednecks?
posted by zardoz at 4:05 AM on July 4, 2005


The heathcare angle is much more telling.

I was just going to say.
That struck me as a really great argument for those pushing universal health care in the States.
posted by CunningLinguist at 5:16 AM on July 4, 2005


Don't we have enough cars by now?
posted by kika at 5:19 AM on July 4, 2005


(inserted /blockquote to fix the formatting).
posted by kika at 5:20 AM on July 4, 2005


... increasing numbers of MB buyers in the US seem very unhappy with the quality of their vehicles. posted by clevershark at 8:00 PM PST on July 3 [!]

Oddly, I'm more concerned about the literacy of the buyers. We've got Antonio on the line. Harken: "It sounded like it was overheating, I was going to explode. Anyway I shamefully called the Service department where I purchased it from..."
posted by hal9k at 5:27 AM on July 4, 2005


When I was going to go to graduate school in Louisville, all of our neighbors who worked at the Ford plant made more money than I did. Still do. But they weren't able to make cynical comments about the Postmodern Condition at parties, so there.
posted by craniac at 5:30 AM on July 4, 2005


The money that Southern states offer companies in return comes from somewhere, and it could be that money that should have gone towards educating the general populace.

The chairman of the computer-technology department at a technical college I attended in SC told me much the same thing: Instead of tax breaks and other financial incentives to woo high-tech businesses to the state, it would be far smarter to be in a position to offer well-educated, highly qualified employees.

FWIW, I'm working in Ohio now because it's too hard to find work as a technical writer in SC.
posted by alumshubby at 6:33 AM on July 4, 2005


Instead of tax breaks and other financial incentives to woo high-tech businesses to the state, it would be far smarter to be in a position to offer well-educated, highly qualified employees.

Well, in the article, it did say that the local and provincial government was throwing in $125 million for setting up the new factory. For a 1,300 worker factory, that's nearly $100,000 per worker.
posted by boaz at 6:50 AM on July 4, 2005


True or not, it's absolutely plausible.

I mean, did anyone read this and think, "No way! It's impossible that any American public education system could produce large numbers of illiterate people!"
posted by selfmedicating at 6:51 AM on July 4, 2005


Very interesting post. What I don't quite get, however, and furiousxgeorge alludes to it above, is how do you get a workforce that's able to build cars, without having a workforce that finds such work beneath them (or not challenging enough, etc). Maybe it's the education system (educating people up, so that such work is desired and within thew lower strata's reach), but it's not obvious that's all it takes. It's sort of like the question I've always asked: why do people become nurses, when the same impulse would seemingly make them want to become a physician?

Wonder how much play this story will get in the US media....I'd love to see the local newscasts from the rejected states!
posted by ParisParamus at 6:53 AM on July 4, 2005


"Scalz, is this what you're doing when you're supposed to be writing a sequel?"

Oh, come on. I had just got home after driving for eight hours. I'm allowed a little web-browsing instead of diving right in to the next chapter.
posted by jscalzi at 6:59 AM on July 4, 2005


bashos_frog writes "Several studies have shown that there is little corellation between education levels and worker productivity. "

They aren't talking about productivity though, rather the cost of training and healthcare. The healthcare thing is huge of course and one of the reasons GM is in such trouble. You guys are going to end up bailing them out or providing some kind of single payer healthcare if you don't want GM ro go the way of steel mills.
posted by Mitheral at 7:02 AM on July 4, 2005


how do you get a workforce that's able to build cars, without having a workforce that finds such work beneath them

People in dire straights will put up with a lot of stuff that's "beneath" them if it keeps a roof over their heads.

Unfortunately, the advent of the industrial and technological revolution means that production efficiencies are making human labor moot. You've got hundreds of millions of people all fighting for the same optimized, computerized jobs that are making them more and more irrelevant.

Either society as a whole will change this damnable "salvation through work" philosophy, or there's going to be a lot of poor, angry people jumping between jail and scrounging through giagantic trash heaps for sustinence.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 7:12 AM on July 4, 2005


I wouldn't be too proud of Canadian heathcare. Sure, from an employeer perspective it's great, but from an employee perspective, it just looks like typical socialist healthcare: ok for routine treatment + long waits + run to the US for serious treatment. But of course, running to/depending on the US is a big part of Canadian life generally.
posted by ParisParamus at 7:15 AM on July 4, 2005


Nissan and Honda have encountered difficulties getting new plants up to full production in recent years in Mississippi and Alabama due to an untrained - and often illiterate - workforce.

