By on September 8, 2009

Ron Bloom is a Harvard MBA grad, investment banker and former advisor to the U.S. Steel workers. He’s also the head of the Presidential Task Force on Automobiles, now that Steve Rattner is busy defending his investment firm against bribery charges. Over the weekend, the Obama administration added Manufacturing Czar to Car Czar in Ron Bloom’s portfolio of power. “Bloom is to work with government departments including Commerce, Treasury, Energy and Labor to develop new initiatives affecting the manufacturing sector. The White House said Obama is committed to partnering with the private sector to spur innovation, invest in the skills of American workers, and help manufacturers prosper in global markets by promoting exports.” In other words, after nationalizing GM, Obama’s mob are now looking to screw up all the other parts of America’s manufacturing base. A quick joke . . .

As GM headed for oblivion, the executives shielded themselves from responsibility by blaming everyone else. The contention that the American automaker was on the cusp of recovery (again, still)—only to be waylaid by the entirely-out-of-its-control global economic meltdown—was only the final excuse for their epic mismanagement. Before that, GM had an entire litany of alibis for their slide into Chapter 11. Number one on the “it wazzunt me” hit list: Washington.

The carmaker bitched and moaned that it was being strangled by Washington’s safety regulations, fuel economy mandates, health care policy (take our legacy costs, please!) and foreign policy (plagued as it wasn’t by Japanese currency manipulation and import restrictions). But when it was time to face the music, GM’s suits leaped into Uncle Sam’s loving embrace, glad to become America’s first nationalized automaker.

See, now that’s funny.

Only not really. In truth, companies like GM—and there are more than a few of them—love federal regulations. They happily pass the cost of meeting governmental diktat directly to the consumer. Or, better yet, they get the government to pay for the cost of meeting government regulations. Case in point: Section 136 of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. This greenwashed piece of pork directs the Department of Energy (DOE) to hand out $25 billion worth of no- to low-interest 25-year loans to automakers to retool factories to build cars that satisfy new federal corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) regulations.

Note the hidden dynamic: the federal regs provide an enormous barrier of entry to smaller car companies, who can’t afford to pay for meeting the regs, pass on the costs to their customers or lobby Congress for their share of the pie.

What smaller car companies, you ask? Well, exactly. Electric sports car maker Tesla Motors is the exception that proves the rule: a Silicon Valley start-up that managed to secure itself a $465 million mega-suckle on Uncle Sam’s teat. Otherwise, brash automotive independents are a thing of the past. They’re consigned to the industry’s early history, when federal regulations (and related subsidies and tax credits) were notable by their absence.

The counter to the “Uncle Sam killed the creative cluster” contention: if the feds hadn’t stepped in, automobiles would still be gas-guzzling, toxin-belching, rickety baby killers. The government HAD to sort out the chaos of competition for the public good.

But is that true? If so, why did it take Tesla to finally spur GM’s [previous] Car Czar Bob Lutz into action on the EV front? More to the point, do we really believe that car makers would have failed to provide seat belts, crumple zones, air bags, clean-running engines, etc. if Uncle Sam hadn’t spent huge amounts of time and money twisting their arms?

I know the idea that the carmakers would have done the right thing anyway—simply to remain competitive—runs against the commonly held belief that big companies are fundamentally amoral (i.e. “Capitalism: A Love Story”). As a former GM Death Watcher, I’ll admit that there’s more than a little truth to that assertion. But how did these big companies get to have such a stranglehold on the marketplace in the first place?

Again, you have to look at the role of government regulation and oversight in creating the monolithic manufacturers—before Uncle Sam decided they had to be dragooned into saving lives and protecting the planet and other social goals.

Whether you’re talking about making things or providing health care, President Obama’s “public private partnership” is not new, nor will it do anything to help the American economy get back on its feet. American history is littered with examples of the negative effects of excessive government control of/interference with the private sector. In this I refer you to Jonas Goldberg’s rambling rant, Liberal Fascism. And point my finger at GM.

By promoting Bloom to “fix” America’s manufacturing base, the Obama administration would have us believe that his main man has already “fixed” GM. At best, you could say the jury is still out. At worst, you could mention the fact that GM is a headless, nationalized chicken, running around in a vain, mindless attempt to avoid an inexorable fate brought on by its taxpayer-provided protection from accountability. Or, if you will, it’s a zombie.

