More Hens for the Foxes

Seems that, having now eaten up all but the last few hens in the henhouse, the foxes are demanding and receiving what they always demand and receive — more hens for the henhouse.

President-Elect Barack Obama calls the latest lupine faction panting at the feather-bar — the U.S.-based automotive corporations — not just “the backbone of American manufacturing,” but, in a stunning proof of Dmitry Orlov’s thesis that, even in the face of socio-economic collapse, our decrepit imperial overclass can only propose ever-more and ever-more outlandish capitalist boondoggles, “a critical part of our attempt to reduce our dependence on foreign oil.”

Indeed! Just like Adolf Hitler was a critical part the effort to reduce German anti-semitism in the 1930s!

Reality, of course, has been as described by the great Indian journalist, P. Sainath, in yesterday’s edition of CounterPunch:

But that’s the easy part. There’s a lot more [the car capitalists] did, as a major sector of industry – and as part of the larger corporate world of the United States. Over decades, they destroyed both existing and potential public transport. The ‘American Dream’ so far as the automobile went, was an imposed nightmare. In Detroit itself, you can see the skeletons of a once-alive transport system. All across the country, for decades from the 1920s, they bought up public transport systems and shut them down.

Trains were shifted from electric to diesel engines. Sometimes, they were simply done away with and replaced by buses and then cars. Together with Big Oil, Big Auto converted electric transit systems to fuel-based bus systems. In one estimate: In 1935, electric train engines outnumbered diesel train engines 7 to 1. “By 1970, diesel train engines outnumbered electric ones 100 to 1. And GM made 60 per cent of the diesel locomotives.” The electric rail system in and around Los Angeles was almost erased.

Fostering the cult of the individual-owned automobile was a major goal. By 2001, that goal was achieved, beyond belief. Some 90 per cent of Americans drove to work by that year. The findings of the 2001 National Household Travel Survey are striking. Only 8 per cent households reported not having a vehicle available for regular use. The survey showed that “that daily travel in the United States totalled about 4 trillion miles, an average of 14,500 miles per person.” Trips by transit and by school bus each made up just 2 per cent of daily trips taken in 2001.

Meanwhile, the logic of “too big to fail” keeps Big Auto and others of its ilk going. There is never any debate here of whether they should have been allowed to get as big as they did. President-elect Obama says he will aid the auto oligarchs who he calls “the backbone of American manufacturing.” Sure, with that many jobs at stake, any government must worry about the consequences of letting them sink. No question about it. It’s on the basis of that very fear that the Terrible Metal Lizards are able to bargain for handouts from public money. This economy has lost close to a quarter of a million jobs in the month of October alone. So the thought of many more simply vanishing is scary. The US has already lost over 1.2 million jobs this year. Close to half of those in the past three months alone.

So there is a good chance that more public money will be thrown at the auto giants, and that, without larger strategic shifts being imposed on them. Yet, everyone knows this does not mean an industry saved. They could be back soon with demands for still more. At which time, with things being even worse (quite likely) the pressure to save jobs by pouring in public money will be still greater.

As Sainath says, the reality is that despite a rising flood of babble about “new” and “cutting-edge” engine technology, the private automobile is neither more nor less than a failed, unsustainable technology that was promulgated by and for a failed, unsustainable social class. The cardinal lie of this dying but still massively dominant class has been that enriching it and ceding all major decisions to it is the road to maximum human welfare. “Just a few more chickens, and this henhouse will be paradise…”

Hens of the world unite; you have nothing to lose but your “guardians.”

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