I once worked briefly in a Frito-Lay Warehouse outside of Dallas, Texas. One of the forklift operators I met was a man named Randy. Randy's dad had been in the military, so as a youngster Randy moved around a lot. He spent one year of high school in Alabama, and when he moved again (to Texas) he was told he had to do his year over again because the Alabama school he had attended was no good.

That's when he dropped out.
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 7:15 AM on July 4, 2005


I don't particularly buy the training issue either, but it strikes me that health care costs may have been a deciding factor. GM figures that $1500 to $2000 of the price of a new car goes to pay current employee and retiree health benefits. Costs in southern Ontario would be much lower. Not nothing, because Toyota would still need to cover dental, drugs, eye-care and hospital extras, but much less than the southern US.

By the way, don't think that Canada doesn't play the tax-break and subsidy game too. Both Ontario and the feds were throwing gobs of money about, $100 of millions, to get Toyota to build here.
posted by bonehead at 7:15 AM on July 4, 2005


Actually Paris, the reverse is true: if you have a serious life-threatening condition, you get immediate and thorough attention. Heart disease, cancer, and other emergency conditions get aggressive treatment. I know this well from personal experience. The things that there are waiting lists for are diagnostics, particularly MRIs, and treatment for chronic, not-immediately-threatening conditions. Hip replacements are a favourite example.

The real secret to cheap Canadian care is two-fold: simplified administration, we pay a tiny fraction of what the US system uses for admin costs, and aggressive price-limiting on prescription drugs. The provinces are quite willing to dictate prices to the drug companies. Big Pharmas' choices in many Canadian markets are simply to accept the offered price or take their products elsewhere and lose the market to generics. Based mostly on these two things, we pay about 2/3 of the US heath costs per person.
posted by bonehead at 7:25 AM on July 4, 2005


ParisParamus writes "Sure, from an employeer perspective it's great, but from an employee perspective, it just looks like typical socialist healthcare: ok for routine treatment + long waits + run to the US for serious treatment."

PP you have no idea what your talking about, turn off the talk radio and do some research. If you're several times independently wealthy than the US system may be[1] better, but for those in the middle class and below single payer systems are vastly superior to the expensive byzantine nightmare than passes for health care in the US. The most telling numbers: "Canada insured 100 percent of its citizens for $2,250 per person in l998 while the United States expended $4,270 per person insuring only 84 percent of our citizens." Sucks to be in the 16% with out insurance, a quick search on AskMe for doctor or insurance will attest to that.

[1]I say maybe because if your that rich and live anywhere on the planet you can always get the best care money can buy.
posted by Mitheral at 7:29 AM on July 4, 2005


It may well be this is exactly what the auto manufacturer is thinking. You're not going to get the truth from the auto manufacturer, they are not going to say, "we think southerners are dumb." They would have their businesses boycotted. But if this image exists in their minds, then it is costing jobs in the south.
If not a perceived untrained labor force, they chose Canada for some reason. The cheaper labor costs cited were due to health insurance costs (alright, by the Canadian locals). Maybe we will get socialized medicine being offered as state benefit packages?
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 7:30 AM on July 4, 2005


But rather than invest in improving output and quality-of-life, Big Money would prefer to find cheaper yet more capable labor elsewhere.

Small Money would prefer to find cheaper yet more capable labor, too. Any businessman with an ounce of sense would want that.

Yeesh.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:33 AM on July 4, 2005


Of course Canada looks a lot nicer: as the post alludes to, if you don't have to pay for health care, you can save billions a year.

Employers in Canada do pay for healthcare.


And we have our little PP, representing the ignorant, ugly American once again:
it just looks like typical socialist healthcare: ok for routine treatment + long waits + run to the US for serious treatment. But of course, running to/depending on the US is a big part of Canadian life generally. posted by ParisParamus at 7:15 AM PST on July 4 [!]
You have no idea what you're saying, you stupid yankee asswipe. FOAD.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:48 AM on July 4, 2005


Civil_Disobedient: "Our workforce is overeducated, and thus asks for too much money (damned that minimum wage)."

