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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Bailing Out 30 Years of Right Wing Theory

Bailing Out 30 Years of Right Wing Theory

Petroleum prices seem to be lowering in an almost miraculous fashion. It's funny that so few people questioned why crude oil spiked at over $150 a few months back. No one seems to be bothered that our petroleum masters can simply yank the chain of oil prices at their whim and we are powerless to do anything but bend over and flush our checkbooks into the sewer. Then we are supposed to be thankful when OPEC has finished bleeding us (at least for now) and prices settle down again. I read yesterday that gas prices in the USA may possibly return to $1 a gallon. Energy crisis? What energy crisis? Don't sell off that V10 SUV just yet folks, happy days may soon be here again.

While many Americans are trying to find ways to pay their mortgages and buy groceries, the oil producers and their scummy middlemen are trying to find ways to spend the enormous piles of euros and dollars that are piled on top of them. It's not like oil is ever a bad business but when the price of a barrel of crude shoots artificially through the roof—even for a month or two—it's like a payday before payday for the petro-chemical terrorists of the world. But “terrorist” is really too kind a word to use to describe our oil masters. A terrorist is generally someone on the fringes of society with not enough power to wield directly and must therefore resort to underhanded tactics to achieve their means. OPEC is more like a dictatorship that rules completely and without opposition.

For a few minutes in America, during the hysteria of $4 a gallon gasoline, there was actually a faint murmur, a distant whisper or two of how we should possibly change our ways concerning fuel consumption. It sort of reminded me of those historic five or ten minutes after the fall of the Berlin Wall when people talked about the “peace dividend,” the huge money America could now save because we no longer needed to spend a truly ridiculous amount of our GNP on defense. Of course, talk of reducing defense spending lasted only as long as it took us to invent a new enemy for America. Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce Gulf War I, the best friend a defense contractor ever had. We went from the imagined enemy of the Soviet Union—a third world shithole of a country we we lead to fear—to the absurd half-assed dictator we all but invented in the first place, Saddam Hussein. Do you remember how happy we were supposed to be as Americans when we used those horrifically expensive Patriot missiles against the the bottle rockets Iraq fired at Israel? CNN thought that we should all be brimming with pride because of our smart bombs and stupid military agenda. Imagine if we had spent every penny on that first Iraq war to free us from oil dependence. The radical Islamist countries of world would go back to being putrid backwaters hardly worth considering on an international scale. Instead, our lust for their oil and the collusion of the petroleum companies have made them world's bankers. What do you expect when the U.S. President (Bush Senior) is an oil man?

$1 a gallon gasoline prices will once again induce amnesia in the minds of every pick-up truck owner in America. They will forget that the recent spike in oil prices brought the entire industrialized world to its knees where we are today. Whether we roll over on our backs or gradually pick ourselves up again is still open for discussion. We have already forgotten that OPEC now owns huge swaths of Manhattan and every other city worth living in. How do you spend all of the money in the world? Talk of reducing our dependency on foreign oil has all but subsided. Promises to focus on public transportation have already been broken.

The thing is, we have already run out of chances to make things right. Maybe if we plowed full-steam ahead with measures to correct a half a century of irresponsible energy consumption, maybe then, after 20 years of so, we may reach something bordering on a sustainable society. So what the fuck are we waiting for? One of my favorite quotes from this post-Obama high I have been on is a quote I can't attribute to any one individual. I would appreciate it if someone could tell me who said that “this is not the time to be cautious.” We need to rethink, remake, and redefine so much of what we see as the American dream. I firmly believe that what we have been taught to believe is the American dream is quickly killing our society. The myth of the rugged individualist needs to step aside to make way for the new American archetype. Just what qualities this new and improved American will possess is open for discussion. The old archetype, the cowboy, will certainly be easy to improve upon. For one, the cowboy as our national emblem is almost entirely fictitious, beside the fact that at the core it represents an uneducated and violent transient farm worker—hardly a symbol of manhood appropriate for the modern era. We replaced the horse with the automobile and we call it freedom. Freedom? Hardly. The automobile represents yet another myth. For the most part it doesn't provide us with freedom. We are free to sit in traffic, free to transfer our national treasury to the countries of OPEC, free to watch as other nations modernize their transportation infrastructures to include high speed rail and other forms of mass transit. I couldn't even guess the number of Americans who really can't afford the car they drive when you factor in payments, gas, insurance, repairs, etc. I'd have to say the percentage is pretty high. I think the percentage of people who can't even imagine living without a car is even higher.

To add to all of this, we now have the government's massive bailout of GM because what is good for GM is good for America. Of course that is just another of those right-wing mantras which presume that if you say something often enough it makes it true, like how private industry is so efficient compared to the government. Unfortunately for all taxpayers, what's good for GM's top brass isn't good for GM or the country. Chief Executive Rick Wagoner's salary and other compensation rose 64 percent in 2007 to about $15.7 million. What's bad for GM is great for the CEO in these unstable times.

GM has been working against the best interests of this nation as they fought, tooth and nail, every fuel efficiency standard that the federal government tried to impose. Not only did they work against the interests of the country, GM's top brass also worked against the interests of their own customers. Americans are just like consumers everywhere: they will buy what they are told to buy, and they were told to buy stupid-assed trucks and SUVs because this was a niche GM felt comfortable filling. Instead of building these leviathans and buying up the Hummer company, GM should have been looking a few years down the road by making lighter, more energy efficient cars. Instead of responding to responding to the needs of the country and consumers, American car manufacturers lobbied for loopholes in the tax laws so people wouldn't have to pay a penalty for driving a V10 with worse fuel economy than the space shuttle.

Now GM has a line of vehicles that are woefully out-of-step with the times—not that GM has been in tune with societal needs for the past generation. It's almost as if GM had followed the wishes of the government—to make more fuel efficient cars—they wouldn't be so deep in shit right now. Instead they are closing down SUV assembly lines faster than you can send your lobbyists to beg for a bailout. Of course, the right-wingers have been trying to pin all of the blame in GM's demise on the workers, saying that they are overpaid and over-privileged. It's the same when the rightie nutties tried to blame the entire financial crisis on a few poor people missing a couple house payments. It's simply bullshit.

The American government seems to be much more in tune with what sort of cars Detroit should be making than the geniuses who have run GM into a ditch. Any child has the sense to realize that we should be stretching fuel efficiency to the outer limits and then steering American consumers into these vehicles. Now that GM's management has completely failed—like every other aspect of right-wing theory—they should step aside and allow younger, more innovative directors to design a new American car. It should be fuel efficient, very inexpensive, safe, reliable, and fuck all of the other nonsense we have been taught to believe about the auto industry. If we built an American car that made sense, people would buy it. It's very simple.

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