For the Kids

Here’s one your children and grandchildren will appreciate. It’s what the Democratic Party’s Congresscritter has to say about relaxing the rules for making and selling the machine that’s destroying the material basis for future civilization.

“Our bill makes simple changes so our manufacturers, suppliers, and workers can continue to make the best products in the world.”

This machine, of course, just happens to be the lifeblood of corporate capitalism and the unaccountable, decrepit overclass it sustains. Hence, such über-Orwellian stuff. “The best products in the world!”

McKibben Still Has No Clue

windmill-tilt Bill McKibben, never one to think too hard about his own limitations, still says “the source of the problem” is “the fossil fuel industry and its lock on Washington.” That’s like saying the problem in Greensboro in 1960 was the cheeseburgers.

The fossil fuel industry, for starters, is largely the oil industry, which is a subsidiary component of the automotive-industrial complex. That, the promoter of one of corporate capitalism’s few true core commodities — the private automobile — is, in turn, a literal institutional requirement of corporate capitalism. Corporate capitalism, which requires the reign of the car plus its half-dozen other major industrial complexes/capital-friendly-forms-of-colossal-ecocidal-waste-in-which-fossil-fuel-combustion-is-but-a-symptom, is the source of the problem.

Anybody who can’t or won’t say that is no friend of the dwindling prospect of progressive human survival. “Green car” is a screamingly obvious oxymoron. Yet, the entire anti-fossil-fuels movement is premised on at least implying the contrary.

History suggests that social movements face enough obstacles. There is simply no room for adding in the fatal error of being coy and/or deluded about what we need and demand.

Capitalism Eats the Planet

earthapple This is how they do it:

Driven by the rise of the millennial generation and a global growth boom, the auto industry is in the midst of a new golden age, said Mark Fields, Ford Motor Co. COO, in a speech at the Automotive News World Congress. The industry should take advantage of that to lure new talent, he said. Fields called it “the most exciting time for the auto industry in the last 25 years.”

Growth of small cars and luxury sales are pushing industry growth from different ends.

“There are 2.1 billion people reaching driving age in countries where the number of middle-income consumers is growing. These countries have huge potential for growth of first time buyers,” he said.

“Today the luxury segment accounts for 8 percent of the total global market,” he said. “Globally, the luxury market is forecast to add approximately 2.3 million vehicles in the next five years — with lots of opportunity in markets like China, the U.S., Russia, Turkey and Brazil.”

An exciting golden age, indeed! Is this how Thelma and Louise felt in their last 30 seconds?

[Source: Automotive News, January 14, 2014]

Cars Before Houses

kittygun 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.

The reason?:

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.

Super Bowl Ads as Evidence

nfl_car Corporate capitalists are addicted to selling automobiles. Neither rain nor sleet nor Peak Oil nor World War III will divert them from their money-making mission.

Hence, the unchanging nature of the “greatest spectacle in American sports,” the Super Bowl. Like both the National Football League and the whole of American television, it remains, first and foremost, a behavior-modification project whose main sponsor remains the automotive-industrial complex, which itself remains the indispensable heart of the capitalist economic order.

According to this piece from The Huffington Post, there were 60 commercials — not counting five ads referring viewers back to the NFL and this year’s Super Bowl broadcaster NBC — run during yesterday’s broadcast. (Note: If the widely reported cost of $3.5 million per ad — almost 100 times the rate charged for ads during Super Bowl I — is correct, that means the 2012 Super Bowl show generated $210 million of advertising revenue for NBC, not counting any ads promoting the game in advance.)

By DbC‘s count, 21 of the 60 Super Bowl XLVI ads were for cars, tires, or cars.com.

As for the content of these ads, there was, of course, zero acknowledgment that anything has changed since the days of the Studebaker. Indeed, none other than Clint Eastwood, after a couple decades of decent movie making, took his opportunity to jump his own personal shark by appearing as a mindless tough guy in a Chrysler ad assuring everybody that it’s merely “halftime” in the great American project of cars-first living.

Wanna bet, Dirty Harry?

Phony History

legend First, we had Kurt Cobb saying that the public “agreed to allow the private automobile to become the dominant form of transportation.”

Today, we find James Howard Kunstler, after properly berating President Zerobama for his craven dishonesty on energy policy, saying that “President Obama is merely reflecting the foolish obsession of the public,” whom Kunstler claims “refuse to even think about anything else” other than keeping cars-first transportation going.

How does Kunstler know what the public refuses to contemplate?  Has there ever been any serious choice offered or even mentioned?  Of course not.  From the moment the private automobile entered the historical scene, corporate capitalists have refused to permit robust democratic discussion of basic transportation policy options.

Personally, if I believed that the American public had zero willingness to think about changing our transportation order, I would certainly not be wasting my time and yours writing about it.

As it is, I hope I live to see the day when a social movement for progressive survival puts somebody in high office who offers the first honest assessment of transportation choice in American history.  The powers that be, after all, are suppressing that for a reason. The facts, when known, are pretty damned radical.

China and Carmageddon

If their efforts come to fruition, they will spell catastrophe for the Chinese people.

beijing-traffic In case you missed it, China’s state capitalists are now saying that they are pushing to be manufacturing 40 million automobiles a year by 2020.

It will be interesting to see if capitalism makes it that far without the onset of the mother of all depressions.  Personally, I doubt it.

But this news is extremely important, nonetheless.  Not only does it support the thesis that few things can boost corporate capitalism like cars, but it is also an enormous indictment of China’s worst-of-both-worlds overclass.  If their efforts come to fruition, they will spell catastrophe for the Chinese people.

