Daily Office:


Matins: How quickly swings swing! Just the other day, we were America the Ugly; benighted, shortsighted, and all but indicted. Now, we’re the progressives, because we have the kind of president that Europeans, who have, er, racist problems of their own, know they could never elect.

Lauds: Greetings from the East Side.

Tierce: I’ll admit that my “solution” to the Detroit problem (dissolve the companies and pension off the workers) is drastic in every way. At least it has the advantage of making Thomas Friedman’s proposal look doable.


§ Matins. Of course, here in America we are all immigrants, even the Mayflower crowd. We used to do racism without benefit of different skin color: consider the treatment of Irish immigrants in the great Age of Jackson. It was so brutal that, when my family’s forebears finally crossed the Atlantic, they were warned to scoot right through the coastal cities and head for the Midwest, where indeed they found peace and prosperity. That’s why I’m the only Keefe I’ve ever met with Iowa in the background. The overwhelming odds are that anyone with my surname stems from Boston.

§ Lauds. Is that what they’re singing? “East Side”? Kathleen thinks that the juncture of song and video is off — that this is not a song that the president-elect would ever sing. Or his wife. But that just goes to show. People will whistle “Dixie” happily enough, but cloud over when you ask them if they’re looking for a taxi.

§ Tierce. Maybe we’ve been doing the command-economy thing with Detroit for so long (while only pretending to play “Free Market”) that there’s no alternative to continuing, and trying to do it better. Just get rid of the management, and sayonara, investors!

How could these companies be so bad for so long? Clearly the combination of a very un-innovative business culture, visionless management and overly generous labor contracts explains a lot of it. It led to a situation whereby General Motors could make money only by selling big, gas-guzzling S.U.V.’s and trucks. Therefore, instead of focusing on making money by innovating around fuel efficiency, productivity and design, G.M. threw way too much energy into lobbying and maneuvering to protect its gas guzzlers.

This included striking special deals with Congress that allowed the Detroit automakers to count the mileage of gas guzzlers as being less than they really were — provided they made some cars flex-fuel capable for ethanol. It included special offers of $1.99-a-gallon gasoline for a year to any customer who purchased a gas guzzler. And it included endless lobbying to block Congress from raising the miles-per-gallon requirements. The result was an industry that became brain dead.

One Response to “Daily Office:

  1. Fossil Darling says:

    Tierce : Mr. Friedman has it right about the carmakers. They should not be given the money without new management, including ousting the Ford heirs.