Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Brutally Honest Rant - 02/01/06

Brutally Honest Audio Rant: Repeating the Mistakes of the Past
Audio Transcripts

[Start Program]

(Computer – Introduction)
(Music intro – "American Idiot Remix" – by Green Day and David Matthews 2)

Good evening, and welcome to this week’s Brutally Honest Rant. I’m David Matthews 2, writer of the weekly online column Brutally Honest.

The late stand-up comedian Sam Kinison had a great rant about relationships… every time he gets his heart broken by some psycho-bitch from hell, he promises that he will NEVER let that happen to him again. And then he turns around and meets this woman who will say "Oh, but you never MET me! I’m not like those other women! You can trust me!" Next thing he knows… yup, she’s NOT LIKE those other women… she’s worse!

But that brings up an old saying that you may have heard before, but it’s ALWAYS worth repeating: those that fail to learn the lessons of history are forever doomed to repeat them.

And it is a saying that’s worth repeating because it’s TRUE! We DO forget these things! We DO forget the lessons of history! No matter what we say, no matter what we promise, no matter what has happened, we keep on saying "never again" and yet it DOES happen again!

And that is certainly true when it comes to two issues that are irreversibly linked each other, the economy and energy.

The City of Atlanta just got a shock the other week when the CEO of the Ford Motor Company announced that there would be a SERIOUS restructuring of the company, including the shutting down of the manufacturing plant in Hapeville and the layoff of THOUSANDS of hard-working employees.

Now the restructuring was something that was expected for quite some time, but not the shutting down of THIS plant. The Hapeville plant was in operation since it started in 1947, cranking out cars for Ford for almost sixty years. General Motors had already announced the closing of their facility in Doraville, which was also cranking out cars since 1947, but that news was pretty much a given. This closing, though, took everyone by surprise. That’s a serious kick in the nuts not only for the employees, but for the local economy and the local government. MILLIONS of dollars that will go away from stores and property taxes.

And they’re not the only ones either with such hard news. Kraft Foods just announced that 8000 people will be losing their jobs as well. Several major corporations are laying people off, which will have a SERIOUS impact on the economy both here and nationwide.

But there was something in that announcement from Ford that probably went unnoticed. It’s a little saying from CEO Bill Ford, great-grandson of Henry Ford that stuck out in this commentator’s mind.

"’If you build it, they will buy it’ – that’s business as usual, and that's wrong."

"If you build it, they will buy it."

Does that saying sound familiar to you?

Well if you happen to be a member of Generation X or a Baby-Boomer, it should certainly sound familiar, because THAT was the SAME corporate mentality of the big automakers THIRTY YEARS AGO!

Let’s go back in time to the 1970’s, shall we? The US automakers were living and breathing that mantra. "If we build it, you will buy it." No matter what the car is, we’ll buy it. And we’ll buy it PROUDLY – or so they believed – because it was an AMERICAN car! And that’s what important, isn’t it? Americans buying and driving AMERICAN vehicles.

So what happened? BIG economic depression. Gas outages… gas rationing… double-digit unemployment, double-digit inflation… we were in some DEEP trouble. And the big automakers found out that we DIDN’T buy their cars if they had super-crappy gas mileage! Hey, we had huge gas lines to deal with. We couldn’t afford to run out of gas and not do anything about it just because of what day it was. So we bought the cars that had really GREAT gas mileage, which were Japanese cars and European cars. We weren’t buying American cars!

So that whole thing about "if you build it, they will buy it" was supposed to have been GONE thirty years ago! When companies like Chrysler were going bankrupt, the automakers were making promises on top of promises that those days were over! That they would supposedly CARE about what the customer really wants and what they need.

Fast-forward thirty years. Not too much has changed in that time. The vehicles are bigger, more expensive, they still chug gas, and apparently the corporate mentality is still the same. They still believe that no matter what they build, we the consumers will still buy it!

Let’s get brutally honest here… if the automakers REALLY learned their lessons of thirty years ago, then they wouldn’t be in such financial problems today! They wouldn’t be announcing big layoffs today if they really were receptive to the needs of the consumers instead of using slick advertising campaigns to convince the consumers what those needs are!