To let Ron Bloom loose on other parts of our industrial sector, to encourage him to impose the government’s will upon large companies, is madness; regardless of how willing these large companies are to accept government assistance. The intervention ignores Ronald Reagan’s warning that the most dangerous words in the English language are “We’re from the government and we’re here to help.” Or the message behind that message: that America’s true economic strength lies in its free markets, engendered, fostered and protected by a lack of government interference.

Meanwhile, the Germans are pressuring the Americans to convince GM to let the Russians (fronted by the Canadians) buy GM’s German-financed Opel division. Maybe Big Ron should go sort that shit out. Or not.

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25 Comments on “General Motors Zombie Watch 16: The Russians Are Coming!...”


  • avatar
    menno

    Exactly right, you hit the nail squarely on the head. Again. Still.

    Thank you also for being truthful and honest with your language and referring to “fascism” for what it is. The merger of corporate and national (read: “elite government”) interests (obviously – it goes without saying – and always, at the expense of the rights, privileges, freedom, jobs and welfare of the average person).

  • avatar

    Let’s just get the sequence of events straight. First the industries screw themselves up. Second the administration gets involved.

    I’ve never understood how U.S. regulations harmed Detroit’s competitive position. They had to engineer cars to satisfy one set of regulations. The foreign companies had to engineer cars to satisfy multiple sets of regulations.

    Which is easier?

    Barrier to entry is more like it.

  • avatar
    rnc

    It seems to me that after 20 or so years of actively encouraging US manufacturing to relocate overseas (And we just had the commerce department drop by and tell of us the wonderful opportunities in SA) having an administration encourage domestic industry policy (kind of like Japan, Germany, China, Brazil, India, etc.) isn’t such a bad thing (And I don’t mean the unsustainable defense buildup of the 80′s or the unrealistic bubbles of the 90′s and 00′s).

    In terms of GM, the US did its part, they provided DIP and then got out, GM isn’t in bankruptcy anymore, its thier responsibility (and if it was the other way and the government was still involived in running then that would be blasted, it’s one or the other?)

  • avatar

    rnc:

    In terms of GM, the US did its part, they provided DIP and then got out, GM isn’t in bankruptcy anymore, its thier responsibility (and if it was the other way and the government was still involived in running then that would be blasted, it’s one or the other?)

    Taxpayers still own GM. The 25-member Presidential Task Force on Automobiles still runs it.

  • avatar
    rnc

    Taxpayers still own GM. The 25-member Presidential Task Force on Automobiles still runs it.

    Gee its funny, seems that the new Chairman is the one issuing edicts and that the task force seems to refuse to become involved with the Opel issue also deferring to GM, so in what way are they running it? The same way a majority shareholder runs any corporation, by appointing board members, and then through proxy votes, really don’t see any evidence to the contrary so far.

  • avatar
    menno

    Michael, the barrier to entry theory is EXACTLY what was happening with the federal government regulations put into place starting with the 1968 cars, specifically.

    It’s not a coincidence that the Japanese (specifically Nissan, then sold as Datsun, and Toyota) were chalking up 130% to 150% annual increases in sales from the early 1960′s in the US. This was happening year after year, in 1964, 1965, 1966, etc.

    The idea that the government actually really gave a damn about the safety of the public falls pretty much flat on its face, since Preston Tucker very graphically showed lawmakers – in living (and more succinctly, dying) color – what car accident footage looked like when he was trying to obtain the privilege of buying an ex-government Dodge aircraft factory near Chicago (which he did get).

    None of the politicians went back to Congress and started saying “you know, we should mandate dual circuit brakes like Hudson has; seat belts like airliners have; padded instrument panels like the Tucker is going to have…. to save lives.”

    Considering that Detroit had the technology to literally eliminate 50% of the automobile air pollution for 50 cents per car (as evidenced by early post-war Packards – it is called the PCV valve, positive crankcase ventilation – rather than having cylinder blow by going out a road draft tube) – none of the esteemed leaders saw fit to mandate those until California finally did in 1963. The rest of the US didn’t have them mandated until 1967 or 1968.

  • avatar
    GS650G

    With the firm hand of government at the till how can anyone expect GM to rise from the ashes. We’ll see how long the company makes vehicles the Greens don’t want and then makes cars the public doesn’t want or like. It’s not going to be pretty.

    GM can’t complain about government rules, it never could. For if foreign companies met or exceeded the requirements then what was their problem?