I've known a few people who work for the car manufacturing industry in Ontario, and as I recall the wages at a Toyota plant, even for say summer students, start in excess of $20 an hour. I doubt minimum wage is much of a factor. Health care (as you mentioned) is probably the key factor.

I grew up near Woodstock, in the Ontario school system, but I spent a year going to high school in the south. I never considered that year (granted not in Alabama) to have had a negative impact on my education. However, I did get the impression from some of my teachers that kids who were struggling fell through the cracks pretty frequently. It was a perfectly fine program, but there just weren't the resources to help the kids who weren't getting it, for whatever reason (some of the kids weren't getting it because they didn't have enough to eat, which is a whole 'nother kind of problem).

All that said, and with love for both of my countries firmly intact, I wouldn't give too much credence to a Canadian comment about the intelligence/ability of people in the American south. Just like I wouldn't give too much credence to an American comment about the perils of socialized medicine.
posted by carmen at 8:29 AM on July 4, 2005


GM figures that $1500 to $2000 of the price of a new car goes to pay current employee and retiree health benefits.

Yes but GM got raped by the UAW. The reason for those high costs is that GM covers all costs, no deductible, no co-pay for union workers.
posted by Mick at 8:35 AM on July 4, 2005


if the highly sophisticated robots should suddenly develop minds of their own, break free and start killing the people in the neighborhood*

* Disneyland

(I kid, I kid!)
posted by mrbill at 8:39 AM on July 4, 2005


"Canada insured 100 percent of its citizens for $2,250 per person in l998 while the United States expended $4,270 per person insuring only 84 percent of our citizens."

If this fact is true, and employers are starting to make big investment decisions accordingly, why aren't US politicians taking up the charge? I thought money talks in America.

and P.P: Yes, the rich do sometimes run to the US to get their artificial hips faster. That fact is hardly condemnation of a system that allows everyone who needs a hip replacement to get one, regardless of means.
posted by Popular Ethics at 9:31 AM on July 4, 2005


Another nice discussion saves a slim newsfilter post. Great stuff here.

Yes but GM got raped by the UAW. The reason for those high costs is that GM covers all costs, no deductible, no co-pay for union workers.

Is that not true for other US manufacturers?
posted by mediareport at 9:37 AM on July 4, 2005


A Canadian style healthcare system would be a boon to pretty much every other industry.

Unfortunately many don't trust our government to do the job competently, and people like ParisParamus have been fed so much disinformation that they immediately resist.
posted by mosch at 9:44 AM on July 4, 2005


Mick, no more than every other heavy industry. Boeing has the same problem. The thing GM (and Ford and Chrysler) did that was particularly stupid in retrospect, was to set up their system as pay-as-you-go rather than as an annuity (which would have cost more up front). Had they made the more initially expensive, but cheaper long-term choice of outsourcing their workers' healthcare rather than trying to pay the bills from general revenue, they would not be in such a sorry financial state today.
posted by bonehead at 10:14 AM on July 4, 2005


As a Mississippi native, I can tell you there's a large, uneducated underclass in the South, that cuts across racial lines. It became really apparent when I moved to a far more highly-educated city out West, then moved back. I don't think more school funding is going to help much, as I believe the problem is cultural. I don't know how to accomplish it, but one "family value" the South needs is the idea that it's bad to have children before you're 21 years old. Both for you and the children: it locks you into a dreary life of being poor and working shitty jobs; and you can't teach your children a better way.

In my tiny office we've got two dumb redneck girls who are 18 and pregnant. One doesn't want the child, but abortion isn't an option because her last abortion occurred too recently to be medically safe for another. She self-admittedly has a lax attitude towards taking her birth control pills. I'm sure that child is going to grow up to be a dumb redneck, and the cycle will begin again. You could throw a Harvard education at this young woman and it's not going to do any good.

