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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 12/6/08

Automakers Point the Economy at the Peoples' Heads

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by Martin Zehr

The show is over. The chief executives have driven to Congress in their electric cars and have proposed to shelve their corporate jets. With hat in hand and the UAW President singing the same tune with them, the Big Three showed up to testify before Congress pleading for $34 billion to get them out of the hole that they dug themselves in. Once again we are being told that “What’s good for GM is good for America.” The presumption is that this a sound economy that just needs a little tinkering and that the automakers will pick themselves up with a lot of money from the Federal Government. Unfortunately, this premise fails to recognize the great gap in income, the approaching Peak Oil and global warming. It ignores that plain fact that the auto industry does not hold the key to economic recovery. If, as Congressional Democrats say that "one in ten jobs are tied to the auto industry", it is long overdue to restructure the economy from what it has been, rather than prolonging its death.

The economic extortion from automakers "Pay Us, or We Kill the Economy" to maintain continued growth disregards the inherent contradiction that we are facing in the long run with Peak Oil and global warming. Things do not just become better and better and better, just because GM gets a hand from taxpayers.

To restructure the economy at this point takes political action that is not just based on maintaining the current presumptions of political leaders and existing corporate domination of the political and economic structures of America. The basic law of economic gravity is: what goes up, must come down. It is too little too late to stop the bleeding of the American auto industry. It's time that they went the way of the old blacksmiths who shoed the horses. Or maybe, it's time to bring back the blacksmiths. 

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As a Green, there is no better time to advocate for a transition of the economy away from globalization towards decentralization. Now is precisely the time to invest in a new mass transit infrastructure that will cost less than $34 billion and produce results that will address the fundamental flaws of the current auto/carbon based system.

The UAW is saying it will do its part in sacrificing wages and benefits. Please, remind me again the purposes of unions. Keeping the job banks in the existing agreements is critical for transitioning the unemployed. Pension guarantees are in place and need to be defended. For its part, the UAW leadership might be advised to stop trying so hard to give away the store.

It is long past due for America to transition to updated systems that are consistent with reducing greenhouse gas emissions and modernize all commercial and urban transportation systems with new rail systems and high-speed lines. New investments in this long neglected public infrastructure will do more than trying to revive an industry that throws good money after bad.

The development of a serious effort in this regard has not even begun. The first necessary steps is to establish a broad-based coalition of organizations that establishes a common, working strategy for the writing, passing and implementation of a Transportation Transition Legislative Package. A five-year target date should be established at an appropriate Founding Congress of political action groups. Political action during that time needs to be prioritized in regards to the passage in Congress, and State Legislatures of the US.

A. Establish the highest percentages for renewable energy production and alternative transportation systems that require the introduction of alternative energies in a twenty year period;

B. Economic compensation packages that address workers impacted by the transition ;

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C. Monitoring systems to evaluate the changes in greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere ;

D. Incentives for the development of alternatives to automobiles ;

E. Reduction in the production of single-user modes of transportation ,

F. Increase in public investment in mass transit operated with renewable energy ;

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I am a Green Party member who lives in San Francisco. I have been active in water planning in the Middle Rio Grande region of New Mexico. I write political articles on the need for third parties, the contemporary failures of public education, the (more...)
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