Friday, March 06, 2009

Explain it to me....

I'm becoming increasingly frustrated watching the massive bailouts to the auto industry etc. It just so damned wrong-headed. Forget the basic tenants of the free market which these same corporations preach whenever environmentalists or etc complain about their rapacious capitalism; forget about the fact that we're using tax payer money for private profit; forget that these welfare bums are demanding gobs of cash in return for nothing -- I'd be much more okay with handing over the cash to preserve a national presence in auto manufacturing IF in return the citizens get a couple of billion shares in the corporation (wasn't American built on the principle of 'no taxation without representation'?) -- forget all that. My problem is that we're propping up an industry whose time is over.

Why are we throwing gazillions into industry when we're a post-industrial society. John Bell explained this back in the 1970s, for heaven's sake. They're worried about saving jobs in a manufacturing industry, but the number of workers in the arts is significantly higher, and the jobs are more enjoyable, self-fulling, life-affirming, non-polluting, renewable resource -- why is no one trying to bail out the arts? Why do we think we need people to buy cars (polluting, global warming, road building tax drains that kill or maim thousands of drivers and pedestrians each month) but buying theater tickets or building art galleries is somehow wasteful. And talk about (as Harper did) art gallas -- but the car execs don't have galas, they have private jets; bankers have to have their salaries capped at $500,000 (not counting, if you read the fine print, stock options). We can't afford $10,000 grant to a Canadian magazine but we can give billions to auto manufacturing? To save a dying industry? The backwards looking boobies who have no vision and no leadership are trying to drive the ship of state in reverse. Let's go back to 1950, they seem to say, instead of figuring out how to aim for 2050. Might as well try to bail out blacksmiths and wheelwrights.

And wasn't the whole point of the exercise to save jobs? So how is it that these companies can lay off 35,000 workers at a go, AND still take the bailout money. If they aren't even going to preserve jobs (other than the execs who created the problems) what was the point of forking over the cash?

Let us instead look to Sweden. When GM went had in hand and demanded huge bailouts for Saab, the governments response was, why? If you're in trouble, it's because your cars suck. We can let you access some funds for R&D to design the transport of the future, but building more of the current model, not so much. Furthermore, what money we have is going into nursery schools, because that is our future competitive edge; and into elder care, because that is a massive growth industry, and because those citizens built what we have to day. In contrast to your executives, who screwed up a perfectly good car company when you bought it out. So get out.

The Sweds are putting their bailout money into the non-profit sector because it is the largest employer - many many times larger in Sweden and Canada than industry. And since most people in the non-profit sector work for a LOT less than autoworkers we can hire two or three nonprofit people for every autoworker laid off. And they are more interesting, rewarding, and socially necessary jobs. Hell, for the price of one executive, we could fund an entire town's worth of programs! The Sweds get this, and they are not going to have recession or unemployment to the same extent because there's tons of room to expand nonprofit -- no contracting market there.

Who do you think will be ahead economically in ten years? 50 years? Sweden or... will there even been a Canada in 50 years?


  1. Well said, Robert. It's pretty clear to me that the mainstream parties in this country Do Not Get It, with It being the fact that the old ways of doing things and the old oil-industries are done. The sooner we shrug them off and embrace the economic changes that will come whether we want them or not, the further ahead we will be.
    I'm totally opposed to giving more money to the auto industry. The Big Three have spent the last generation screwing up their businesses -- why should we reward them? As you say, whatever happened to free market capitalism?
    If the government does give our tax dollars to prop up the big three, there must be some iron-clad guarantees. First, taxpayers must be paid back every cent before executives get a bonus, or stock holders get a dividend. Second, any money they get goes into the development and production of low cost and environmentally friendly models. If GM wants to keep making Hummers, they're free to do so, but not on my dime. And finally, when they pay us back these billions of dollars, they pay us back not in cash but in transit buses for the various civic transit services across the country.

  2. I throughly enjoyed reading this and wholeheartedly agree. If the auto industry was a small business owner making bad decisions or providing product the public doesn't want it would go bankrupt with no bail out. Sweden has got it right in many many ways. Too bad Canada doesn't take a good look at Sweden to get some pointers.

  3. Gotta disagree--particularly with the whole "post industrial" thing. Yeah, I feel disgust at giving the Big Three money for crap. But that's not the whole story--particularly during these economic times. Insisting on the right to make some demands on the company in exchange for the $$$$$ would be a good start. Like insisting on converting some lines to buses and bikes wouldn't hurt. Working out an agreement on licencing a specific design or designs of electric car(s) might be good too. But the loss of these jobs would/will be disastrous in an economic downturn like this. People not working doesn't make a depression go away. Particularly with decent paying jobs like these.