Friday, December 12, 2008

The Automakers, the Bailout… and the Future of the Human Species.

We have the Republicans in the Senate to thank for this important last-minute halt in what looks like corporate welfare at worst, or a bail out of incompetents at best. I don’t care what the Republicans’ motives are, this is the right and sensible thing to do, -for now. They have my thanks. I hope they keep their eye on the ball; it’s unlike Republicans to ever vote against corporate and big business interests.
Predictably, President George W. Bush wants to go around their backs and use allocations from the TARP plan. I don’t think that should be allowed to happen in any way, shape or form. It would amount to yet another circumvention of the people’s will on the part of the White House, -if we understand said will of the people to be enacted and personified by our legislative system and the representatives who serve it, respectively.

Upon news of the rejection of the plan, the stock markets have again taken a hard dive today as panicked investors sold off like lemmings. Millions of jobs are at stake in America and abroad. Many industries are “coupled” to the “Big 3” automakers’ operations and fortunes.

Let the Automakers fail or succeed as a direct result of their own business practices.

It’s not something I say lightly. This is not my idea of punishment for the way these companies have conspired to destroy the development of electric cars and fuel efficient vehicles over the years. This isn’t my idea of payback for such evils as Brooks Stevens’s doctrine of “Planned Obsolescence” because that would be a consumer fraud issue to be handled in civil court. This isn’t coming from some place of abstract hatred for transnational corporations and domestic conglomerates and the many ways in which they step on people and infect government with their venal and protectionist concerns because those are possibly criminal matters.

I am talking about letting the Automakers thrive or fail in the deregulated, hands-off, free-market world they have been fighting to be a part of.

It should be noted the Big 3, GM, Ford and Daimler (nĂ©e Chrysler) have laid off millions over the years, shifting and eliminating jobs that were permanently lost to robots or various forms of automated and off shore outsourcing. It had been rationalized as the cost of doing business; the necessary “creative destruction” to compete in the marketplace. Today they can’t seem to compete despite the reigning fictions of Globalism they alternately praise and blame. Globalism in its current manifestation allows American corporations or their foreign competitors to operate at different standards in labor and safety practices, wages, environmental regulations, health benefits and even in some cases, lowered consumer end-user standards (like the “lead painted” toys that came back to us from China). The world may be flat, but it’s slanted. If you’re one of the corporations at the “down side” of the see saw it’s probably because your operations are weighted down with pesky things like an eight hour work day, health insurance costs and the like. I don’t know what meaning there is to a catchphrase such as “The world is flat” when no one’s standards or laws are even remotely the same, nation to nation, culture to culture. Are you really “competing with the world” if your competitors are having children sew leather car seats? I wonder if Thomas Friedman has ever had to work a “dirty” job that required manual labor in his life. If he did, he’d do well to say the world is “uphill,” flat as it may very well be. Lowering standards to compete seems to be what Globalism means to a lot of the world. No one’s complained until now because everyone who knew the truth was probably getting Rich.

Let the Automakers work themselves out of this recession.

This is my verdict on an industry that, in its current and historic form has proven itself incapable of responding to the existing needs of consumers and American society decade after decade (They had to be humiliated and repeatedly shamed by Ralph Nader into making seat belts standard equipment). This is an industry that will always protect its way of doing business at the cost of life and limb to the rest of the world; and they’re at it again except they want the American citizen to pay for it.
That means you. -All of you; the people making their car payments, and those of you who don’t even drive… I really don’t know who should be angrier. Once again people in government are telling us that the problems and troubled fortunes of corporations are our problems too. If car making as a practice is allowed to move off shore or collapse all together, our way of life will end, they say. Other than massive job losses, I don’t buy this “coupling” of the American citizen’s fortunes with those of the “Big 3”. The inevitable questions arise; “How will people get to work?”, “Even if you don’t drive, don’t you need things that are transported by cars and trucks?”, “Can Mass transportation fulfill all transportation needs?”…
These questions and others roll out of our American mouths as if the fall of the “Big 3” would mean the end of the car as a physical object. It would not. It’s as if there are no alternatives imaginable or practically feasible to this out-of-control industry and to its products. Fundamental questions about automobiles and the industry that creates them are not being asked. There is one central question about our American life that never comes up:

Why is it considered normal for someone to spend one to two hours driving to work, and then again at the day’s end? Why do we need the car to get everywhere and do everything?

Doesn’t this fundamental problem, -the increasing distance that people live from the things they want and need-, have to be addressed first? Does the car actually create many of the problems it is believed to resolve?

We know now by looking at the legacy of a 20th Century builder like Robert Moses that he planned and built most places and roadways in the Tri-Sate areas of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, simply because they could be driven to and driven on. It’s an odd insistence on a “driver’s life” from a man who never drove in his life and remained right up until his death, a passenger looking of out the window of a speeding car. I don’t think he liked people very much. I don’t think anyone who built the Cross Bronx Expressway could have cared about human happiness.

So why do we live in a country where everything is increasingly farther away from the important things necessary to survival or even a desirable quality of life? As we’ve made our homes more remote; as our jobs continue move away from residential districts, as our schools and Universities spread out displacing neighborhoods; as we continue to build and move to outlying counties and suburbs and “exurbs”… The car becomes a parasite on the world’s resources that we depend on to move around. When our homes and residential neighborhoods don’t move, the systems and services that people rely on migrate instead. They concentrate and fester; strip malls and mega warehouse wholesale outlets replacing the grocery store and the local doctor’s office.

Now the automobile is said to be woven into the fabric of the economy so completely, that the failure of the biggest companies that produce cars will throw us into an economic depression reminiscent of the Hoover years.

Not if we change our way of life so that the car isn’t the conduit, the means and the end to life itself.

I suggest that not nearly as many cars need to be built as are being pushed out today: -not if they are built well, and built to last. And I finally suggest that if the Auto industry in this country and in the rest of the world has to diminish let it finally happen because it’s for the sake of our future and well being as species, not because, as in years past, the executives and owners thought they could profit from eliminating jobs.

The question isn’t why do we need cars, the question is: Why do we need an industry that produces so many cars, so often?

Why are cars so inefficient, costly and disposable? Why is it normal to buy a new car every four or five years? Other than to make someone rich, I don’t know any reasons at all.

Would we benefit from an America in which there were a greater number of smaller companies than just three major corporations making cars? Possibly. But all the talk of diversified industry or smaller, carbon-neutral cars doesn’t address the question of why we increasingly have to spend more of our lives driving everywhere: it just makes it more likely that we will.

Again, there’s the question of the “Big 3” and their role in creating pollutant producing technology that is changing the planet’s ecological and climate balance away from something familiar and hospitable for human beings and our fellow mammals. If they’re not serious about this issue, we can’t loan them money to continue doing business. As George Carlin once remarked: “...the planet isn't going anywhere. We are.” We’re being asked to pay for a ticket to a hot, toxic poisoned hell with these proposed subsidies that are being masked as a tax payer investment/loan.

I want no bail outs for the “Big 3.”



Jack Reylan said...

China has just started using biologically cloned humanoid drones in its factories and military to counter the greying of the population caused by their former one child policy. This biological experimentation had begun in the early 1990s to produce star athletes but was aggressivley advanced. Such drones ahve also been know to appear on American soil as illegal workers. Given they blatant disregard for American safey in products they sell, because they don't care if we stay alive after we enrich them, it is worrisome that these clones have not been adequately tested for potential disease transmission.

SJ said...

▲●◘▼◦▪ ≈ □●◘▒ ≠ ▐ ╕⌂▼╠╤▪ ╡∞.