No. 968
October 17, 2018
 

About The UjianNasional

Peter M. DeLorenzo has been immersed in all things automotive since childhood. Privileged to be an up-close-and-personal witness to the glory days of the U.S. auto industry, DeLorenzo combines that historical legacy with his own 22-year career in automotive marketing and advertising to bring unmatched industry perspectives to the Internet with Ujian-nasional.info, which was founded on June 1, 1999. DeLorenzo is known for his incendiary commentaries and laser-accurate analysis of the automobile business, as well as racing and the business of motorsports. Author. Commentator. Influencer. The Consigliere. Minister of the High-Octane Truth. DeLorenzo is considered to be one of the most influential voices commenting on the business today.

DeLorenzo's latest book is Witch Hunt (Octane Press  ). It is available on Amazon in both hardcover and Kindle formats, as well as on iBookstore. DeLorenzo is also the author of The United States of Toyota.

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Tuesday
Jun172008

RANTS #450

June 18, 2008

Politicians? We don’t need no stinkin’ politicans.

By Peter M. De Lorenzo

Detroit. If the citizens of this state and employees of its key automotive industry ever decided to measure our self worth by the attention received from the two men running for President, then we’d all be feeling the love today, even though that affection is about as meaningful or as substantive as a giant ball of cotton candy.

Judging by the frequency of the two presidential candidates’ trips to Detroit these days, I half expect to see them manning the barista station at the local Starbucks asking me if I want an extra shot. It’s getting that ridiculous.

Oh, yes, we here in Michigan understand that we are key to the general election in November. We get it. But so far, both candidates have distinguished themselves by their utter lack of understanding of the issues facing this state and ultimately the nation when it comes to the erosion of our manufacturing sector, and by their almost laughable perspective on what will “fix” the Detroit car companies.

Obama has been back-pedaling on his view of America’s car companies ever since he blasted them in a speech before the Economic Club of Detroit last February. Back then Detroit was totally responsible for its plight, and Barack was going to fix things first by chastising them for their blatant incompetence and then by jamming technological “help” (of a virtually meaningless amount) down Detroit’s throat so that the local automakers could get with the program. Oh, and add new higher fuel economy requirements to help speed the change too.

It was a ballsy speech at the time and, I naively thought, a measure of Obama’s convictions, which was admirable. But that was until he showed up a couple of months later decrying the sad state of Detroit and its car companies and lamenting what has happened to the men and women displaced by the plummeting fortunes of the Detroit automakers – and saying he would help us all rise up and get back on our feet again.

Now I get the fact that things said on the campaign trail mean little (like zero) once a candidate is actually in the White House, but still, Obama’s flip-flopping has bordered on the transparently pathetic. And here he was in Detroit just this past Monday night (at Joe Louis Arena) spouting his views – listen carefully, folks, because clever speech writing does not constitute a cohesive policy in my book – saying we’re going to be alright because he will pull Detroit up by its bootstraps through new green technology and enlightened trade policies, while he’s saving the planet, ending wars and fixing whatever else ails this country.

Wow. All that and Al Gore’s endorsement too.

But then again, John McCain is no better. Once again he’s muttering about his lame-brained “gas tax free” summer to “help the American people,” which is so resoundingly stupid I can barely muster the words to describe it, other than the fact that it marks a new low in pandering for votes in this country. What next, John? Every citizen who votes for you gets a free gas card worth 100 gallons if you’re elected? It’s that absurd.

McCain is also a founding member (along with Obama) of the “finger snap” brigade when it comes to talking about fixing Detroit’s problems. As in, each candidate has policy advisors who clearly know jack about the depth and breadth of the U.S. manufacturing crisis that Detroit has signaled - given its “canary in the coal mine” place in the manufacturing sector – and, completely ignoring that, generate a series of “finger snap” initiatives that look great on paper in side-by-side comparisons in the media and sound great in stump speeches, but in effect do little to seriously address the underlying problems on the table. But then it’s on to the next issue, problem not solved but “addressed” enough for the media and the average voter. Talk about the quintessential definition of lip service.

I would caution both McCain and Obama’s handlers and their “finger snap” advisors on the following going forward:

1. The crisis in Detroit goes far beyond this state and this region. This nation’s automakers are still either directly or indirectly responsible for between 1 in 12 and 1 in 15 jobs in this country. There is no amount of finessing or masking of this industry’s importance to the health and well being of this country’s economy, and there’s no amount of fixing, reinventing, “greening” or replacing this key industry overnight with a “finger snap.” If the domestic automobile business is allowed to fade into oblivion, it won’t be a regional crisis like the steel industry’s collapse in Pennsylvania; it will be a national crisis that will devastate vast swaths of the American fabric.

2. Washington’s refusal – and that means you, McCain and Obama – to bolster one of its country’s strategic industries with the kind of support that competing governments give to their own industries is globally juvenile and blatantly irresponsible. For the record, it’s tiresome to see companies – and not just car companies either – waltz in to this country and be given free rein to wreak havoc on whole sectors of the economy with impunity. No, this isn’t a protectionist screed - it’s a reality forced upon this country by a new global viciousness that would like nothing better than to see the U.S. suffer catastrophic travails. The time for cheap talk and paper policies to save one of this country’s most crucial industries is over. It’s either going to have to be saved with a coherent strategy based on long-term solutions and globally realistic trade policies, or this nation will have to face the ugly consequences. And I mean ugly.

3. Stop treating America’s so-called energy “policy” as a strategic afterthought. I’ve read your statements and I’ve heard your speeches, but I’ve seen and heard nothing concrete about what you’re actually going to do about it. Why is that? Why is it easier to blame Detroit (or whoever the whipping boy du jour is) for all of its problems than it is to stand back and be realistic about the energy needs of this country going forward, and knowing that Detroit will have to play not just a bit part, but a crucial role? And no, this problem isn’t going to be solved by a bunch of venture capitalists in Silicon Valley promoting their “magic" cars, either. Unless you plan on earmarking trillions of dollars for a comprehensive national mass transit program in this country (which would take at least a good 20 years to become a reality at best), then you better work with the automakers and the energy companies and craft a policy that makes the most sense for the entire nation.

4. It’s about the Green thing. We get it, and every citizen of this country gets it now. Green responsibility will be part of American life going forward. But please, please dispense with the bullshit that attaining some sort of environmental happy place is just a presidential term away. The most capable technical minds in the world are working overtime on the transportation systems of the future – meaning what we’ll be driving five, ten and 20 years from now - and yes, a lot of them are right here in the Motor City. You remember us, right? The place both you and your advisors have conveniently written off at least a hundred times in the last eighteen months, except for our votes, of course. After all, you may be vacuous, transparent, hopelessly naïve and incredibly unrealistic, but you’re not stupid.

Suffice to say it’s a good thing that more than a fair amount of people around here remain skeptical of the election rhetoric and politically empty gestures generated by Mr. Obama and Mr. McCain in this campaign. Yes, we will be presented with the most drastically contrasting choice in candidates since the Nixon-Kennedy election in November - blah-blah-blah - but the reality is that these two men will say or do whatever they think they need to say or do in the coming months to get elected. And that might be political reality, but it still stinks.

No, we don’t need no stinkin’ politicians.

What we do need, however, are serious, committed people who are willing to do the due diligence necessary to make the focused, informed and rational decisions that will help shore up one of this country’s essential industries and guide our energy policy for years to come.

Thanks for listening, see you next Wednesday.