But then again, that’s just one part of the equation. The overall corporate mentality that said it was okay to go back to the days of "if we build it, you will buy it" wouldn’t have gone very far if not for another bunch of people who failed to learn – and STILL are failing to learn – the lessons of history. And I’m sure that some of you are thinking that it’s the consumers, because they’re the ones who forgot about the importance of gas mileage, but no it’s NOT them.

The other half of the equation here is the United States Government.

For the past thirty years, our economic troubles have been directly tied in with increasing oil prices and our continued dependence on foreign oil. EVERY single economic downturn, no matter how slight, can be traced to the higher prices of oil and the greater dependence on that oil coming from foreign sources. EVERY SINGLE ONE! And yet, despite promises on top of promises that we would get our act together and get ourselves weaned off that dependence, we continue to get tied in with the Middle East, the prices continue to climb, and our government systematically refuses to do anything substantive to fix the problem!

Let’s go down the White House A-list: Nixon, Carter, Reagan, Bush Senior, Clinton, and Bush Junior… they have ALL promised to do something about our dependence on foreign oil. Democrat or Republican, they all made the same promise! Yet here we are again, knee-jerking to whatever problem is going on in the Middle East, trying to respond to the latest cleric that grabbed a dishtowel instead of a turban, and watching our economy going down the tubes over the ever-increasing price of oil and oil products. And even the latest pie-in-the-sky idea from the White House is just that… pie-in-the-sky. 2025 had might as well be 2525. Yeah, let’s LOOK at technology, but then turn around and keep dicking around with energy policies that make us coerced addicts to the House of Saud.

And let me tell you something, the Bush-backers can spin all they to want about the economy, but the truth IS that the economy IS turning south. The President of the United States is either delusional or he’s still in his little protective bubble when he talks about how "strong" the economy is going. You can’t have companies like GM and Ford and Kraft Foods lay people off and not have a negative effect on the economy. You can’t dick around with bankruptcy laws and banking rules and not have a negative effect on the economy. You can’t continue to raise interest rates and not have a negative effect on the economy. You can’t have a piss-poor energy policy that continues to keep us addicted to foreign oil, refuses to upgrade our refinery systems, refuses to allow more refineries to be built, gives our own oil from Alaska away to the Pacific rim, and requires fifty different Rube Goldberg refining formulas for oil, and not have a negative effect on the economy. And THAT IS what’s going on right now! And you don’t have to be a financial expert to see this happening. I see those effects happening every time I turn on the news, every time I pay my bills, and every time I go to the grocery store!

We’ve been down this road before. Time and time again we keep on saying that we’ll fix things, but we don’t. That applies to the US government, it applies to Ford and the rest of the US automakers, it applies to big business in general, it applies to Democrats AND Republicans, and that even applies to you and I. We don’t learn the lessons of history, we don’t fix the problems that caused the bad economy, and thus we are forever doomed to repeat them! Whatever gains we make are lost when the pendulum swings back, and in order for us to stop that cycle, we have to stop doing the things that are CAUSING that cycle.

(Computer – car mix)
(Fade Music In – "Heritic, Hero" by Martin O’Donnell and Michael Salvatori)

You know… when we hear about some big automaker like Ford or GM shutting plants down and laying people off, it’s really very easy to just blame it all on just ONE particular element. For liberals, it’s corporate greed. For conservatives, it’s the self-centered unions. But the truth of the matter is that it’s a combination of factors.

YES, it’s the automakers for their arrogant "if you built it, they will buy it" mentality. YES, it’s the unions for their continued demand for higher wages and more benefits. YES, it’s the government for encouraging the creation and sale of these oversized gas-chugging monstrosities while being lax with their energy policy. YES, it’s the consumer for not buying these vehicles. All of these factors, and a few others that I didn’t mention, go into the eventual closing of a perfectly good business.

They’re all connected. And as long as we continue to focus our attention on just one of those elements and ignore the rest, then we will never understand why even more perfectly good businesses will go under when they don’t have to.


Brutally Honest is a Get Brutal production, all opinions expressed are those of the commentator, and may or may not be shared by the online provider. This is David Matthews 2 saying good night, and I’ll speak with you soon!

(Fade out)

(Computer – Quickie Ending)
(Computer – "End of Recording")

[End of program]

No comments: