Who Should Bail Out the Auto Industry?
The other day Laurie David, writing at the Huffington Post, suggested that the oil industry rather than the us government should bail out the auto industry:
“The best idea I’ve heard in the last few days comes from an unlikely source, the actor Ashton Kutcher on the Bill Maher show, who repeated the suggestion that the auto industry go meet with the oil industry – their partner in crime – and ask them for a bailout. At least we know ExxonMobil can afford it.”
Laurie and Kutcher are partially correct. The oil industry is a partner but, alas, it is not the only partner and not even the main partner.
The big 3 were at their normal and largest trough, congress. The difference now is that the play is visible to the rest of us. Normally the industry’s subsidies are indirect, yet massive, and by some strange perversion of perspective we do not typically lay the consequences at the feet of the auto industry which is much broader than the big 3, the oil industry or their federal, state and local government accomplices.
A subsidy example: like it or not, the thousands of miles of concrete spread across previously fecund land that the vehicles require to be useful are massive subsidies to the auto industry.
A consequence example: over 40,000 people/year die in the US as a result of traffic accidents. Unfortunately, these deaths are diffuse; one or two or three at a time and widely dispersed geographically. We ignore them. Yet, after a concentrated 3,000 die in the World Trade Center the country goes to war.
This is not the only subsidy nor are the fatalities the only consequence.
The appropriate approach begins with not a bailout but eliminating all subsidies at all levels of government…starting with, but not ending with, auto industry subsidies.
In time we will, then, start seeing the best results socially and economically. Amongst other things the former fat cats will no longer get to feed at the public teat; income disparities will start diminishing; legislative types will spend most of their time at home; lobbyists will go in search of real work; government can get back to basics, e.g., providing an accessible judicial system.