Su Lum: Slumming | AspenTimes.com

Su Lum: Slumming

Su Lum
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

It’s a sad thing that the United States’ economic crisis (which quickly turned into a world crisis) occurred right at the cusp of Barack Obama taking office. At the rate things are going, all those hundreds of billions of dollars of bailout money will have been sucked down so many rat holes that Obama will have to start over the second he takes his oath, asking for more.

We’ve all read about the golden parachutes for the CEOs of failed corporations, the wild and crazy parties thrown by recipients of the bailout money yet, still, bailed-out loan money is as tight as ever.

Now the automobile industry is asking for a piece of the pie. If we didn’t see the crash coming when anyone who could sign a loan application was approved, if we didn’t see it coming when ads ran saying, “If your credit card debt is over $10,000 we’ll show you how to weasel out of it,” we should surely see clearly, now that the auto industry has jumped in, that this bailout is a national grab-fest.

Who could have been more forewarned about the impending economic disaster than the auto industry? For years, the American auto industry has teetered on the brink of bankruptcy in the face of the better reliability, higher gas mileage and non-polluting innovations of our foreign competitors.

Oblivious to the bleeding obvious, the American juggernauts kept cranking out SUVs, trying to peddle them with ads extolling the virtue of being able to drive anywhere ” through virgin forests, up mountains, across rivers. Then gas prices soared and are clearly unstable, the money pit dried up at the banks and now the auto industry is in deep trouble. Duh.

Throughout his long campaign, Barack Obama has promoted the idea that the United States has the opportunity to take the lead against global warming and our dependence on oil by focusing our energies (so to speak) on solar, wind power and meaningful creativity on the part of the auto industry. By taking that lead this could create jobs as well as setting a standard of nonpollution that would be a model for the rest of the world.

This is the time when money can talk. Sure, bail out the auto industry with more billions of dollars, but tie the largesse to the immediate, mandatory reinvention of American vehicles. Remember how the industry had to be dragged kicking and screaming before they installed air bags? Or took the lead out of gasoline? As they have already demonstrated, they’re not going to change anything unless they have to, claiming it costs too much.

If they could be shown it would be profitable, American enterprise will figure out a way to do it. Hire Amory Lovins to be the Auto and Energy Czar ” he’s been trying to educate us about this for years, and it’s about time we heeded him.

Look how quickly things have changed in the entertainment industry. In a flash records were obsolete, in another flash VCRs disappeared in the wake of DVDs. This February, all outdated TV sets will be rendered useless.

Now is the time to put the screws to the auto industry and bring Ford, General Motors and Chrysler (do they still make Chryslers?) into the 21st century by consigning them to the junkyard where they belong and moving forward.


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