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Senate Republicans Stand On Principles… December 13, 2008

Posted by sharon in Uncategorized.
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…the rest of us can just walk.

I have no particular love for American cars. Not the new ones, anyway—a 1965 Mustang is a whole ‘nother thing. I learned to drive in 1972, and I’ve only owned one American car—a 1994 Geo Prizm—and even that was really a Toyota under the hood. It got 40 miles to the gallon on the highway, and I wish I still owned it.

I remember the hours I spent waiting in gas lines back in the 1970s. I had a custom license plate that read “WARP-O.” It was meant to read as “warp zero,” which is way, way less than light speed. Gas rationing dictated that there were even-numbered days and odd-numbered days, based on your license plate. A custom plate that ended with a letter was considered an “odd-numbered” plate. I regularly had to persuade the folks at the gas station that the “O” was a zero. (Presumably Warpo was one of the unknown Marx Brothers.) I wanted to be consistent, darn it, but if they wanted to sell me gas on odd-numbered days, that was okay, too. Just my luck, some odd-numbered days I’d get the one attendant who was sure it was a ‘zero.’

So that was the 1970s oil embargo. My point being that the car companies, and the American public, have had plenty of warning and plenty of time to adjust to high oil prices and limited supplies and the questionable wisdom of depending for so much of our energy needs on supplies from countries whose people are very displeased with many of our foreign policy decisions. Yes, prices are down right now, but I don’t really believe that they’re going to stay there for very long. We should have started working our way to energy independence 30 years ago, when Jimmy Carter turned down the thermostat in the White House and had solar panels put on the roof—panels that Ronald Reagan had ripped out when he moved in.

And now here come The Big Three, hats in hand, asking the American people for just a little loan to tide them over. The same companies who have been spending millions to send lobbyists to Washington to fight tooth and nail against higher mileage standards. The same companies that in the 1950s bought up all the intra-city electric trolley and streetcar services and replaced them—when they did replace them—with diesel-powered buses. No, I have no sympathy at all for them.

But I do have sympathy for the auto workers, who are not responsible for the bad business decisions of the auto makers, but who are now being asked to give up all the gains they have made in the last 30 years and take pay cuts that will reduce them to the level of non-union auto workers. Or were being asked, until talks fell apart the other night. We just can’t risk putting millions of people out of work in one fell swoop. We don’t have the infrastructure in place to deal with that kind of catastrophe. And we have millions of American cars on the road that need parts and service right now.

So let’s help out the American auto companies, but let’s attach plenty of strings to the money: everyone at the highest levels of management resigns immediately; all federal and state mileage standards to be met or exceeded; the manufacture of trucks and SUVs to be replaced by new rail cars and fuel-efficient buses that we’re going to be needing Real Soon Now.

Sounds like “socialism,” you say? Afraid of socialism? How do food riots strike you?


(The fine print: “You probably thought it was smart to buy a foreign import of superior quality, with better mileage and resale value. Maybe you even thought that years of market share loss might prod us into rethinking our process and redesigning our products with better quality in mind, But you forgot one thing: We spend a shitload of money on lobbyists. So now you’re out $25 billion, plus the cost of your Subaru. Maybe next time you’ll buy American like a real man. Either way, we’re cool.”

“We’re The Big Three. We Don’t Need to Compete.”)

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