A Wager We’d Take

Kara Swisher credits herself with being “pretty good at this guessing game.” She says, in today’s New York Times, that owning a car will soon be a quaint thing of the past. DbC hereby offers to wager Ms. Swisher on that one — our entire gross monthly revenues versus one-tenth of yours. The proposed bet: Ten years hence, neo-taxi hiring will indeed be more popular among yuppies like Swisher, but — barring the arrival of the ecological catastrophe we are so obviously courting but not confronting — overall car-ownership rates will not have dropped by even 10 percent in these United States of America.

The problem for Swisher is that she does not understand corporate capitalism, which literally, institutionally requires the perpetuation of cars-first transportation in the United States, come Hell and/or high water. Unlike the transition from land phones to cell phones — the “guess” that Swisher imagines herself as having oracularly foreseen for us, selling fewer cars would constitute a reduction in net effective demand/commodification/commercialism/waste. As such, it is anathema to our socio-economic order and the elite privilege it exists to serve.

Funny how you can become a wealthy pundit in this society and be utterly oblivious to such elementary facts.

Meanwhile, the trend Swisher thinks she sees is not even happening.

Lots of Children Left Behind

Over at NBC News, this chart appears under the headline “Guns kill twice as many kids as cancer does, new study shows”:

graph showing child death rates

Golly, corporate news source, tell us: what else does this graph show? And why-oh-why might you not be putting that top line there in your headline? Might it be that the automotive-industrial complex remains your biggest source of customers?

A real crank might also observe that the NEJM report from which the graph and data were taken here cuts off the definition of childhood at age 19 (see the fine print above).

But we now know that basic human brain maturation extends to about age 30. By leaving out late childhood — the life stage that includes those we have erroneously called “young adults” — the chart here is distinctly conservative in its depiction of the automotive meat-grinder’s effects on our youth.

Our economic system’s #1 commodity is also the #1 health menace for Americans in their early 20s, as it is for those aged 1 to 19.

What Causes Obesity?

emperor on parade In America, it has long been taboo to pay critical attention to automobiles’ centrality in our lives. It remains a very effective and important taboo.

Witness “The Toll of America’s Obesity,” an op-ed piece in today’s New York Times. In it, a pediatrician and an economist, both from Harvard, review the basic facts about the continuing escalation of obesity rates and burdens in the United States. In the author’s view, obesity is a “diet-related disease.”

And, indeed, so it is.

But can anybody think of another reason why obesity has been relentlessly worsening across recent decades? Might it have anything to do with the continuing automobilization of our lifespaces? Might worsening fatness in America also be caused by our ever-deepening, never-so-much-as-mentioned subjection to mandatory cars-first transportation policies and outcomes?

The question answers itself, yet remains utterly out-of-bounds. This is true even on the political left, which has never quite summoned the chutzpah to take the first step toward transcending prevailing ideology/taboo. That first step would be a serious class analysis of transportation in the USA.

Mexican Auto Industry Association

This post is no endorsement of any of the extreme dangers nationalism, Trumpism, or automobile manufacturing. Nevertheless, get a load of the membership of the “Mexican” auto industry’s trade group:

logo of MAIA

It would be fascinating to see a proper accounting of how money flows into and out of this industry, and to whose benefit.

But its speaks volumes about our world that such groups exist.

Cars Versus Kids

As current host of the nation’s biggest single advertising platform (the Super Bowl), NBC Sports Group has, according to today’s Advertising Age, done some extra research:

NBC analyzed the ads in the last four Super Bowls (2014-2017) based on 575 variables like creative messaging and structural elements. It then looked at the effectiveness of each ad based on five performance metrics: creative appeal, ad cut through, creative engagement, brand social and brand search. NBC will use these results to help guide advertisers on their Super Bowl creative.

Turns out that this research shows that:

If you want your Super Bowl ad to be a success, less is sometimes more. Don’t, for example, include both a puppy and a cute kid. For automakers, featuring children works best, while animals perform especially well for food and beverage brands.

So, let’s ompare and contrast, shall we, dear DbC reader?:

Item 1 — “For automakers, featuring children [in TV ads] works best.”

versus

Item 2

This ranking, which is produced and published (but never actively emphasized) only very occasionally by the (Satanically mis-named) National Highway Traffic Safety Commission, has certainly not changed since 2002. As the NHTSA explains, the long-standing fact is this:

Motor vehicle traffic crashes are the leading cause of death in every age from 3 through 33 for both sexes combined. [emphasis added]

So: In America, associating children with the machine that is the clear #1 death threat to children is the #1 way to sell said machines.

Those Who Love Hurricanes

Corporate capitalism, by design, commodifies everything and mal-distributes income. As a result, it paints its own primary beneficiaries into a corner, even as it sustains their obscene wealth and increasingly decrepit power. As silly products proliferate and the bottom 2/3 of the population goes without discretionary income, it gets harder and harder for corporate marketers to sell new rounds of goods and services. The only possible answer, from the perspective of the investing class, is selling more and more waste to people who still have money to spend.

The ultimate corporate capitalist waste platform is the private automobile. Within a publicly-provided cars-first infrastructure, such machines are not only themselves spectacularly and optimally wasteful, but also enable and stimulate the second great vector for profitable squander, the suburban house-and-yard.

For cars themselves, the ultimate dream for capitalists would be the one described in The Waste Makers, Vance Packard’s 1960 non-fiction best-seller:

The motorcars of Cornucopia will be made of a lightweight plastic that develops fatigue and begins to melt if driven for more than four thousand miles.

That, of course, was an illustrative exaggeration. Individual car owners will not tolerate such directly obvious capitalist tactics. They demand some longevity with their waste.

But consider what we will tolerate collectively: For car-sellers, Hurricane Harvey is very good news, for exactly Packard’s reason. Per today’s edition of Automotive News:

With the storm potentially having damaged 1 million vehicles in Houston, the rush is on in states near and far to acquire and ship new ones into the city.

“We see multi-faceted benefits to new vehicle sales, new vehicle inventories, and used vehicle prices,” Ryan Brinkman, an auto analyst with JPMorgan Chase & Co., wrote in a report Tuesday. Prior to Harvey, weak used-car values had been one of investors’ “chief concerns” with the auto industry, he said.

Such is the stuff of 2017. Our grandchildren will never stop vomiting.

Kid Killer

Per The New York Times, May 29, 2017:

The most common cause of death in children under the age of 15 is unintentional injury, and the most common cause of unintentional injury is car accidents. Between 2010 and 2014, 2,885 children died in motor vehicle accidents nationwide — an average of 11 children a week. That number excludes pedestrians.

Annals of Misreporting

car skull The East Coast Blizzard of 2016 is killing people, report the corporate media. Balderdash. By keeping people from driving their cars, the snowstorm is saving lives on a big scale, as is very occasionally almost acknowledged in self-same media.

“I think in reporting any story, journalists are taught that human life is the ultimate value,” said Joe Saltzman, professor of journalism at the University of Southern California. “So the first question we ask on any story is, what’s the death toll?”

Yes, quite so, except when the story is cars. There, the ultimate value is profits for corporate capitalists, so the basic facts are not newsworthy.