The upper-middle, educated class in Mississippi (which I consider myself a member) doesn't have much interest in these problems. I know it's selfish, but my goal is to get the hell out of the South again. Out West, I won't have to interact with dumb rednecks on a daily basis anymore.
posted by StewV at 11:28 AM on July 4, 2005


parisparamus says: ok for routine treatment + long waits + run to the US for serious treatment.
--------------------------------------------------------
I work for a U.S. pharmacy and when it comes to 'running across the border' it happens far more for U.S. citizens running to Canada than it does the other way around.
Pull your head out of talk radio's ass and get a clue.
posted by mk1gti at 11:46 AM on July 4, 2005


p.s. I was in the emergency room here for three hours recently to get in to see a dr. about a severe back problem, then waiting an hour and a half to get an rx filled at the local pharmacy. I honestly wonder how things would be at a canadian health care facility . . .
posted by mk1gti at 11:48 AM on July 4, 2005


A Canadian style healthcare system would be a boon to pretty much every other industry.

Except for the Health Care and Insurance Industries, which are taking up an ever-growing portion of the U.S. economy and would be decimated by Public Health Policies that actually benefitted the Public. I doubt that ParisParamus got his talking points from dittohead talkradio, much more likely they came from the stock brokers who invested a larger portion of the Paramus family fortune in Pfizer than in G.M.
posted by wendell at 12:07 PM on July 4, 2005


p.s. I was in the emergency room here for three hours recently to get in to see a dr. about a severe back problem, then waiting an hour and a half to get an rx filled at the local pharmacy. I honestly wonder how things would be at a canadian health care facility . . .

I had reason to visit the emergency room three weeks ago. It took less than an hour to get processed and onto a bed, and less than a half-hour for the nurse, intern, and doctor to check me out in sequence. I got a painkiller injected and a handful of T3s. The pharmacy filled the antibiotics prescription within ten minutes, as per usual. The next day I was feeling immensely better.

The entire event, except possibly a small amount for the prescription fill, was covered under normal Canadian healthcare. No bills.

This is a very typical experience.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:45 PM on July 4, 2005


canadian health care vs. 'superior' 'murican health care. You saw it here with your own eyes. My experience vs. a canadian's experience. I rest my case. 'murican health care blows . . .
posted by mk1gti at 1:32 PM on July 4, 2005


The entire event, except possibly a small amount for the prescription fill, was covered under normal Canadian healthcare. No bills.

/wipes tear from eye

I just wish there were a way to spin it so the American people would be for it... something like, "If Caaaanada can do it, we sure as hell can, too!"

Sigh.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 2:36 PM on July 4, 2005


mediareport writes "Is that not true for other US manufacturers?"

GM used to OWN the US market. They also pay health benifts for retirees. Like bonehead says their problem is similiar to the supposed Social Security crisis except it is actually happening and the ratios are a lot worse (and keep getting worse as their market share declines). I can't really blame the auto manufacturers as the unions really had them over the barrel. Chrysler used to be the #2 automaker until the strikes of 1930s allowed Ford to over take. They never recovered and the automakers have had that sword hanging over their heads ever since.
posted by Mitheral at 2:41 PM on July 4, 2005


FFF: I'm open to having my understanding corrected, but not by someone as primitive as you.
posted by ParisParamus at 3:21 PM on July 4, 2005


Even more scary, CD, is that I don't recall signing anything.

I forget exactly what the steps were, but it was something to this effect:
* show the receptionist my carecard ID.
* wait ten minutes for the head nurse to deal with some frail old lady who was having some sort of medication emergency.
* describe symptoms to the nurse.
* return to receptionist, get wristband.
* wait ten or so minutes for the head nurse to call me to the pre-diagnostic room (blood pressure, etc).
* follow her to a bed.
* put on the silly gown thing, wait five minutes for a nurse to check that I've done it right. I think this nurse's job is to escalate things if I'm dying.
* wait another five minutes for the intern to show up, then get her diagnosis.
* wait another five minutes while she hobnobs with Big Dr., then he came in to repeat the procedures and ensure she's correct.
* very soon after, pain relief, thank the gods and heavenly nurses bearing needles of awesome drugs.
* given a prescription and told to go home.

