Monday, December 08, 2008

Oil: get over it.

Sen. Dodd asking for the head of the chairman of GM misses the point and sounds personal in the process. Obama himself is the only quoted official who has said anything remotely sane about bailing out the auto industry but it remains to be seen if he is setting the tone for this Bailout.

President-elect Barack Obama, whose transition team has been involved in the talks, made starkly clear in an interview and at a brief news conference on Sunday that any aid to the Big Three auto companies should not come without significant concessions.

"They're going to have to restructure," Mr. Obama said in an interview on "Meet the Press" on NBC. "And all their stakeholders are going to have restructure. Labor, management, shareholders, creditors — everybody is going to recognize that they have — they do not have a sustainable business model right now, and if they expect taxpayers to help in that adjustment process, then they can't keep on putting off the kinds of changes that they, frankly, should have made 20 or 30 years ago."

So we are going to bail out the dinosaurs who lobbied successfully for a "truck" loophole in fleet mileage standards after OPEC gave notice in 73 that oil prices were theirs to set. This industry, for salvation of which labor and shareholders and management alike beg my tax dollars, is the same one that foisted off the SUV on the fatuous American car market and had us all driving "trucks" through their loophole. Mr. Frank, an intelligent representative whom I trust to be well informed about the likely financial consequences of inaction, is nonetheless being stampeded by the dire prospect of double digit joblessness. Pray, do not join us in our financial neurosis, Barney! I would advise Congressman Frank to stand back and let this 8-cylinder, 5 MPG industry be hung, albatross-fashion, around the neck of the departing turd who will soon trudge back to Texas.

We once made great bicycles and were only the more healthy for doing so. But we did not bail out the bicycle companies that faced bankruptcy. [do read that link. It is a short review of a great cautionary tale of how to ruin an industry leader...we better learn its lessons quickly] The companies we are now being asked to give billions to rescue have been merely larger scale examples of the mismanagement and missed markets that sank Schwinn.

Surely we could pick a better industry to save than the one that has lobbied to keep us up to our chins in debt and Saudi oil with only smoke to breath. We should be a bit more grown up. We should face the fact that change is painful and our fortunes have shrunken...NOW is the time to bite such bullets and tighten such belts as are needed to turn us toward a greener and more sustainable economy. If money we will be long repaying must be spent, NOW is the time for us to invest it in things that wean us from our 20th century fuelishness and fondness for fattened asses.

David Brooks misrepresents Obama's stance on salvaging our junkie domestic car industry but his questioning of why we won't let a failure go about its failing so as to make room for whatever creature will prove fitter than the paleocarbonmobile industry are questions we should answer. I would not be much moved by the dissolution of Detroit though my view of its demise as a benign effect comes from a quite different rationale than Mr. Brooks. We who live, live with the "what happened" of our history and the professors and authors live with the "why it happened". Let it happen. How often have you seen Krugman and Brooks in anything like a state of agreement? Do you realize the money sought by Automakers would suffice to retrain most of their workers for greener jobs?

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