Where Are We Going From Here?

Detroit's Finest       Photo: NY Times

Detroit's Finest Photo: NY Times

It appears that the auto industry will be getting a bailout package, this one with strings, unlike the deal Hank Paulson got for the financial industry.

I find it amazing that as of today, some polls find 55% of Americans oppose the bailout.  Not the best thing, but considering the alternative – even more disruption to the financial landscape while the banks sit on their hands and the first installment of their “stings-free” bailout money – it’s probably the best course of action available for now. Chrysler, which received a bailout decades ago, rebounded to become a much stronger company.  I think there is potential for that to happen again.  But that’s only one small asset of our national debacle.

Now that we’ve established that the automobile industry and the oil industry are not simply innocent bystanders in the global credit crisis but active participants in their own demise-based-on-avarice, what do we have to look forward to?

Elizabeth Kolbert in her article in the New Yorker (11/5/07) Running on Fumes, noted that renewable energy is the main problem, and that “If someone, somewhere, comes up with a source of power that is safe, inexpensive, and for all intents and purposes inexhaustible, then we, the Chinese, the Indians, and everyone else on the planet can keep on truckin’. Barring that, the car of the future may turn out to be no car at all.”

I’m not sure that everyone here or elsewhere on the planet should “keep on truckin'” as we have for decades.  Cars should be less central to our transportation model, and perhaps expanded car sharing systems and enhanced public transportation should get a bigger slice of the pie.

That means we need to pay a realistic price for our energy, so that we can make market-based choices considering time and money.  It seems to work in regard to tobacco.  Though there are die-hard puffers out there, economics and health education seem to have had a significant impact on smoking.  Why not on transportation and energy?

Maybe the kind of cars we drive is something we should take a look at: do you really need a Chevy Suburban to run to the market for milk?  Could you maybe get by with an electric neighborhood vehicle?  Or, heaven forbid, walk or ride a bike?

Maybe the fact of car ownership is something to look at.  Most of our cars are expensive pavement weights for most of every 24-hour period, and I don’t seen any danger of the pavement blowing away.  Maybe car sharing for when you need a car, using public transportation when possible, and utilizing good old muscle power are worthwhile alternatives.

If you’re going to San Francisco from Los Angeles, do you really need to fly, or would you be better of taking a much more fuel-efficient and environmentally-friendly high-speed train?  After years of wrangling, that may be a possibility now that the political tide has turned in California.

Maybe we should consider and support the concept of a down-sized, more efficient and more responsive auto industry, as opposed to having another manufacturing industry disappear from our shores, along with millions of productive jobs.

Industry in this country survives on quarter-by-quarter returns.  Government is here for the long haul.

Industry is here for profit.  Government is, or should be, of, by and for the people.

Who are both industry and government supposed to serve?  Us, the people, not the entitled elite.  Not feed us from cradle to grave, but to choose wise policies that look to the future and that don’t increase the yawning gap between the haves and the have nots.

What do we traditionally call high government officials?  Leaders.  It’s time for them to lead.

Government should be leading, not being led around by the nose by industry and other well-funded special interests.

Now, with a Democratic president and potentially a nearly filibuster-proof Democratic majority, lets see if a different party can make a difference.  Not by toeing the party line, but by reaching across the aisle when it counts, not just for photo ops.  Lets see if they can do what the GOPlicans promised to do.  And not succumb to the siren songs of power and ideology.

In closing, I have to admit aht it is rich that a Republican Administration is administering the fiscal impetus to automakers over the opposition of the Republican legislators, and that Democrats are supporting the Bush Administration in rescuing Detroit.  Life is full of surprises.

If you like what you read here, share it with five friends today.  It’s how the word gets out, because I had to let our Madison Avenue ad gurus go. (smile)

May the Higher Power of your choice help you choose enthusiasm and optimism, because those are sentiments and perspectives we’ll need in the days to come.

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