I don't think I signed anything. I didn't pay anything. I kibitzed with the nurses and doctor, getting a few extra details and assuring myself it was all going to be okay. I didn't sign out. I never received a bill. There were absolutely no hassles of any shape or size.

This is exactly the same as the other one or two times I've visited emergency.
posted by five fresh fish at 3:33 PM on July 4, 2005


ParisParamus : "I'm open to having my understanding corrected, but not by someone as primitive as you."

Uh, well, ok then, I'll bite:

FFF had reason to visit the emergency room three weeks ago. It took less than an hour to get processed and onto a bed, and less than a half-hour for the nurse, intern, and doctor to check him out in sequence. He got a painkiller injected and a handful of T3s. The pharmacy filled the antibiotics prescription within ten minutes, as per usual. The next day he was feeling immensely better.

The entire event, except possibly a small amount for the prescription fill, was covered under normal Canadian healthcare. No bills.

This is a very typical experience.
posted by Bugbread at 3:54 AM on July 5, 2005


The key thing is FFF didn't loose his house/car/life savings because he visted the ER and he wouldn't have even if the visit resulted in a multi week hospital stay.
posted by Mitheral at 8:33 AM on July 5, 2005


The further key thing is that FFF went to the emergency room at all, rather than saying to himself "I can't afford to right now", and thereby didn't incure additional expense to every other taxpayer when he had an ultimate life-or-death struggle at a point in his life where he didn't have money to pay for it.

I just don't get people who promote the U.S. health care system as a better system. You get less service, more expense, and ultimately have to cover all people who don't have health care insurance anyway, in tax dollars. The -only- benefit is that your drug manufacturers are coming out with new ones every day and some of those actually work better than the cheaper, older ones. That doesn't do the average person a whole lot of good.
posted by Kickstart70 at 10:10 AM on July 5, 2005


Ah, I have two hospital-stay stories, too. The first is more hazy than the second, as it happened to me.

A good six to eight years ago I was learning to snowboard. I was out with a buddy who teaches. I seemed to be learning quickly. We went out on a real slope.

He was in line while I was catching up; I'd been close behind him before he took off on the last good slope. While in line the fellow behind him said "Is there a trail there [pointing]? There was a snowboarder and he didn't come out the other side."

That started the whole emergency evac process. I have no memory of the actual accident: it appears I'd panicked and failed to fall to bring myself to a stop. Instead I sailed out over a creek runoff and into a tree, bringing myself to a halt with my head.

Long story shorter, I was hauled up the hill on a body sled, rushed 45m in the ambulance (passing out of consciousness most of the time) to the hospital, into emergency. There I was stitched up and underwent a rapid series of tests, including x-ray and CAT scans or MRI.

It was determined that I may have fractured my skull behind the left ear, beneath the open wound. This caused fears that I might end up with brain tissue infection. I was placed in intensive care, still passing in and out of consciousness, gone more often than not, with an IV drip of the nastiest possible antibiotics, painkillers, and health monitoring equipment.

I spent two or three days in this room, with nurses frequently checking that I was still alive. I was sent for a few more brain/skull scans. On the third or fourth day I was moved to a four-person ward (with three dying seniors). On the fifth or sixth day I cracked: I couldn't take the wheezing and dying any more and demanded that I be released. It looked like I was going to be okay, and they let me go.

I paid a $123 ambulance bill. Nothing else.

The nurses were heaven-sent angels, btw. I will never, ever have anything bad to say about nurses.

I've always wondered if I made a full recovery, or if I'm brain damaged. Frequently I suspect the latter!
The second story puts my wife in the hospital. She was run over by a farm truck with dualies. Front and back tires passed over her right arm, turning her elbow to pulp. It was the drivers' fault: he ran a stop sign. My only big accomplishment in the ordeal was to not kill him. Everything else was handled by random strangers, including an off-duty paramedic who lived right where the accident occurred. Having him show up within seconds, fully kitted, was really damn bizarre.

Anyway, I don't know the first hour of the story, as I was at the scene dealing with post-accident issues like reporting to the cops, not killing the kid, and getting the bike into a kind strangers' yard for temporary safe-keeping.

When I made it to the hospital, my wife was in emergency recieving nearly full-time attention from doctors and nurses. They had done x-rays and were assessing the damage while our town's top two orthopedic surgeons were brought in to consult. She'd been administered painkillers et al, and was on the fast track to surgery.

She had two major surgeries, one to deal with an oddly-fractured right shoulder (it had basically been split in half vertically) and one to deal with the endless mess in her elbow, removing a ton of bone scraps, working around an extremely delicate and important major nerve, and attaching a bunch of titanium hardware to provide some semblence of an artificial elbow. The surgery lasted over six hours.

There were other various contusions and breaks, but these were inconsequential compared to the elbow and shoulder.

She spent over a week, and perhaps as long as two weeks, in the recovery ward. It was hell on me: this is the one person in the world that I feel truly connected to, and I sincerely expect that I will die soon after she does.

The nurses, once more, were angels from on high. They allowed this traumatized Fish to spend the first night or two with her, curled up on a chair beside her bed. They were amazingly tolerant, allowing me to spend entire days at her bedside, assisting them and her in all ways. Nurses are so wonderful: I don't know how they cope with perfect strangers turbo-spewing lunch all over the place. Hell, I'm not sure how I coped with it... it was like something out of the Exorcist!

Anyway, she was on the big drugs and monitoring thing for a good while, and then on physiotherapy to prepare her for homestay.

When she was released, we obtained all things neccessary for her recovery: hospital bed, IV pole, toilet booster seat, shower seat, etcetera; and several helpers, including an home-care nurse to manage her surgical dressings daily, a physiotherapist to manage her physical recovery, etc.

Once she was back to self-mobility, and to this very day, she has access to physiotherapy, massage therapy, healing touch, naturopathic consultation, doctors' visits (including at least two dozen to the orthopedic surgeons), and so on.

We paid $58 ambulance bill. Nothing else.
Now, granted, most of the post-hospital assistance is due more to the automobile insurance company, ICBC, and not our healthcare system.

However, the fact remains that for both she and I, long-term emergency hospital stays have cost us a grand total of less than $200 out of pocket.

Income taxes? We're paying well under 25% of gross income. I'll bet you dollars to Tim Hortons donuts that if you combine your federal and state taxes plus your insurance costs for a 100% cost-free-in-all-conditions healthcare plan, you'll find you're paying a lot more than we are.

Indeed, you have to: not only do you need to pay the overhead and profits for the insurance industry, you have to pay the overhead and profits for a too-privatized hospital and healthcare system that's significantly less efficient than the Canadian system.

Our stories are typical. Every Canadian is covered for these situations. There is no such thing as bankruptcy due to hospitalization costs in Canada.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:51 AM on July 5, 2005


According to the Economist (June 16th print issue, online for subscribers only), on the "Indicators" page at the back of the issue, the United States spent $5,635 per person on health care, which is more than twice the average for the industrialized world. This was equivalent to 15% of GDP.

Canada spent just under $3,000 per person, or 9.9% of GDP. Even if one was willing to grant that the Canadian system was worse than the American system, it's certainly not twice as bad.
posted by djfiander at 12:16 PM on July 5, 2005


But in defense of ParisHiltonParamus, not all HealthCare Coprorations in the U.S. are licenses to print money. HealthSouth had to use "pixie dust" totalling 2.7 billion dollars of fraud to make it in our wonderful stock market-driven system. And the only executive not to plead guilty, "Imperial CEO" Richard Scrushy (who reportedly micro-managed the seating in the executive dining room) was acquitted of having any knowledge of the fraud by a jury in Alabama. Which returns us to our original topic... maybe Alabama IS full of idiots.

BTW, Scrushy did not have to file bankruptcy to pay for his defense.

Right now, anybody who can look at the truth of America's medical/legal/political/economic/almost-every-other system and NOT agree with the repetitive wakko that "America sucks more every day" either has a total lack of self-esteem or is obviously profiting from the suffering of others.
posted by wendell at 12:17 PM on July 5, 2005


I guess I had to agree with CunningLinguist about something.

five_fresh_fish is better than a Unisom, again.
posted by davy at 9:13 PM on July 7, 2005


And you didn't even have to pay the consumer-gouging prescription prices to get it, davy! underscores in my name? odd, that.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:58 AM on July 8, 2005


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