What a wild Thanksgiving we're. . . enjoying. Emotions are soaring and plunging right along side the Dow Jones - one day's peak over Obama's historic election gives way to the next day's valley over the biggest economic crash in 70 years. It's slim comfort to have manifest all the things we've known about the Detroit auto industry. If the Big Three CEO's couldn't figure out that flying to DC in three private jets to beg Congress for a government bail-out wasn't an effective PR strategy, is it any wonder they failed to notice that the foreign auto makers were thumpin' their buttery leather hides with smaller, more efficient cars?
But, as with any behemoth, it's impossible to let the prodigal sons of the auto industry disappear into the gaseous sinkhole they've created, because so many of their employees, suppliers and other small businesses depend on them. This is why smart farmers and foresters tend to vary their crops. If plague or pestilence strike, they don't take down the whole operation.
Bidness leaders, on the other hand, have spent the last eight years writing the rules in Washington so they could do more merging and conglomerating and super-sizin', unfettered by that noisome government they now hope will save them. Ronald Reagan's old thigh-slapper about the scariest words in America -- "I'm from the government, and I'm here to help" -- has been replaced by "I'm from the banking/finance/auto industry, and I'm here to beg."
But the auto industry already had their octogenarian waterboy, Rep. John Dingell, writing the rules to protect them from anything like emissions standards or other technologies that might have saved them from their own short-sighted arrogance. The Senate Dems pardoned the execrable Joe Lieberman, but the Dems in Congress moved swiftly to axe Dingell from the chair of the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee, and replaced him with the dogged Henry Waxman.
It remains to be seen what sort of plan the auto mavens will present to congress when they return with their homework in hand. (Odd that they hadn't done it on the first try.) Michael Moore, who started hammering away at Detroit's auto execs 20 years ago in his film Roger and Me, agrees that we need to bail them out for the sake of the millions of little guys who will be hurt if we don't. But, he says, not before all the top brass gets fired and a new team takes over. Not sure who he has in mind for the job --some loaners from Toyota?
Others suggest giving several million deserving Americans a super-sized rebate, so they can buy one of the guzzlers sitting in the lots. It'll pump money into the industry, help the local dealers and their employees, and unload a whole bunch of cars no one wants - or can afford. It also will help the oil companies, who need more money like bacon needs more fat, while clogging our streets and poisoning our air, but hey, nothin's perfect.
So, we celebrate this schizo Thanksgiving, breathlessly watching our president-elect step into the leadership vacuum, and thankful for his grace, eloquence and common sense. And watching our president-ex ignore the wreckage with his now-familiar post-Katrina detachment, and wishing he would just go away.
It's a wish he seems to share. Only a few years back he was posing with a Texas-sized turkey, feeding the troops in Iraq. This year he was the one who was stuffed, trussed, and hung in effigy from a light post by those not-so-thankful Iraqis. No wonder he's making farewell speeches in Peru, even if it requires wearing a poncho instead of a flight suit. Sure beats eating crow back in the Mess-o-Potomac.
But even with all the crow, the turkeys on the Potomac are still plentiful. Despite the Italian silk ties knotted carefully over their wattles, they're easily spotted in the halls Congress, begging for a Thanksgiving reprieve.
It looks for now like most of them will get one, right along side Old Gobbler. And whether or not that's something we can all be thankful for depends, I suppose, on where you're seated at the table -- or if you still have one.