Thursday, April 16, 2009

The American Dream in 2009

For a limited time, for new buyers, GM has offered to take over payments for nine months in the event that they lose their job. It feels like another slap in the face of the American taxpayer, dangling candy in front of greedy consumers who snap at the bait, oblivious to ulterior motives as GM once again insinuates itself into a nine month free ride at worst but solvency at best. The intent is to make the consumer feel important, as though there’s nothing more valuable than you, the consumer and they’re investing in you. The problem is the guarantee would be taxpayer money about which they’re being so cavalier in their marketing strategy. It’s a way they can be broad based in hooking as many as possible to gain leverage at crunch time if it doesn’t work as planned, “taking” from the taxpayer, hooking a buyer for the company’s viability, nine months minimum. It’s offensive to a rational sense of accountability. But GM may not have time to use a more measured approach to stay afloat. It’s sometimes described as a retirement plan that sells cars. Where’s my compassion?
The unauthorized book, “On a Clear Day You Can See GM”, regularly comes to mind with the current GM crisis. The book was initially authorized by DeLorean, but when DeLorean realized the position in which it would put him, speaking as he did about problems within the company, he revoked his support of the project. His collaborator released the book on his own, against the wishes of DeLorean and we readers captured a glimpse into a closely guarded organization.
In a way, I suppose we could look at GM as part of our aging infrastructure, much like the railroads of the late 19th century. GM, Ford and Chrysler survived as they claimed the 20th century, one of the most prosperous in the history of mankind. Several good cars faded away tugging at heartstrings as they went. The British had their powerful Navy in previous centuries. Several American car manufacturers didn’t survive because they lacked a combination of elements that defined our identity as a nation and made us swell with pride at our combined American ingenuity as we were the envy of the rest of the world. Even the most suave in exotic lands wanted a piece of that, “Je ne sais quoi? How you say?” Chasing the dream as we all wish for better times.
Perhaps that is what we are lamenting as we have given the main car manufacturers a comfort zone with our loyalties and our love of the creative and often humorous advertising entertainment that would also suffer from such a void.
The USA made people all over the world glad to be alive. Disneyland was so popular it grew roots in France and Japan. The pursuit of happiness became a final destination rather than an end to those with means as the middle class grew and became international in scope. Goodwill and sharing rippled on many shores throughout the world in the form of marketing of ingenious products, from skateboards to jet skis. Certainly Ipods are sexy and have done their share to once again remind us how lucky we are to live in a country where people come to make dreams reality.
But GM has been an economic engine more broad-based and entrenched in our psyches. We’ve grown up attuned to having a certain car at certain points of our lives. We are living the American dream!

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