Johnny Cash's Ode to GM

By Lloyd Graff

I often talk to machining folks who like to reminisce about the good old days when General Motors owned 50 percent market share and when people actually believed “what’s good for General Motors is good for America.”

General Motors got sloppy in every way. They made ridiculous deals with the United Auto Workers Union, spawning the infamous “job bank” and health care and retirement benefits that gave the company a monstrous sled to pull. In those good old days a lot of leaks developed. So many carbide inserts seeped out to bars near big factories to be traded for drinks, and were probably then sold back to the company. For a wry laugh click on the video below to listen to Johnny Cash’s wonderful ode to that corruption—“One Piece at a Time.”

Question: What’s your favorite GM car of all time?

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3 thoughts on “Johnny Cash's Ode to GM

  1. Bmoore

    I find it rather ludicrous to keep blaming the Unions for the demise of GM, this was a mangement disaster first and foremost.
    Rant time
    Ok here it is in a nutshell as I see it. The political parties since the time of Reagan including the Clinton administration, had a clear agenda of wage stagnation, this was due in large part to the hard nosed lobbying by the chamber of commerce to increase profits, as well as the concerted union busting, that was prolifigate during the same time frame.
    This is a fact.
    Therefore it was forced upon the american family to have two wage earners to keep afloat. Very short sighted policies to be sure. As the wages did not keep up with inflation neither did the tax revenues being collected from the middle class, added to this is also the rampant over spending by our government thus the hard choices that are going to have to be made by the american people.


    Bill Moore
    Mastel P.S.I.

  2. John Bacsik

    I’m not very familiar with the history associated with GM’s current predicament, I just hope that they will get on the ball and use the life preserver tossed out to them to restructure so they might once more be the iconic company they once were. And to answer the question… The Corvette is without a doubt the greatest GM car ever to roll off of the assembly line. It was the first american made car that could really hold its own with the euro sportscars back when the Ferraris and Maseratis ruled supreme. That’s my opinion anyway…

  3. Steve


    It is easy to blame GM management or the UAW or both for the demise of GM. Lots of “blame” to go around. But two other groups need to be called out.

    First, the public. We all sat by and watched GM periodically try to reign in the Union by taking strikes with little or not support from either the public or their competitors (Ford and Chrysler). I recall the 70 day strike that nearly bankrupted the UAW (Emil Maisey, the UAW Treasurer, borrowed from the Teamsters and everyone else he could to keep the coffers filled so they could pay strike benefits) and the buying public yawned. In fact, public opinion supported the Union. After all, GM had over 50% of the domestic market – surely they could afford “just a little more” for their poor overworked hourly workers.

    Second, our Federal Government through the EPA and CAFE dictated changes in technology under the premise that Detroit was simply avoiding what they could easily do – improve gas mileage while simultaneously cleaning up emissions. In a 1974 meeting with then GM President Jim McDonald, we were told that it was costing GM $100 Million in capital for every 0.10 improvement in gas mileage and emission improvement. At that time they were facing a mileage gap (CAFE) of over ten miles per gallon.

    Had the Feds sat down with the Auto industry and looked for common ground as the Japanese and others countries typically do they might have found a series of solutions that resulted in a win-win. Instead the Feds insisted on a zero sum punitive approach. As a Nation we lost respect for Big Business because, as JFK so proudly proclaimed after brow beating Rodger Blough, then Chairman of US Steel, “My dad told me all businessmen were S.O.B.s”. US Steel was planning a 5% increase in the price of steel in 1962 and JFK took him to task for this outrageous raid on American pocket books.

    Rodger Blough needed a price increase to offset the costs of the thirteen week vacation benefit every five years negotiated with the USW following the 116 day strike in 1959. That strike was an attempt to correct the abusive work rules imposed by the USW during the period from 1941 through 1959 which were killing the US Steel industry.

    Note that the EPA also dictated rules upon the US Steel industry that forced the industry to invest in technology which did not improve quality or lower costs but which diverted scarce capital away from these necessities into soot collectors and such.

    We destroyed both German and Japanese industry during WWII. They rebuilt using the best, most modern technology while we continued to use the technology put in place in the ’20s and ’30s. You could blame the US Steel industry for not modernizing following WWII. But the stockholders were happy with appreciation in their share prices and the associated dividends.

    So, today we have a radically different Steel Industry in the US with far fewer workers and a larger percentage of imported steel and finished products. The same is happening in the US Auto industry.

    Finally, please note that the only Japanese auto plants in the US with the UAW are the Chrysler-Mitsubishi plant in Normal, Ill. and the Freemont, Calif. NUMMI plant with GM and Toyota. Why is this the case?


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