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Lee Iacocca and Free Enterprise

After lauding Lee Iacocca in the first paragraph of his article (Editorial Pages, April 18), “Iacocca’s a Good Salesman but Not for Free Enterprise,” Prof. John Graham of USC castigated Iacocca, calling him a “villain in disguise” and a “sneak thief of free enterprise.”

Lee Iacocca doesn’t need anyone to defend him! Millions of intelligent Americans acclaim this man as a genius and an outstanding citizen. His unique talents and abilities have greatly increased the well-being of our nation. He has captured the hearts and plaudits of all America!

Graham began by criticizing the Chrysler “bail-out.” Actually, Iacocca didn’t need Chrysler; Chrysler needed Iacocca! He had worked his way up to the presidency of Ford Motor Co., the fourth largest corporation on the Fortune 500 list. When he left Ford, he settled for millions in pensions--enough to live in luxury for the rest of his life.

There were thousands of jobs at stake at Chrysler and its suppliers. If Chrysler had gone under, our government would have lost all the taxes these people were paying. The cost of unemployment and welfare would have been enormous. Besides, the U.S. Treasury Department collected $404 million in interest and $311 million in profit when it sold the warrants it had received from Chrysler. The loan guarantees were fully secured by Chrysler’s tangible assets.

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Chrysler offers important competition to General Motors and Ford. This tends to keep prices down and quality up. The American consumer clearly benefits from this competition.

Graham intimated that the Chrysler “bail-out” sets an undesirable precedent. He apparently has forgotten the other “bail-outs” that occurred before Chrysler, including: Lockheed Aircraft ($250 million), New York City, electric companies, farmers, railroads, chemical companies, shipbuilders, airlines, and small business. There were $409 billion in U.S. government loans and loan guarantees outstanding to other businesses when Chrysler first applied for government assistance.

Obviously, Graham didn’t get his facts straight. He should have read Iacocca’s book. Iacocca clearly states how he feels about free enterprise and fair trade. He doesn’t want our present “open-door” policy to be stopped--he simply wants our trading partners (especially Japan) to reciprocate by opening their markets to our products. All we want or need is a fair opportunity to compete in overseas markets, which we are not getting now.

STEVE NORDLINGER

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Los Angeles


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