Uncategorized — November 18, 2008 at 8:16 pm

Bailing Out the Auto Companies


I am so ambivalent about the entire discussion surrounding the Big Three auto companies asking for a $25 billion bailout. Truly ambivalent.

First of all, I have been a loud and frequent critic of these dinosaurs of the business world. They have relentlessly pumped out gas-guzzling Humscalade after oil-gulping SubdivisionBlazer with absolutely no regard for either the environmental destruction they cause or the the international political and national security devastation they are responsible for due to our dependence on foreign oil. Whenever the environmentally-aware types (like myself) have pushed for increasing the CAFE mileage standards, they stomp their prissy li’l feets and squeal about how it’s not FAIR! and we can’t DO that to them!

Their lack of innovation has hurt our country and has certainly hurt my state more profoundly than most. Their lack of foresight has put the jobs of hundreds of thousands of workers in my state and others at risk.

Part of me wants to just say “fuck ’em!” and let ’em die. They deserve it. The guiding hand of capitalism is flicking them off like a booger because they’ve out-lived their usefulness.

On the other hand, there’s the not so inconsequential elephant in the dining room called “one in ten jobs nationally” that is pretty damn hard to ignore. That’s one in ten people in the whole country! In Michigan where I live, literally one in three jobs is tied in some way to the automakers. That’s a big deal. A REALLY big deal. If those 30 million workers are tossed out their butts, the repercussions for us as a country will be legend. And the ripple effect on the rest of the country will likely be enough remove any hope of avoiding a full-blown Depression with a capital “D”.

I thought that Representative Carl Levin had some pretty valid points to make last week on Meet the Press last weekend:

“…what Tom Friedman and others have not recognized is the significant changes that have taken place. Half of the, of the hourly workers at GM have been let go in order to restructure GM. Over a third of the white collar workers, the salary workers, have been let go in order to help restructure. The, the unions have taken major hits on benefits. And we’ve also seen GM, Ford and Chrysler shift their product mix. It was under a lot of pressure from the Tom Friedmans and others. Fine. But it has had an effect. And what troubles me is that people do not see that that restructuring and that move into the high-tech and advanced technology vehicles has begun significantly.

As I said before, GM now produces more models getting more than 30 miles per gallon, twice as many, as any of its competitors. Ford, Chrysler are moving into the hybrids. We’re doing the plug-ins. GM is going to lead the way in plug-in hybrids if people will recognize that this isn’t the ’70s when the, when the Big Three were producing inferior products. Things have changed, if people will only recognize what the Big Three, what the UAW have worked out in terms of concessions, in terms of pay cuts, cuts, in terms of benefit cuts. Recognize that change, but let it happen. We can’t get there unless we have this temporary infusion to get it over a problem which is not the creation of the Big Three. This economic collapse is not the–was not the caused by the Big Three. They had problems that they did cause 10 years and 20 years ago. They’ve changed. But the economic circumstances that we find ourselves in is an international, global economic problem that, again, no other country with an auto industry will allow their industry to drop out and die.”

At the end of the day, I guess I simply can not see how it’s a good idea to let GM go bankrupt. The widespread damage during this particular time would be catastrophic.

Then I read THIS (hat tip Andrew Sullivan):

So the oil companies are once again boasting record profits and yet the auto makers are asking for some government cheese. Does anyone else see the irony here? So I’ve got a little trickle down theory of my own. As long as Detroit continues to make cars for the Gas-Capades let the oil companies bail them out. It’s a “robbing Peter to pay Paul” kind of thing except in this case Peter and Paul seem to be riding the short bus… and it’s not to save on gas.

Is anyone else as pissed about all of this as I am? Eight years ago – 8 YEARS AGO – a brilliant politician who was asking for your vote to become President said this: “We can have a next-stage prosperity where you don’t have to build your lives around a fuel source that is distant, uncertain and easily manipulated. We will demand and develop new technologies to free ourselves from gas-tank price-gouging, and we will sell those technologies to the world. We’ll build a new generation of fuel-efficient vehicles — and then make it easy for families to afford them.“ And that politician, Al Gore, received the majority of votes in the nation and then the Supreme Court told the nation to sit down and shut up.

Let the Big Oil companies who benefit most from the product put out by the Big Three come to their rescue. These companies are making nearly grotesque profits. Why shouldn’t they tap that pocketbook and help a brutha out? It’s so damned easy.

It took an 82 year old woman to point out the obvious.

As Richard Pryor once said, “You don’t get to be old bein’ no fool.”

I’m just sayin’…