Like a forlorn ex-lover, GM/Ford/Chrysler tries to catch our eye from the other side of the courtroom. Her pleading glance begs for one more chance, a bit of money to set things right and continue on. But we know all too well the whirling vortex of buying madness she stirs in us. And we’ve moved on—we’ve matured—we see things differently. Plus, we suspect bailout money will clunk through the same financial assembly line that currently rewards the top brass with excess before the workers get their pittance. That is, after all, standard operating procedure in capitalism.
Mind you: let’s provide for the offspring of our affair. Let’s find a way to help the workers. But let’s not fool ourselves into thinking handing over $34 billion to GM/Ford/Chysler management will either change their ways or help the workers. We already know the chances are slim on both accounts.
As we try to avertour eyes, we remember the good times. Yukons and Suburbans barreling across the open plains at 80 mph, pulling boats and trailers. We get a bit misty, but try not to show it. But would those days return if we forked over the money she wants? And do we really want those days to return? Remember our resolve, when gas was $4.30 a gallon, to leave the 11 miles per gallon machine in the garage and bike to the grocer? Remember how we almost started to feel good about it? We started to think, yes, there must be a better way to get around the planet—there must be a way that doesn’t cost so much and deplete the place and stink it up too.
We love our cars. Always have. But maybe those days are over. Not just because GM/Ford/Chrylser is quickly sinking into the mire. Not just because the price of gas will certainly go back up again, but also because it is hard to love a Prius. Maybe a pragmatician or utilitarian can feel affection for a thing of theoretical beauty only. But the days of shooting from 0 to 60 faster than a freeway entrance requires—those days may be done. Plus, maybe it is time we grew up and stopped basing our identity on how many tons of steel we’re wrapped with. The economy seems to be leading us toward a bit more practical wisdom.
But we’re weak. We’re starting to fold—we look up hopefully and catch our breath with the locked gaze of GM/Ford/Chrysler. Be strong! Look away. Listen to your brain on this one, not your heart. And tell our elected officials the same: They desperately want the plush good times to return, with the jobs and grinning voters. Vote with your reason, sir!
But it is time. Not for a bail-out, but for bankruptcy. Use the bailout money to help the workers, but don’t expect a bail-out to trickle down to anything useful through this thrashing, noisy machine.
It may just be the end of the affair.