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String Theory

12 November 2008
Circinus Galaxy

Circinus Galaxy

The string theory is the latest supposition that some scientists have come up with to explain the inexplicable in our universe.  Realizing that the theory of gravity doesn’t properly account for the apparent glue that holds the far-flung parts of the universe together, they looked for some other reasonable answer.  What came about, with the use of mammoth mathematical equations, was a theory that there were invisible “strings” that run through the universe holding it together.  On top of that, it is surmised that our universe is not one universe at all; it is a series of parallel universes existing on different strings.  This may make your head hurt; I know that it made my head hurt as I watched a documentary about it on PBS.  But I use the analogy to look at the financial situation that we find ourselves in today.

GM Renaissance Center, Detroit

GM Renaissance Center, Detroit

In the wake of plummeting retail-sales reports coming out across the spectrum of our economy, we are now reminded that The Big Three – Ford, GM & Chrysler – are in dire straights and need a “bailout” of their own.  The cries of “foul” have gone up from the Republican/conservative side of the aisle, claiming such a thing would be just one more step toward socialism.  It hat-in-hand flies in the face of what the same crowd was saying just a few short weeks ago when their buddies on Wall Street came, hat in hand, through the Secretary of the Treasury seeking their own bailout.  The push from the Administration was mighty, and dire consequences were predicted without immediate attention.  The result was a hastily thrown together package that is already showing its weaknesses through further corporate excess.  Why?  Because the Administration through Henry Paulsen demanded no strings be attached to the money being thrown at their buddies.  So instead of stimulating borrowing as we were led to believe, the banks used their newly acquired welfare program to buy other banks.  Thus the problem continues unabated to this day.

Mika and Joe

Mika and Joe

Of course, the whole mess resulted in a major addition to the Bush-fueled national deficit.  Using this fact as ammunition, the Wall Street types and their congressional lackeys on the Republican side find themselves suddenly deeply concerned about the deficit they helped add to and advise that to help the auto industry would be a big mistake.  Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, his parrot, bemoaned the notion of rewarding bad performance with a bailout.  This may well be true, in fact, I agree it is true, but we cannot allow our auto manufacturing sector to disintegrate into nothingness and go away.  mortar-carrier-exitsWe must always maintain the ability to create our own vehicles for military purposes.  It would be foolish indeed to allow some other nation to forestall our military defense by cutting us off from the necessary trucks, jeeps and tanks needed to fulfill our military’s mission in a time of crisis.  For that reason, alone, we must maintain our ability to manufacture automobiles in our own nation, and the same thing goes for the domestic aircraft sector.  There are just some things we cannot allow to slip out of our control.

String Theory

String Theory

This is where “strings” come in.  Although it is only a theory and may not exist, let’s assume for the sake of our argument that it does.  If we apply the idea of “strings” to the overall cohesiveness of our nation, we will see that every sector is connected to every other sector.  Banks and lending institutions are connected to real estate and the auto industry.  Without the banks, no one could afford to buy a house or a car.  Without “new” houses the furniture and appliance industries could not survive.  They also depend largely on credit.  Without the car industry, thousands of car dealerships across our nation would go out of business.  They can’t all switch to foreign products; those already have their own dealerships.  Without people driving cars, the oil business would suffer great loss of sales.  I could go on and on, but you get the point.

"Colonial House," Churning Butter

"Colonial House," Churning Butter

Every part of our economy is tied together in one way or another. That tie finally comes down to the individual citizen.  Without all of these industries, where would the jobs and stimulus for other jobs by small-business service companies come from?  The day of the backyard garden, a cow in the barn and wood burning stoves is gone, and if you’re anything like me, you are totally unprepared to return to the rigors of such a lifestyle.  There have been several PBS shows that dramatically spotlight this reality.  [“Colonial House”, Plymouth colony 1628; “Texas Ranch House”, Texas 1867; “Frontier House”, Montana 1883, etc.] Like it or not, this is the 21st century we are living in, and the only way modern civilization manages to survive is by maintaining all the “strings” that hold it together.  A break of just one of those strings could cause the entire house of cards we live in to collapse around us plunging us into a new version of the Dark Ages.

mad-max

Mad Max

While I have always enjoyed apocalyptic sci-fi movies that depict such a future, I have always had supreme confidence that those were just “stories of fiction” not to be taken as more than entertainment.  Some, like Planet of the Apes, probably fall into that category; but others, like the Mad Max movies and others like them, may hold possible scenarios we shouldn’t scoff at as impossible.

I say none of these things to attempt to “scare” people into rushing to a solution of these problems, but rather to point out possible consequences.  I, instead, offer another definition of “strings.”  It is my belief that we should use the power of government as much as is necessary to hold things together for ourselves and future generations; however, we should attach meaningful strings to these bailout packages.

kurrent-electric-car

The Kurrent, electric car costing from $9,900 to $13,000.

If the auto industry wants the help of the American taxpayer, they should be willing to take the help offered and re-tool themselves into the 21st Century instead of plowing ahead with endless production of 20th Century products.  For too long the auto industry and their congressional lackeys – I have to admit, Democratic Representatives and Senators from Michigan – have offered nothing better than the equivalent of newer versions of “wheeled typewriters” when they should have been racing with the Japanese and Europeans to capture the future market of high-tech, fuel-efficient, environmentally-friendly automobiles.

If we use our tax dollars to “bail out” the US auto industry without demanding a change of direction from them, we might as well just get ready to follow all of the great empires of history that have faded into the irrelevant little countries they are today.  This goes for any other industries that come begging to Washington to save them from themselves.  We must demand that they accept whatever strings we need to place on them to assure their success with our investment.  Otherwise, we are just wasting our time and money.

That having been said, I sign off in the usual way:  KEEP FIGHTING THE GOOD FIGHT!

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. 14 November 2008 1:30 pm

    It fascinates me that the US auto industry has managed to build fuel-efficient cars for the European market but refuses to sell them here at home. Like you, I have little sympathy for the Big Three as they have spent far more money and intellectual capital opposing every new safety or environmental requirement here, from rear-view mirrors to seat belts to catalytic converters to higher CAFE standars. But I agree that they cannot be permitted to fail outright.

    I’m one who actually supported the bailout plan, albeit with nose held. My support was based on a similar “string” approach. But I admit freely that I was naive. I assumed that there would be some constraints placed on the recipients of all that corporate welfare, or at least that they would have realized that business as usual wasn’t working.

    I recall several past bailouts that were very successful, at least at the time. They were structured as loan guarantees, and both Lockheed and Chrysler survived, paid back the loans with hefty interest fees. Lockheed has not just survived but continues to thrive, and Chrysler did for some time. Should there be a bailout of the auto industry, I would hope that there would be many strings attached — from some basic requirements as to how the money be spent (e.g., retooling for new, greener vehicles) to a wholesale shakeup in the management structure (i.e., new executives and Boards of Directors). The industry can be a force for change if if chooses to. Fear of change is in large part what has killed American manufacturing. And fear of change seems to be ingrained in the Rust Belt psyche. Perhaps the industry needs to be relocated to parts of the country where innovation is valued.

  2. Left-Eyed Jack permalink*
    14 November 2008 2:39 pm

    To: More Heat Than Light,

    I, too, remember those successful corporate “bailouts.” I’m also fascinated with your idea of The Big Three moving to other parts of the country where innovation is more appreciated. Of course, that doesn’t do much for the workforce left behind in Michigan. My feeling is that they have largely been caught in a squeeze play between management on the one hand and their unions on the other. I’m not anti-union, but unions could be a lot more reasonable in their demands and explain why that is necessary to their members. And management could be a lot more responsible in their approach to business and labor relations.

    Thanks for the comments.

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