America's Economic Stimulus

Cat Tales

I got one of those humorous E-mails the other day that made me laugh out loud. "A friend told me to buy American," it read, "so I went to the liquor store and bought a pack of cigarettes, a six-pack of beer and a porno magazine, and on the way home stopped to get a tattoo."

Today, that doesn't seem so funny. America is in a recession that is so serious, some analysts are starting to call it the second depression. The Big Three Detroit auto-makers are so far upside-down that they had to be bailed out by the feds.

Worst of all, and more to the point, just three days after President Obama was sworn in, news out of Milwaukee is just as bleak: Harley-Davidson announced massive financial losses, dismal sales, layoffs and slashed production, and is also looking to the feds to bail it out (see the full report on page 18).

Harley isn't alone. Fellow American motorcycle manufacturer Victory's parent company Polaris has also announced losses and layoffs. Even the Big Four Japanese manufacturers are struggling: Word from the U.S. importers is sales were down 30-40 percent through the latter part of '08. If it hadn't been for high gas prices during the summer months, which bolstered sales of small-displacement motorcycles and scooters, the year would have been even worse. Yamaha, for one, is planning to shut down its assembly lines for a few weeks to prevent flooding its dealers with inventory.

I'm not particularly political. (That was the previous editor, who was somehow both a conservative Republican and a Deadhead. We used to joke he should have a "Bush/Garcia '88" bumper sticker on the back of his truck.) I'm no economist either-I'm happy when I simply manage to balance my checkbook. But...

Experts say a big part of the reason we're in such dire straits is Americans' overdependence on foreign imports, inability to manufacture competitively and dependence on credit and false wealth to maintain our high standard of living. Ouch! Reading between the lines, you can see how motorcycles have contributed to this. Many are imported from Europe or Japan, Harleys are overpriced and under-developed, and we've probably all taken out a loan to buy a bike at some point in our lives. The Japanese, who are nothing if not excellent manufacturers, say Americans "make paper money," and there's a lot of truth to that. But when that paper money is derived from $50 billion pyramid schemes, it's no wonder we're in the mess we're in. That wasn't the sky falling, Chicken Little; that was the Dow.

What can we as motorcyclists do to help? Well, we could buy American. But unless you're in the market for a classic V-twin cruiser or touring bike (Harley, Victory) or sport-twin (Buell), buying a Made-in the-USA motorcycle really isn't an option. Sure, there are lots of American aftermarket companies selling everything from riding gear to performance parts, but many of those products are manufactured overseas. Hell, even Levi's jeans-arguably the most American of brand names-are made in China nowadays. On the other hand, many American-made products are owned by foreign companies. Budweiser, for example, is owned by the brewer's of Stella Artois. There's even talk of Fiat taking over Chrysler. Fix it again, Tony!

This whole global-economy thing is just way too confusing, and frankly the last thing on a person's mind when he or she is struggling to put food on the table. I personally know dozens of people who have lost their jobs recently, many from Motorcyclist's parent company Source Interlink Media. I feel for them.

One thing I do know is this magazine is 100 percent Made in the USA. And if you've ever read the blow-in cards before throwing them away, you'll know that a subscription can be had for as little as $6 per year (plus $3 postage and handling, reads the fine print). Considering I just paid $10 to see Benjamin Button-and could I please have those three hours of my life back?-that's cheap entertainment. No, subscribing to a motorcycle magazine won't end the recession, but it just might help get you through it.

Friends & Family

Marissa Miller
Okay, she's neither friend nor family, but if she'd like to be...Marissa Miller appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated's swimsuit issue and promptly scored the top spot in Maxim's Hot 100. She's currently appearing in a Harley-Davidson ad campaign.

Annette Carrion
No less lovely is Motorcyclist's Web Producer Annette Carrion, who maintains our website along with those of our seven sister publications. She's currently gearing up to take her MSF course-and we're lobbying to get her relocated to our L.A. offices.

Chris Denison
Once in a while we really wish we worked at Dirt Rider. Most recently was when they got invited to test the new Husqvarna TE 310 near the factory in Italy. Chris Denison drew the short straw and filed the report on page 63.

Alex Hearn
It seems like just the other day our new editorial director was getting hassled by the cops beside La Cienega Blvd., and now he's gone back to Blimey-er, Blighty. We wish him well, and will miss his good-natured heckling from the sidelines.