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Why American Automakers Should Stop Building Cars in Canada

by John Brian Shannon

At first glance, the idea that the ‘Big Three’ American automakers (Chrysler, Ford and GM) would stop manufacturing their cars and trucks in other countries might seem like a ground-breaking idea.

But it’s not as shocking as some new ideas that have come to light, such as putting an engine in sailing ships enabling them to cross entire oceans, or passenger travel by aircraft instead of train, or that man should walk on the Moon by 1970.

Still, the idea that America’s Big Three automakers would stop building their cars in other countries might be seen as a novel idea.


Why Would American Automakers Want to Stop Building Cars in Other Countries?

Let’s take the case of the North American car market:

Chrysler, Ford, and GM have auto assembly plants in Canada, the United States and Mexico where they produce millions of cars and trucks per year. The majority of those vehicles are then sold into the U.S. because it’s a far bigger market than the Canadian and Mexican vehicle market combined.

Which means that many American auto industry jobs are lost to Canada and Mexico.

President Trump wants to lower the unemployment rate in his country and help make his domestic auto industry stronger and more responsive to the American market via high tariffs or restrictions on the number of cars Canada and Mexico could export to the United States.

The trade-off of that move would be worse relations with Canada and Mexico which have long benefited from Big Three auto factories located in their respective countries and Canada and Mexico would be loathe to lose those economic benefits.

And although I see U.S. President Donald Trump’s point on this — I’d rather talk about solutions that could work for all three countries.


What if There’s a Way for Each of the NAFTA Countries to Win?

Let’s pretend for a minute that we’re looking at the North American auto industry from the vantage point of 5-years in the future.

Five years on, let’s say that every Chrysler, Ford, and GM car and truck sold in the United States is manufactured in the United States, unemployment is at an all-time low, and the American economy is rocketing along like it was in the 1960’s. Great!

What about Canada?

As the Big Three factories presently located in Canada would still remain, new licensee companies approved by Chrysler, Ford, and GM could build all the Chrysler, Ford and GM vehicles required for the Canadian market, and build 100% of them in Canada, while still keeping to U.S. auto company specifications and quality. Such licensee companies would be required to meet the same manufacturing standards and warranty terms.

Companies like Magna International already produce a significant number of the parts required for all of the Big Three automakers; Extending their license to include vehicle assembly on behalf of one of the U.S. auto companies would be an easy transition.

Or, entirely new companies could be formed; One company (‘Chryton Co.’) could build all Chrysler cars and trucks for the Canadian market by purchasing the existing Chrysler manufacturing plants in Canada and paying the required per-unit license fees to Fiat Chrysler USA, while ‘FordX’ would build every Ford car and truck for its Canadian dealers after paying its per-unit license fee to Ford USA. Likewise, GM vehicles would be built by a GM-approved company (‘AC Delco’) that would pay a license fee to GM USA for each vehicle it builds for the Canadian market.

In that way, all Chrysler, Ford, and GM vehicles destined for the Canadian market would be manufactured in Canada by Canadian workers — and other than paying license fees to the respective USA auto manufacturer — the Canadian automotive manufacturing industry would be 100% Canadian. That’s 100% Canadian-owned and 100% Canadian-staffed. (They would still need to match U.S. manufacturing and warranty standards however)

Exactly the same could be done in Mexico for Mexican companies and consumers. (They would still need to match U.S. manufacturing and warranty standards however)

And all Chrysler, Ford, and GM cars and trucks destined for the U.S. market would be manufactured in the United States by American workers and the U.S. auto industry would find itself in the middle of an economic boom!


In an Era of 3D Printing, License Fees Will be Everything

Welcome to the future!

If you live in Canada and you want a Ford car you simply order the car online and the Ford-approved Canadian company 3D prints and otherwise assembles your Ford car and the car arrives at your local dealership a few days later.

You might even choose to watch it being 3D printed, painted, and assembled on your tablet or laptop computer.

Yes, other than upholstery and tires, etc. all 3D printed cars and trucks will be made from aircraft grade aluminum alloy as aluminum works better than steel for 3D printing.


Not Only The Big Three, But European and Japanese Automakers Too!

Imagine if EVERY new car and truck sold in Canada is built in Canada by Canadian companies that pay a license fee to the respective American, European, or Japanese automaker. That equals full employment in the Canadian auto sector, without the (understandable) griping by President Trump about American job losses.

Imagine if EVERY new car and truck sold in the U.S.A. would be built in the United States by American workers, and even European and Japanese vehicles sold in the U.S. would be built by U.S. companies that paid for the rights to 3D print and assemble those cars. That equals full employment in the American auto sector.

Imagine if EVERY new car and truck sold in Mexico would be built by Mexican companies that pay a license fee to the respective American, European, or Japanese automakers. That equals full employment in the Mexican auto sector, without any griping by President Trump about American job losses.

NOTE: I understand that hand-built cars like Rolls Royce, Ferrari, Aston Martin, etc. would decline to take part in such an arrangement, but those cars account for less than 1% of the North American market share. They would simply continue to export their cars to their North American customers as usual.

Again, manufacturing and warranty standards would need to be carefully vetted by the licensor before granting manufacturing rights to licensees. Even so, every country in this equation would ‘Win-Win-Win’.

And consumers could purchase a locally built vehicle that wasn’t shipped across the continent or thousands of miles of ocean.

Shop Local, and still get the ‘foreign’ car of your dreams!


Auto Manufacturers Would Make the Same Per Vehicle Profit in Foreign Countries as Now — But Via License Fees (only)

The era of ‘things-based’ globalization is morphing into ‘ideas-based’ globalization where things are designed in country ‘A’ by a company that retains 100% rights over who is allowed to 3D print and assemble its products in country ‘B’ — which could be literally anywhere on the planet.

Whether it’s T-shirt graphics electronically transmitted and licensed to a company thousands of miles away (as is done now) or whether licensed companies 3D print and assemble your foreign car in the city where you live — globalization might finally become all that it can and should be — creating hundreds of thousands of jobs in each country for workers in 3D printing/manufacturing factories that could literally build anything, anytime, for anyone, as long as they have purchased the proper license.

Such ‘On Demand’ manufacturing might become the biggest job creator ever and lower the tensions brought on by the endless competition between the world’s free trading nations.


Ready for the future? Order your locally-manufactured foreign car here.

(OK, just kidding… But it might be that easy in only a few years!)

The Iran Nuclear Deal: Obligation or Opportunity?

by John Brian Shannon

It’s always helpful to look at a country’s actions over the past 200 years to help understand what its intentions may be here and now, and in the future.

The burgeoning but relatively isolated country of Iran hasn’t militarily attacked another country for over 200 years, and it was Saddam Hussein’s Iraq that militarily attacked Iran in September 1980 — a conflict that finally ended in August 1988 with 1 million casualties and an economic cost of $680 million to $1 trillion dollars — with no clear winner and no benefit to either country.

After all that blood and treasure, no benefit to either country(!) although via the UN-sponsored peace accord and as a penalty to Iraq for starting the war, Iran gained access to the Shatt al-Arab waterway which runs into the Persian Gulf.

Since 2000, Iran has purportedly financed organizations (some listed as terrorist organizations, and others not) throughout the Middle East and most recently in Syria, Iraq, and perhaps Lebanon, in an attempt to exert some control on the various forces operating around their region. (Every country uses various methods to control what happens in its own region, so no news there)

But nothing captures the world’s attention like the Iran nuclear deal.

U.S. President Donald Trump says the deal is a bad one for the West and shouldn’t have been signed and wants to walk away from the deal, reserving the right to act unilaterally if he feels the country is a danger to the U.S.A. or its Middle East allies.

Last week, France’s President Emmanuel Macron flew to Washington to meet with the U.S. President to convince him to stay in the deal or to embrace a ‘third way’ which means renegotiating some of the agreement to better suit U.S. concerns.

Iran barely signed the previous agreement… so it will be interesting to see how the U.S. can get everything it wants from a renegotiated deal while still obtaining Iran’s signature to a new agreement. A deal isn’t a deal unless both sides sign on the dotted line.


Why Would the U.S. Care About Iran? (and Syria, for that matter)

From a strategic perspective, there isn’t a country in the world that could be less important to the security of the United States than Iran, and the same goes for Syria.

Neither country has the kind of military that could threaten America, nor could they project their power anywhere near the North American continent.

Unless the United States is actively working for Israel — a country which has an irrational fear of Iran (again, Iran hasn’t invaded any other country for over 200 years) and is willing to spend billions or even another trillion dollars to wage another Iraq War-style conflict against Iran, there’s no reason for the U.S. to have any dealings with Iran whatsoever.

Iran is a regional power at best, and will remain so for approximately the next 30-years as it hasn’t the capacity to be anything else.

If the United States is actively working for Saudi Arabia — a country that views Iran as an unwelcome competitor in the race to dominate the region, the same advice applies. Why should the U.S. spend multi-billions and sacrifice thousands of young soldiers to satisfy the Saudi ambition to be the local hegemon?

It’s not like Iran is withholding oil deliveries. On the contrary, Iranian oil is easily obtainable with a phone call — the country is highly motivated to sell every drop of oil due to high spending on social programmes by the Iranian government that are funded by oil revenue.

And Iran’s crude oil is rated either #2 (sweet) or #3 (semi-sweet) which means it’s in high demand around the world. Global oil producers have already pumped all of their #2 sweet crude out of the ground years ago; only Iran and Venezuela have significant reserves of sweet crude in the 21st-century.

As for oil refineries, they need Iran’s (or Venezuela’s) #2 sweet crude oil to blend with the oil supplied by their producers which is almost always #4 (sour) or #4.75 (very sour) like the Canadian oil sands product.

Most refineries won’t accept sour crude oil unless there is plenty of #2 or #3 sweet crude blended into the sour crude. It’s just too toxic to refine ‘sour’ as it requires a much more stringent maintenance protocol, meaning the refinery needs to shut down and go into ‘maintenance mode’ more often. That downtime represents a significant loss of revenue for oil refineries.

Therefore, as long as Iran continues to ship huge quantities of sweet crude, the United States should be facilitating that oil business instead of trying to curtail it.


The EU View of Iran is a Mature View

Say what you want about the Europeans, but they don’t allow themselves to be used by countries like Israel that have an irrational fear of Iran and want to use the United States and the EU to keep the Iranians ‘down’ and in their ‘proper’ place, or countries like Saudi Arabia that want to use the United States and the EU to keep the Iranians ‘down’ so that the regional superpower will be Saudi Arabia by default.

To oversimplify the EU view; As long as Iran’s sweet crude continues to flow (it is) and as long as Iran isn’t actively invading any other country (it isn’t) then there’s there’s no reason to use some imagined breach of the Iranian nuclear deal to launch another trillion dollar war in the Middle East. And, as always, the EU continues to refuse to allow itself to be used by regional powers such as Israel and Saudi Arabia.

In the final analysis, the EU’s position on the Iranian nuclear deal is the most enlightened of all and it is the view the United States should support.

What Could a Guaranteed Basic Income do for Canada?

by John Brian Shannon

Canada’s Parliamentary budget watchdog says it would cost $76 billion per year to fund a nationwide Guaranteed Basic Income (GBI) — which seems a wildly inflated price.


If it Costs $76 Billion, You’re Doing it All Wrong!

(a) For starters, even the Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO) admits the federal government already spends $33 billion annually to support low-income Canadians — many of whom are senior citizens receiving the Old Age Supplement (OAS) — therefore, what the budget officer really means is the federal government would need an additional $44 billion to fund a universal GBI.

Suddenly, we’re talking $44 billion, not $76 billion

(b) Also, every province in Canada already has monthly social assistance payments to help those adults with no income, or whose Employment Insurance (EI) has run out and who can’t find work, or who live on a monthly disability benefit. There are other situations where people qualify for social assistance but those three groups represent the largest percentage of recipients.

From the federal perspective, a GBI is about the federal government ‘topping-up’ the monthly amount that provincial social assistance and OAS recipients already receive to a reasonable amount that a person could actually live on, sans luxuries.

See? It isn’t about paying the whole shot, it’s about replacing the many overlapping federal and provincial social assistance plans that are available to people trapped in the bottom economic quintile.

Now it’s $15 billion, not $44 billion

(c) Another reason the PBO numbers are so high is that he claims every adult on social assistance needs $17,000+ per year which is still well below the official ‘poverty line’ in most provinces. But it’s just too high. The PBO also says that couples who live together would receive $25,000 per year.

If a person lived in rural Canada he or she could get by on a lower amount than suggested by the PBO, but if they live in Toronto even his higher amounts won’t be enough.

So the question is:

  • Do we want to pay people living on social assistance a large enough amount that allows them to live in Canada’s most expensive cities?
  • Or do we want to pay people living on social assistance an amount that allows them to live in the other 99% of Canada’s landmass?

If we use the figure of $1088/month per individual (a number that is widely accepted by anti-poverty groups across North America) instead of the PBO’s inflated number, suddenly our 15 billion dollar problem turns into 2.2 billion dollar problem.

Now it’s $2.2 billion, not $15 billion

But it means that a person couldn’t afford to live in expensive cities like Toronto, Vancouver, or Ottawa as real estate prices there (and therefore, rent prices) are too high.

Q: Is it really that onerous to suggest to people on social assistance that they don’t live in Canada’s most expensive cities?

Q: From their point of view, isn’t it better for them to seek out lower-cost rents in Canada’s small towns and live there?

Q: Why would anyone want to spend almost all of their monthly social assistance payment to rent a room in a house in one of Canada’s largest cities when they could rent an apartment or even a small mobile home in small-town Canada?

As the Canadian government spends a lot of time and money to convince people to move to smaller centres (sometimes paying new Doctors and other professionals a higher rate to relocate to small towns so that residents there can receive medical care on a timely basis) wouldn’t GBI recipients moving to smaller towns and cities lessen the need to pay Doctors and other professionals more than the normal rate to practice in those regions?

Many Doctors would no longer need to be paid extra to base their practice in Canada’s small towns once large numbers of GBI recipients would move to small-town Canada. (Many of whom would be senior citizens who could finally afford to move, it must be said)

Let’s pretend that factor represents a future savings of 200 million/yr — which sounds like a lot but it isn’t — because in addition to the premium that Canada pays new Doctors to practice in marginal areas of the country, the federal government must also fund the monitoring and management of that system. It isn’t run by one person in a telephone booth earning minimum wage.

Also, many Doctors contest their small-town posting decision which must be adjudicated at significant cost to the government.

Now it’s $2 billion, not $2.2 billion


Streamlining the System

We know that duplication of services costs money.

That covers anything that is done twice (2x) but how much money is wasted when there is duplication across ten provinces? (That’s 10x by the way — which is called a ‘decuple’) Because that’s what is happening with social assistance across this country.

Each of the ten provinces of Canada has its own Income Assistance programme and the government of Canada has various Income Assistance programmes for each of the ten provinces and three territories to support those who can’t afford to live on their own.

Also, Canada ‘tops-up’ the monthly income of senior citizens across the country through the OAS to something approaching half of the official poverty line in some cases. (Let’s not forget it was seniors that built this great country, and they deserve better than that)

Centralization can save duplication of services 10x over

Imagine if all social assistance benefits were paid out from one centralized location (say, in Winnipeg) and most of those provincial Income Assistance offices could close down.

Each provincial ‘welfare office’ with 20 to 100 staff, must cost well over a million dollars (the cost of the real estate alone) and must cost over one million dollars per month to staff and maintain — perhaps more. (Some of these offices would remain open because they offer other provincial services besides managing social assistance recipients)

Not only would each province save multi-millions, so would the federal government!

Now we’re saving the provinces money!

And, the federal government could close many offices across the country on account of being centralized and a social assistance ‘supercentre’ could handle every social assistance need across the country — whether it’s topping-up a senior citizen’s monthly income to $1088/month, or ‘topping-up’ a part-time worker’s monthly income to $1088/month, or paying those on social assistance or disability $1088/month — and save money compared to the way it’s presently operated!

Now we’re saving each province multi-millions (the amount of savings depend on the total population of the province) and we’re saving the federal government about $2 billion compared to the way it’s run now.

Now we’re down to $0, not $2 billion

Hey, this is fun! Wanna save some more?


