As pissed as LI is about the refusal of congress to bail out the auto industry from the dragon’s horde of money already committed to the Treasury – a move of unbelievable blindness, which will undoubtedly make this a much, much worse recession – I am as pissed at the Soviet style Auto-cracy, flying on their fucking private planes to make a used car salesman’s pitch. LI supported the 25 billion as a much much better use of money than feeding it to the AIG monster. But ultimately – and the performance of the Auto-cracy shows this – the Government needs to intervene far beyond the usual American capitalist model. The upper management needs to go; the companies need to invest seriously in R and D that would, actually, provide them with a reason for existing – which, at the moment, they don’t have; environment and energy saving concerns can no longer be considered frills to be satisfied at a car show, using the model of a car that no manufacturer has any intention of building.
In fact, the entire fleet of America’s cars could, conceivably, be replaced in the next decade by cars that are much more energy efficient – and that might use different fuels – from diesel to natural gas – and that might require lighter weight chassis. Now, replacing a car that gets 17 miles to the gallon with one that makes 50 makes a lot of sense; it doesn’t make sense to replace it with one that gets 18. But this is the mentality of Detroit, which is where WWII never ended. For the Detroit design and engineering squads are dominated by the military mindset, dominated by a masculine take on driving, dominated by the idea that resources are there for our taking – it’s a gold-rush world, 24/7. What was true in 1957 is not true today.
I’ve read some joking comments on blogs that the government could just buy GM, given its stock price, for 3 billion dollars. That would be a very good idea, actually. As it looks like GM’s healthcare benefit plans are going to revert to the government anyway – one of the results of Chapter 11 – perhaps it is time to take the thing over in order to exert control over an industry that still doesn’t get it. Even if that is an improbable venture – although with the Gov calmly taking 79 percent ownership in a fuckin’ insurance company, I’m not sure why – what needs to be done tout suite is for a policy that includes the whole transportation sphere – the 400 billion in road building and road repairs, the refineries, the gas stations, the cars – and bring much needed, radical reform to it. Unfortunately, the auto industry has a high bar to entry – so if America loses its auto companies, it is not going to get them back. Instead, we are leaning to the Red State model – that is, becoming the parasite on the terminus of the production pipeline. By making huge tax cuts, Red states – who have difficulty generating enterprise because of chronic underinvestment in education, infrastructure, etc., etc. – bring in Japanese and Korean car firms, employ people at below union rates, and usually watch as those companies suck in a management corps from some state that actually gives a shit about education – hence, the phenomena of families originally from the Northeast that sprinkle the suburbs of Sunbelt cities. This isn’t just cause they like the weather – it is because the Sunbelt can’t generate that quality of human capital. If your educational system is pinned to the ever pressing problem of whether the world was created 6,000 years ago and how to coordinate your abstinence classes and your purity balls, you are going to have to find some othe entry point into the first world. When an Alabama senator like Shelby calls American auto companies dinosaurs who couldn’t compete, one has to boggle at the audacity – Alabama, notoriously, pretty much offered to pay Japanese car makers to locate there, providing tax sweeteners of a desperate, third world flavor that put it right next to Mississippi and Kentucky in the socialism for the corporations league. Mississippi, notoriously, passes bonds that it uses to buy buildings for companies it invites to site there. Since, however, all car manufacturers are going to be reeling in the next year, we will definitely see Shelby et al figuring out some way to sweeten the package for their state’s major manufacturer in one way or another.
Getting the poor to bid against each other for the privilege of being prostituted is what, after all, the ownership society is all about.