Motor Moguls Called Like Naughty School Chilren to the Principal’s Office

We must hear some sort of mea culpa from the dysfunctional management of our automobile manufacturers.

“I am going to read to you a statement, and after I have read it, I am going to ask you to say to what extent you can subscribe these statements.”
(He reads.)
“We are sorry. We have not produced, in spite of early warning signs. We are aware we have a large measure of leverage on the people of this nation to survive because of our integral financial and business importance. We cannot rest on that leverage and act like the deserving poor. Get this! We will bring a sea change to this industry. We are not the owners, but have acted as such, and skimmed comfortable livings from this industry, without responsibility to more than our cadre of managers, but we lost sight of our responsibility to the people who hold the stocks, and beyond them to the millions of people who depend on this industry and to the national economy as a whole.

“The alternative is to let this industry go into bankruptcy. But we now wish to dedicate our management to a new world of automobile manufacturing that will rebuild it for the future we should have anticipated many years ago. We must put on our collective hair shirts to drive us to solvency, profit and innovation in keeping with these radically changing times, a business for the far-foreseeable future. And an industry that will always be in readiness to convert to a defense industry, as we have done in the past to provide the machines of war that made it possible to defeat tyranny in the world.

“We know that our business from its beginning was the backbone for making the worker capable of buying the automotive machines we produced and raised the standard of living that is the envy of the world. We have become a shamefully forgetful group of managers of our standing in society. We have become an elite class of very wealthy managers by taking more than our prudent share of the profits. That must be corrected.

“We ask you to assist us in achieving a new and re-tooled goal for our industry because the people supported by this industry need it.


I do not believe those appearing before the hearings will have become sufficiently aware of their situation to utter such statements. I CALL IT THE BLUNT FORCE TRAUMA OF WEALTH AND SELF-IMPORTANCE THAT HAS KNOCKED OUT OF THEM ALL COMMON SENSE, NORMAL PRESCIENCE AND RIGHT ACTION FOR THE COMMON GOOD.

Now I must go hear them testify.

(NOTE:I worked at Studebaker in South Bend. They had a father-son privilege. My dad was a foreman of the foundry I worked in the machine shop drilling and tapping oil pumps, in transportation carrying loads of parts and materials to various locations in the plant, and on the truck assembly line.)

It’s easy for the little guy, like me, looking on this crisis to be cynical about the coping ability of the CEOs and presidents of the big three, and about those failed managers’ promises and plans for restructuring. Were they perceived by me to be sufficiently sober and serious, or could I detect a nonverbal dual message of duplicity and sincerity? I could imagine their behind the scenes snickering and some serious castigation of their tormentors. That’s my cynicism showing.

However, I saw no indicators of that negative behavior. I saw a hearing with government and industry working out the operations of their accommodation, nothing but the nuts and bolts of the hoped-for solutions.

Not once, however, did I hear any declaration of their bankruptcy of ideas for innovative design and production. The problems seemed to be all business, financial causes.

What we will now have in this society is a new “infant industry” period, which we had in the start-up era of the United States, a period of the auto industry’s protection from competition until it has re-established itself and can be turned over to competing forces. The people of the U.S., through our representatives, should willingly help them, in spite of all the negatives those failed leaders have exhibited, because the hearings made clear the broad and deep reach of their significance to the country.

Would that we could have had the same approach to the financial bozos who brought all this on through the auspices of failed government and failed financial operators.

Published in: on December 4, 2008 at 8:54 am  Comments Off on Motor Moguls Called Like Naughty School Chilren to the Principal’s Office  
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