From what I understand, and correct me if I’m wrong because this is from an article I read about three years ago, there are a number of countries (like, if I recall correctly, Australia) in which United States automakers can’t sell many of their vehicles because we fail to meet emissions standards and other environmentally-concerned regulations. Of course, considering the recent focus on churning out an endless parade of SUVs, it’s hard to be surprised that many U.S. autos don’t do so well overseas.
In related news, hey, how’s that banking bailout working out? You know, with all that firm oversight to make sure the money gets spent as intended, and doesn’t allow healthy banks profit from the situation or anything crazy and corporatist like that.
Undoubtedly, we’re going to have to do something to keep the economy from collapsing, and the downfall of the American auto industry could be disastrous if we allow it to continue on to annihilation, especially when we’re already so economically vulnerable. But if we’re going to just hand over a blank check to the auto industry to do with as they please, they’re just going to squeeze out another batch of large, bland, gas-guzzling shitlogs, using the money to keep Business As Usual going long enough to stitch together some golden parachutes in time for all the executives to dramatically dive away from the violent collapse, maybe with some awesome slow-motion shots from multiple angles to really bring in those summer blockbuster crowds. All on Joe the Taxpayer’s dime. (No, no, different Joe — not Joe the Plumber. He doesn’t pay taxes, remember?)
I have my doubts we’ll get our $700 billion back from the banks within my lifetime, mostly because the guidelines that were supposed to make the whole thing rationally play out were either never really laid down or are alarmingly poorly enforced. I’m still of the opinion that we ought to have reclaimed the salaries and bonuses of CEOs of the banks that were the biggest failures from the last year or two in order to offset some of that loan, because if anyone should have to make sacrifices to get things back on track, it should be the people who fucked things up so much in the first place, especially if they were given millions or tens of millions of dollars at the time to not fuck up, but I digress.
What we need to do — especially after blundering it so badly with the banks — is adopt either of these approaches, if we have any intention of succeeding at all and not just giving up and saying “the hell with it” and tossing billions or trillions of dollars all over the place for anyone to do whatever:
A) Partial, temporary nationalization. This way, the taxpayers have effectively bought majority holding in the U.S. auto manufacturers in question, which among other things means keeping executives reined in and ensuring profits will directly pay back the loan. There are other benefits involved, but this is the gist of it.
B) Strict, extremely rigid guidelines, enforced to their fullest extent, that dictate precisely how this money can and cannot be spent, and how automakers must change their business strategies to be more competitive internationally. This means working damn hard to make vehicles that are more eco-friendly than ones available from foreign manufacturers so that they’re even a little bit competitive in places that actually give a fuck about not letting our species get wiped out a hundred years from now because DRILL BABY DRILL LET’S HAVE A FUCKIN’ PETRO-PARTY UP IN THE HIZZLE! COME ON OVER TO THE GAS PUMP GIRLS WE’RE GONNA HAVE US UP A WET T-SHIRT CONTEST! If we’re failing so hard to foreign automakers, perhaps we should be doing as they’re doing instead of charging headlong in basically the opposite direction, rolling out the 2009 Chevy Gigantor and shit. No, I don’t care if it can tow a dump truck full of depleted uranium — nobody fucking needs to do that. Also, slicing down the godlike pay and treatment of CEOs would probably help a bit.
Anyway, you can boo-hoo-blubbery-boo all you like about how privatization is the panacea for all the world’s problems and that anything even resembling socialism or regulation is The Great Satan, but when you consider that these banks and automakers fucked up pretty badly as private businesses and had leadership that could only be described as disgustingly corrupt and executive-pampering as private businesses, it’s hard to chirp the loving praises of how The Market is inherently pure and devoid of corruption and that it’s impossible for mismanagement and corruption to happen anywhere outside of government.
Yeah, some might claim that it was the government’s corporatist involvement in banks that led to that disaster, but a) well, that’s like saying “golly gee shucks, the banks just didn’t know what they were doing, paw!” and completely ignores the fact that lobbyists exist and that a lot of the corruption in government actually comes from private businesses, and b) deregulation would’ve had the very same effect — the only difference is that businesses wouldn’t have to use lobbyists to make sure their interests were secure, they could just do whatever they wanted without having to manipulate government first.
(Oh, and by the way, while I’m on the subject, you guys remember that whole crusade a few years ago to privatize Social Security by dumping it in the Stock Market? Take a quick look at the DJIA and the COMPX and get back to me on how well you think that would have turned out, especially over the last month or two. I only had $3k personally invested and I’m down to probably just over $1k, I can only imagine having my entire retirement savings tied up. I know someone who had $4 million in that they’d invested over the last couple decades, and they’re now down to a little over $1 million. Hard to see how “let’s privatize things even MORE” is really going to fix anything at all, considering, you know, plain, clearly-observable evidence and all.)
In any event, we have to do something to keep the economy from collapsing, so we can’t just ignore the banks and the auto industry, but unless that something involves strict government regulation and oversight or a kind of buy-out by the government resembling *gasp* socialism, then it won’t really help the economy much, we’ll never see our billions of dollars in “loan” money again, and the richest will use the opportunity to yet again get even richer at the expense of the remaining 99% of the country, who are all left to free-fall and crash because we were philosophically opposed to emergency brakes on elevators for some reason.