Means Testing

NOTE: The GBI itself is based on having no ‘means test’ so every Canadian adult resident who earns less than $1088/month would automatically be eligible to receive either the full amount (if they’re earning nothing at all) or a ‘top-up’ to $1088/month.


Vastly Lower Provincial Government Spending Will Allow 10 Instant Provincial Budget Surpluses

It also means that homeless people could afford to rent a home if they live in small-town Canada. (Read: No more homeless people in Canada)

It means that every person on social assistance can afford to eat properly if they live in one of Canada’s small towns. (Read: People who use part of their grocery money to pay the rent or keep the heat on during the winter… spend more time in the Hospital)

It means that poverty-stricken people won’t be tempted to commit crimes in order to pay their rent, eat, or to acquire steel-toed work boots for a temporary day labour position, or for bus fare to get to a job interview. (I’ve volunteered at a homeless shelter; I’ve seen it happen)

By simply paying a standardized monthly benefit to Canadian adults who earn less than $1088/month homelessness will cease to be an issue, property crime rates will plummet, hospital visits will decrease, provinces can free themselves of managing social assistance recipients, provincial office buildings can be sold, the federal government can streamline OAS and other federal anti-poverty programmes into one super-efficient monthly payment system — and the feds can cross-verify CRA tax returns with the GBI system to catch cheaters.

Let’s pretend that all of it together could save the federal government 10 billion dollars annually. (It would save more than that)

Now we’re SAVING the federal government 10 billion dollars per year!

On the provincial side, almost every government in Canada could stop running provincial deficits by getting out of the social assistance business, freeing themselves of overlapping social assistance programmes, selling off their Income Assistance office buildings, lower their healthcare spending, and lower their property crimes spending which requires a lot of police investigations, court time, and incarceration for offenders.

Why would every province suddenly show a budget surplus?

No more provincial deficits to worry about — because after offloading their social assistance programmes onto the federal government — Canada’s provinces would save significant sums of money.

Provincial social assistance programmes are paid for by provincial sales tax, provincial income tax, and federal transfer payments — and those tax rates are set by the provincial spending plan for the following twelve months. Therefore, once the federal government absorbs those provincial programmes, provincial taxation rates could remain the same (for a time) and every province would suddenly find themselves in a budget surplus.

After five years elapsed they would probably remove the portion of the provincial taxation that had funded their social assistance programmes, thereby saving provincial income tax payers money at tax time.

Of course, the people who work in Income Assistance offices might be wary of this change but they’re highly trained and valuable people that their respective provincial government could easily put to work on positive programmes like conservation, education, healthcare, etc. instead of having them spend their days trying to prop up financially marginal people 365 days per year.

I’d expect that each provincial government would treat their Income Assistance staff with the respect they deserve and guarantee them a minimum of five more years of employment to each and every Income Assistance employee that was no longer needed at their Income Assistance office due to their social assistance programmes being superceded by the federal GBI.


How to Pay for it Until the $10 Billion Annual Savings Kick-in

During the five year transition period, the federal government would be required to find a revenue stream for a GBI that rolls all provincial and all federal social assistance programmes into one programme that pays $1088 per month. (CPP and EI would remain completely unaffected, obviously)

As stated above, the federal government already pays 100% of the cost of existing federal level social assistance programmes across Canada, so to absorb the provincial systems and afford the slightly more expensive GBI, it would need to add an across-the-board .29% increase to the federal income tax rate and concomitantly lower transfer payments to the provinces.

Alternatively, the federal government could tax robots like it taxes people. (Yes! It’s a thing! Even Bill Gates wants to tax robots)

If each robot was taxed at 30% of the value of its annual output, it would pay for the difference between what the feds already pay for federal social assistance spending, and the cost of funding a universal GBI that would replace existing provincial social assistance programmes. (Read here about the U.S. presidential candidate for 2020 running on taxing robots)

EITHER WAY, the federal government would save a minimum of $10 billion per year, creating new revenue streams to afford the GBI until those savings kick-in is completely doable, and the feds would never need to run a budget deficit again. And many social problems (like homelessness) would disappear forever.

That’s what a Guaranteed Basic Income could do for Canada!