Ford Knows

As Fredrick Douglass and Dr. King always said, power concedes nothing without a demand, and ending the capitalists’ cars-first cliff-drive is one hell of a demand. If we are to save ourselves, we will have to pull our heads out, fully and soon.

heedless-horsepower Here at DbC, our view is that strategic top executives know full well that world petroleum supplies have peaked, and are simply planning to keep riding the cars-first arrangement until it dies of its own internal contradictions. There is, you see, still a huge amount of profit to be reaped in the downward spiral, and one can always shift one’s money back into CDOs and LBOs and etc. as the game tightens over time.

Some powerful evidence in this direction emerged recently, from none other than Henry Ford’s great-grandson:

“We do believe at Ford that the price of gasoline is going to march upward over time,” Ford Motor Co. Executive Chairman Bill Ford said on the sidelines of the Detroit auto show. “And we’ve built our whole entire strategy around that.”

The alternative, the course anybody who actually gave a genuine damn about either the public or the so-called country would obviously take? Stopping the production lines and issuing a call for the radical reconstruction of our towns and cities toward sustainable living.

Instead, Ford Motor Company, like its peers and the overclass it serves, will plow ahead, business as usual.

As Fredrick Douglass and Dr. King always said, power concedes nothing without a demand, and ending the capitalists’ cars-first cliff-drive is one hell of a demand.  If we are to save ourselves, we will have to pull our heads out, fully and soon.

The Volt Minivan!

Mini-vans and pickups will continue to to devour a huge chunk of the insane amount of energy we continue to squander on transportation in corporate capitalist America.

bloated-dog Of course. GM is now promising the next round of Volt hybrids will include a minivan model. Of course.

Capitalist priorities don’t change. “Mini car, mini profit,” as Hank Ford II once incautiously admitted in public.

And past capitalist priorities built this cars-first network of towns and strip malls and exurbs. Cars-first transportation, thanks to the sheer nature of automobiles, radically balloons all these spaces. All the ballooned spaces in turn require not just cars, but big cars, as traveling at high speeds over rough, crossing roads makes tiny cars especially dangerous to their occupants.

So, of course. Mini-vans and pickups will continue to to devour a huge chunk of the insane amount of energy we continue to squander on transportation in corporate capitalist America.

Note: Dig the “gas 2.0” source here. These guys think new cars and allegedly “new” fuels for them somehow amount to a “world coming to terms with its oil addiction.” Of course, of course.

Cars and Classes

That’s cars for you: Heedlessness machines and social polarizers.

royalty The ruling ideology, distinctly including its academic manifestation, holds that automobiles are freedom machines and social equalizers. Cars-first transportation “unites [Americans] across class, racial, ethnic, and religious lines as few other aspects of our society can,” alleges Rutgers University transportation engineer James A. Dunn.

Of course, this familiar incantation is about as counter-factual as you can possibly get.

The claim, as DbC has explained before, doesn’t even hold water at the level of automotive usage. There, the rich enjoy the luxuries and choices, while the poor scrape, suffer, and go without. The distribution of cars, if one bothers to actually look at the uncontroversial facts, is one of the least equal categories of “consumer” goods.

The much more significant link between automobiles and social stratification, however, enters at the level of business ownership and the question of who benefits from selling cars. If you examine the institutional facts here, you discover that cars-first transportation is — literally — lifeblood to the investing class. Without it, the enormous privileges and prerogatives its members continue to enjoy, despite the times, would be in severe jeopardy.

If you doubt this link between cars and the upward flow of surplus wealth, consider the news that one of the major proponents of the latest, just-announced Obamian cave-in — the extension of greatly reduced estate tax rules — was none other than the National Association of Automobile Dealers. In the middle (or is it still the beginning?) of Great Depression III, you might think that NADA would favor measures to equalize income and wealth at least a little. After all, despite the inequities on the matter, it is commoners who buy most of the cars.

So why did NADA instead lobby for further extending the supply-side cap on estate taxes, a rule which overwhelmingly benefits the already-rich and, thereby, deprives the masses? As Automotive News reports:

WASHINGTON — In a victory for auto dealers and Senate Republican Whip Jon Kyl, President Obama and congressional Republicans agreed on a tentative tax-cut package that would head off a huge increase in the estate tax.

The agreement yesterday, which still has to be approved by Congress, would set a maximum estate-tax rate of 35 percent for two years with an exemption of $5 million for individuals and $10 million for couples.

“This (proposal) will help restore consumer confidence and speed economic recovery,” the National Automobile Dealers Association said in a statement today.

The NADA and other groups pushed for the estate-tax rate in the proposal as an alternative to the Obama administration’s plan earlier this year for a 45 percent rate with an exemption of $3.5 million per person.

The average net worth of an auto dealership was $2.2 million in 2009, according to NADA data, suggesting that most dealerships would not be subject to any estate taxes under yesterday’s proposal.

About half of all U.S. dealerships are second- and third-generation family businesses, NADA spokesman Bailey Wood said.

In other, more honest words, car dealers are capitalists, and, as such, they always place themselves first, because they can and are used to it and believe they deserve it. “All for ourselves, and nothing for other people,” as one radically misinterpreted social critic once observed of the first principle of all overclasses, clearly remains the maxim of “the masters of mankind.”

This amazing piece of short-sightedness, of course, is but the tip of the iceberg. The automotive industrial complex remains a pillar of corporate capitalism and its drive to maximize and maintain overclass wealth flows. Automobile dealerships are small potatoes inside that order. As always, across the whole system, even when its own interests are close and easy to see, today always trumps tomorrow for our self-described “entrepreneurs.”

And, in the real world, that’s cars for you: Heedlessness machines and social polarizers.