Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Gap Widens

Once again, Washington proves that the money men are the country's aristocrats, too elite to be treated with the contempt they deserve, while those associated with manufacturing are the peons, deemed unworthy of respect. For decades now, manufacturing has been the red-headed step-child of the American economy and even under Democrats, that song remains the same.

Case in point, Rick Wagoner, CEO of General Motors, was unceremoniously booted out the door by the Obama administration. Granted, Mr Wagoner hasn't exactly presided over a flourishing industry but then, who has? (On the other hand, you could make the case that GM offers 18 models that give you 30 mpg - more than any other auto maker - and they have eight hybrids in their stable of cars and they've spent a ton to try to make the Volt their car of the future so they weren't exactly standing still in the area of looking ahead).

If the country's economy, including GM, is in trouble, who is most to blame? Why that would be the high-flying bankers and brokers. They've gotten $180 billion in bailout funds compared to $17.4 billion in loans to the automakers. The Wall Streeters have taken us all to the cleaners with the gigantic Ponzi scheme they've been engaged in for the last many years. Why are their CEO's not being given pink slips by the administration? Well, probably for the same reason, we weren't treated to indignant diatribes about the financial bigwigs coming to talk to Congress in their executive jets. Oh, you thought the banking heads rode to Washington in a Greyhound bus? The politicians and the money men are all pals together. The bankers slide in and out of cabinet positions like a game of economic musical chairs.

Meanwhile, the car guys were just trying to make and sell cars. Actually, the kind of cars we said we wanted, which were mostly trucks and SUVs. But I guess they were supposed to be our babysitters, saving us from ourselves. I guess they were supposed to tell us no, they wouldn't sell us that Navigator or Escalade because they thought we'd be better off with a what? Honda Civic?

Meanwhile, the money industry went right on pulling their scam. They had the financial shows and blogs and the business sections of newspapers wrapped up. We only knew what they were telling us because they were the only ones who got to tell us anything. The voices warning us of impending doom were ignored. Being consumers was the most patriotic thing we could do, our previous president said. Everything is fine, came the assurances from Washington.

Then gas went up (which was practically the death knell for American automakers and if you're a conspiracy theorist, you might wonder whose interests that served) and real estate prices went down and come to find out, the loans the banks were making and buying were no good and they all knew it but, hell, they were partying down in Las Vegas and Miami and being chauffeured in limousines and spending fortunes on drinks and meals and luxury suites so they were going to play it out as long as it lasted - and keep right on doing it even with our bailout money.

Somebody had to be the fall guy and guess who it got to be? Why, the auto industry, of course. Before it's over, they will probably be forced into bankruptcy. And what will that allow them to do? Get rid of all those nasty old legacy costs, like health care and pensions. Too bad, retirees. Promises are made to be broken. And they'll get to re-write their labor contracts, lowering wages and other benefits. Because, it's us, dontcha know, the working people who have ruined the country. And Wall Street will be so happy. Wall Street loves companies that are lean and mean and the hell with the employees who get screwed and still, even after all of this, you know, the boys on Wall Street is who we all have to please to be accepted.

When it's all over and the economy starts to come back and it will eventually, the only industry that will have been radically changed will be the auto industry, if there even still is an American auto industry. But, hell, we don't manufacture televisions or clothes or shoes or computers or (insert your own words here) anymore so what else is new?