(9 am. – promoted by ek hornbeck)
They are unfeeling metal monsters. They’ve taken over the world. They have us surrounded. They’re everywhere. They remorselessly kill and maim more people every year, at least in North America, than all the terrorists ever dreamed of in all the worst nightmares sold to us by politicians, and in all the wars going on around the world.
They are bankrupting our economy and destroying our planet. They show no respect for human life. There’s a good chance one or more of them will kill you or someone in your family soon, if they haven’t already done so.
They are dirty bombs that have polluted and poisoned the entire earth. Besides our homes, they consume the largest part of our disposable income, and produce the largest portion of the personal debt carried by most people.
Yet over the past century they have become our life. We can’t live with them. But we can’t live without them, it seems.
When the Apollo astronauts were making their trips to the moon in our first foray to another astronomical body, one of the first things they took with them was.. a car. A car. To the moon, for fucks sake.
They divide us from each other, and make us hate each other. But we love them. Even though they kill us.
They’re not just part of popular culture, there can probably be good arguments made that they are our culture. We all want to own one, and some of us own as many as we can, and we all want one that’s smarter than anyone else’s. Some of us buy car parts from online shops like Czok to improve the performance and style of our cars, just to be that much better. However, in reality, they own us, and we organize our lives around them.
But we sure love our cars. So much so that many of us even lose our virginity in them. Many of us have certainly lost our innocence in them.
And ever faster and faster, we’re going nowhere except to hell in them.
Now our car manufacturers are in trouble financially. Again. But that’s nothing new. They’ve been badly mismanaged for decades. Only this time their CEO’s are making pilgrimages to Congress demanding public money to save them from themselves while trying to terrorize the country into handing it to them without question.
What to do?
In a discussion with Geraldine Cahill of The Real News, Jim Stanford, Economist for the Canadian Autoworkers Union, and Justin Fox, writer of The Curious Capitalist column for Time Magazine, talk about what they see as the causes of the current crisis in the automotive industry, the importance of that industry to the North American economy, and debate the wisdom of allowing the companies in question to go bankrupt.
Real News: November 21, 2008 – 10 min 40 sec
What to do with Detroit?
Nicholas von Hoffman writing at The Nation the other day explained in no uncertain terms why we shouldn’t be too quick to give in to the demands of the automakers. They are only the beginning.
First it was the car companies, but now?
Now it is the auto parts suppliers who want government money. They employ 600,000 people, more than work for the automobile companies themselves.
If the standard for giving out money to companies is the threat of lost jobs, the auto parts suppliers’ claim is as good as that of General Motors. The argument against subsidizing money-losing companies to preserve employment is that it would be impossible to think up a more expensive way of helping people.
There ought to be another way–and there is. Unemployment compensation should be expanded to ensure those losing their jobs will not lose their houses or their health insurance. Helping people on that scale will not be cheap, but helping them by propping up corporate losers is infinitely more costly: sooner or later people will find other employment, but the automobile companies will never turn a profit.
They have been steadily losing money for a generation. Their predicament has nothing to do with today’s credit crunch or the stock market crash. It has to do with their being incorrigible foul-ups.
Their record for money-losing is beyond comprehension. David Yermack, professor of finance at New York University’s Stern School of Business, has calculated how much capital the car companies have destroyed over the last few decades.
He writes, “General Motors and Ford…between them…destroyed $110 billion in capital between 1980 and 1990…. GM has invested $310 billion in its business between 1998 and 2007. The total depreciation of GM’s physical plant during this period was $128 billion, meaning that a net $182 billion of society’s capital has been pumped into GM over the past decade–a waste of about $1.5 billion per month of national savings. The story at Ford has not been as adverse but is still disheartening, as Ford has invested $155 billion and consumed $8 billion net of depreciation since 1998. As a society, we have very little to show for this $465 billion.”