Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Decline and Fall (?) of the American Auto Empire

For three decades (yes, three) the American Auto Industry has been in decline. The pace of that decline accelerated four years ago when oil prices started to skyrocket and folks were looking to buy more dependable, fuel efficient vehicles--two things American cars historically are not. I bought my first Honda for two reasons: it was uber dependable and uber efficient in terms of fuel economy.

Two years ago, American auto dealers were reporting a steep decline of SUV sales (also known as a trend). Yet, Detroit kept making the leviathans for another two years: Hummers, Suburbans, Expeditions, et. al.

Couple this with outrageous compensation packages for employees. The current union contracts for autoworkers read something like this: work for 20 years, retire with pension, and FULL benefits including dental, health and eye insurance for THE REST OF YOUR LIFE-- oh, and that includes the fam, too. That means that if I had started working for an auto maker when I was 18, I'd be one year away from retirement. Man, oh man, did I pick the wrong gig! American auto makers are suffering from a lack of foresight and a lack of spine. Between 1998 and 2008 the auto industry paid over one half of a billion dollars for Washington lobbyists. Let's see that number again:

+ $500,000,000.00

The lobbying year 2007 accounts for almost 30 million alone. They've had to cut back a bit, you know, because of budgetary issues. "Researchers" of the auto industry claim that millions of American jobs will be affected by Detroit's demise (researchers= lobbyist groups). Ernst and Young, the lobbying group that works for Ford, also represents Exxon Mobile* and numerous financial corporations. Are you getting a picture here? Washington lobbyist groups are staying in the black by having their dirty fingers in numerous secunda mensas**. This is only one example. A good source for clear, unbiased information (i.e., charts and graphs without commentary) on how corporations are keeping Washington in their togas is:

http://www.opensecrets.org


I know that what happens to the American auto industry will affect [insert terrifyingly large number] hard-working, salt of the earth Americans. They shouldn't have to pay the price for decisions made by out of touch unions and corporate hierarchy. For that, my heart aches. But Americans will still buy cars, that they will drive, that need to be fixed and washed and fueled. So why do the augurs of Detroit's decline and fall predict millions of affected American workers? I get it, there's local businesses like restaurants, grocery stores, etc. But take a drive through the midwest sometime. There's LOTS of towns that just disappeared because jobs moved away, folks wanted their kids to get a good education (since where they were living had little to no property value) and TIMES CHANGED! Technology has improved and to support an American institution that would rather howl and throw rocks at the moon (and ask for more rocks, please) than adapt is an outrage.

Perhaps, if ANOTHER outrageous bail-out of the auto makers is passed (they've had several), we should all contact our congresswomen and men to raise Hades about where that money goes. It should NOT line the pockets of lobbying groups any more than it should provide a gentle glide to safe ground via golden parachute for incompetent CEOs who have stood by and WATCHED while Detroit fell. (Perhaps, think of them as Nero.)

I am so sick of seeing Sarah Palin on the TV (muting, covering of the ears, resisting the urge to stab self in the eye). Why isn't the news media doing ANYthing other than talking about politicians? The election is over. Democracy cut off one of the Hydras heads. Sadly many more have grown in its place. One them I affectionately call "Sarah" (for sentimental reasons).

So while many of us are trying to keep our togas on our backs, think fondly of our Washington lobbyists (for if we bail them out, we own them too), participating in an orgy of excess and greed with corporate CEOs and crooked politicians with Bacchanalian abandon. Saluté!

*Check the June 2008 Supreme Court ruling in the Exxon Valdez trial that affected thousands of Alaskan tax payers, Gov. Palin.

**Latin for sweet desert or pies.

1 comments:

skyewriter November 12, 2008 at 9:30 PM  

I think I fixed the problem with the comments section: we'll see.

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