University of Illinois outcomes modeler Sheldon Jacobson estimates the dimensions of two of the ways in which cars-first living pumps up allied industries by generating the obesity epidemic in the United States:
After analyzing data from national statistics measured between 1985 and 2007, Jacobson discovered vehicle use correlated “in the 99-percent range” with national annual obesity rates.
“If we drive more, we become heavier as a nation, and the cumulative lack of activity may eventually lead to, at the aggregate level, obesity,” he said. “When you are sitting in a car, you are doing nothing, so your body is burning the least amount of energy possible, And if you are eating food in your car, it becomes even worse.”
Ultimately, Jacobson said, we are going to have to rethink the way we use our automobiles if we want to address obesity.
“We have had 60-plus years of infrastructure that has facilitated the obesity epidemic,” he said. [Source]
The resulting boon to the medical-industrial complex? A twenty to fifty percent increase in per capita medical spending among obese people, according to Reuters.
The boost to the much over-blamed oil industry?
Some costs of obesity reflect basic physics. It requires twice as much energy to move 250 pounds than 125 pounds. As a result, a vehicle burns more gasoline carrying heavier passengers than lighter ones.
“Growing obesity rates increase fuel consumption,” said engineer Sheldon Jacobson of the University of Illinois. How much? An additional 938 million gallons of gasoline each year due to overweight and obesity in the United States, or 0.8 percent, he calculated. That’s $4 billion extra.
Is this self-reinforcing cycle vicious or virtuous? Depends on whether or not you’re a capitalist, doesn’t it?
Second, to raise your chances even further, be a capitalist specializing in schemes to perpetuate the lifeblood of the system, cars-first transportation.
Finally, hold out your hand.
Even if your product is patently stupid, over-complicated, and downright defective, you will collect.
Cue Dire Straits’ old song and witness the Zerobama Adminstration’s latest gift to A123 Systems, maker of broken and exploding batteries for cars that run on electricity made from coal, nuclear, and natural gas:
Lithium-ion battery maker A123 Systems Inc. has received an extension on its $249.1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy. A123 received $127 million of the DOE grant by the end of 2011, according to the filing. The grant requires the battery maker to match each dollar used from the grant. The extension is designed to allow A123 to use the funds before they expire.
The filing fell on the same day that an A123 battery was linked to an explosion and fire at a prototype testing lab at General Motor Co.’s Warren Technical Center. GM confirmed that a lithium-ion battery cell leaked chemical gases into the lab, causing an explosion. The battery itself remained intact, according to a statement by the automaker.
The incident comes after a series of setbacks for the battery maker. In March, A123 posted a quarterly loss of $85 million for the fourth quarter of 2011, after Fisker Automotive stopped battery orders resulting from production problems. A123 suffered more bad news after a Fisker Karma plug-in hybrid sports car with an A123 battery failed during a test by Consumer Reports magazine — which led to the announcement of defective batteries. On March 26, A123 reported that five automotive customers received batteries with potentially defective cells manufactured in Livonia. It said it would replace the batteries, which would cost the company $55 million.
A123 is also at the center of a class action lawsuit filed by shareholders.
Asked to elaborate on his firm’s findings that most first-time buyers of hybrid cars do not buy a second one, yet do exhibit increased loyalty to the corporate brand of their first hybrid, R.L. Polk & Co researcher Brad Smith tells Automotive News that offering a hybrid is “a great conquesting tool for brands…a competitive edge when it comes to attracting new customers.”
“Hybrids,” notes Automotive News, “accounted for just 2.4 percent of total U.S. auto sales last year.”
More evidence for the DbC thesis that “alternative fuel” cars are simply loss leaders, an expensive but effective marketing ploy.
One very interesting aspect of the actual history is the connection between sponsored right-wing labor unions and the imposition of cars-first infrastructure.
Take the case of Dave Beck, the President of the Teamsters union who preceded the infamous Jimmy Hoffa. When Eisenhower asked his old buddy Lucius Clay to head a Presidential Commission to organize automotive-industrial capitalists to ram through the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956, Clay appointed five cronies to what quickly became known as the Clay Committee.
Dave Beck was one of those five appointees.
Mr. Beck’s Wikipedia page makes it rather clear why he was asked to help formulate the plan for completing the last major segment of the cars-first project. Beck, who had risen to power as a successful opponent of political unionism, had impeccable credentials:
In 1937, Beck formed the Western Conference of Teamsters as a means of counteracting the [complacent] leadership of Joint Councils in San Francisco. Beck persuaded Teamsters president Daniel J. Tobin that the Western Conference of Teamsters was no threat to the power and authority of the international union. Harry Bridges, leader of the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA), had led a successful four-day strike in 1934. Bridges was now leading “the march inland”—an attempt to organize warehouse workers away from shipping ports. Beck was alarmed by Bridges’ radical politics and worried that the ILA would encroach on Teamster jurisdictions. But Teamster joint councils in Los Angeles and other California ports seemed unconcerned. As an end run around the complacent joint councils, Beck formed a large regional organization. Beck engaged in fierce organizing battles and membership raids against the ILA, effectively stifling the “march inland.” The Western Conference of Teamsters, and Beck, emerged significantly stronger from these battles.
Beck became Teamsters national president in 1952 and a member of the AFL-CIO Executive Council in 1953 — i.e. right at the pinnacle of the Red Scare. However, by 1957 (a year after the Clay Committee had finished its work with total success), Beck’s history of embezzling from his own union had become a matter of public knowledge. Having reduced the already anemic level of democracy inside the Teamsters union, Beck opted not to seek another term as its head. He was sent to federal prison for tax evasion in 1962.
Such is the stuff of the “labor” voice of the Clay Committee.
Meanwhile, contemplate the way in which Beck ended it all:
After his release from prison, Beck lived in a basement in a house he himself had built for his mother and sister in the 1940s. He retained his $50,000-a-year Teamster president’s pension and became a multimillionaire investing in parking lots.
I’ll say it again: Orwell couldn’t surpass this real-world material.
Part of the reason corporate capitalists are addicted to selling automobiles is the fact that, once the inherently sprawling, alternative-discouraging infrastructure for cars-first transportation is fully built, that infrastructure renders car ownership almost literally necessary. To forgo a car is to add extra risk and time constraint to lives already unfolding amid insecure and decaying economic and social conditions.
I mention this because of this interesting story from today’s edition of the mighty USA Today.
Seems that, among the population who incur both forms of debt (and the rich pay cash for cars, by the way), people are four times more likely to make late payments on their mortgages than on their car loans.
Felicia Young of Tampa says paying her auto loan became more important in the last two years.
“When my credit scores declined and I was facing removal from my house, my car suddenly became the only item I had worth anything,” says the 45-year-old, who holds both full- and part-time jobs as an administrative officer.
Young adds that she needs her car “to get to work and make money. Period.”
“If push comes to shove, you can live in your car,” Becker says. “But you can’t drive your house to work.”
No wonder the overclass insists that the current American lifestyle is non-negotiable.
Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!