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Regulation being bad and privatization being good are hugely dependent on what you do or do not value. Oh, they also depend on circumstance. And the day of the week. And if it’s being talked about by someone you already agree with.

    Detroit was all for a) regulation and b) fully against public health care when a) ensured a barrier to entry and b) meant lower corporate taxes. But they don’t agree with a) when it adds cost, and are all for b) when it means someone else has to pick up the tab.

    You’ll see examples of this all the time. Even the most hardcore libertarians are (rightfully) twitchy about the idea of a private army, police force or fire brigade, and all but the most self-deluded Stalinists think that a planning for every eventuality is a valid economic proposition.

    Similarly, there’s good and bad reasons to both nationlize GM (eg, to float them through the recession until they can be allowed to fail harmlessly) and to encumber (or not) them with regulation. I, for one, think that the government handled this as well as could be expected**, and cutting them off via an IPO in a year or so is probably the best option: it returns them to the market, and it nets the government both a return and freedom from obligation.

    ** I’d have like to see them exercise some actual control, but that’s just my inner pinko talking.

  • avatar
    TomH

    The Russians aren’t coming, the Russians are here, or at least their structures made the trip and it appears that Ron Bloom is their newest poster boy.

    Using Bloom’s “success” at GM as a credential for expanded powers requires the perspective of the “Mission Accomplished” carrier landing; these guys don’t know what they don’t know and will be shocked by the unintended consequences of their actions.

    You have to wonder if the Czaristas anticipated that the biggest “win” for the US auto industry CARS program would be domination of the list of trade-ins and that the real stimulus would be in accelerating the flight away from US brands. (Dealers excluded, as they were the really big winners.) How does stimulating a “bubble” of Asian car owners help GM?

    As Ray LaHood joyously announced, a lot of cars were sold during CARS in a weak economy, but you also have to wonder how the Politburo will react to the seasonally weak Fall/Winter SAAR exacerbated by the CARS hangover. What happens when the wards of the State fail to reach sustainable sales volumes? (Perhaps they will impose that Russian homily: In for a Kopek, in for a Ruble!)

    GM was failing before and you don’t see a whole lot that’s different in this new Czarist-led economy that would suggest that the New GM will be any more successful. Czarist Russia was toppled by a revolution, but hopefully the US can get past its czarist phase without the drama.

  • avatar
    FleetofWheel

    That large corporations often like complex govt regulations because it erects barriers to entry by new firms is often overlooked by those on the left who think that pro-business means pro big business.

    As cars become more electric and electronic, undoubtedly, some new firms would like to enter the field if the barriers aren’t too high.

  • avatar
    RFP

    I am also a little sick of hearing the Reagan line quoted ad nauseum as some sort of philosopher king’s last absolute missive to his true believers. If you’ve ever had the fire dept. save your house, the police hunt down a crime, or an army defend your country, you would realize what a hollow line this is. It’s a meme, not much else. Otherwise you would logically conclude that the worst thing that could happen to you is to listen to that speech…

    Remember the government is “we, the people” not “we, the shareholders waiting to profit in the short term from every morsel” for a very good reason.

    “We the people” is the background on which the market exists. We have the right to tax, regulate, etc. That is the environment in which GM, Toyota, Hyundai, etc. operate. To then extrapolate from that (“without the government taxing us since 1920, we would have made a profit in 1999″) an evil government hand is childish.

    Don’t get me wrong, regulation can be wrong-headed and usu. follows fashion as much as science, but large corporations such as GM have a way of influencing these regulations that are simply beyond us simple folk. But then Imagine if GM had saved all the money they spent over the years on lobbying and pure PR in an emergency war chest for use in 2008…

    Having said all that I agree with RF’s basics. I didn’t like the bail-out of the car companies. They screwed up once with what they had (a lock on the market and government subsidies), so let them go. But now, I don’t see a problem with overseeing our investment. It’s part of the punishment of needing us to drag you out of the fire. But let’s get out of that business ASAP. If government has anything to add to the market, it’s at 20,000 ft. Not on the ground, in the trenches, as it were.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    “More to the point, do we really believe that car makers would have failed to provide seat belts, crumple zones, air bags, clean-running engines, etc. if Uncle Sam hadn’t spent huge amounts of time and money twisting their arms?”

    Yes, I believe exactly that. Do you have any evidence to the contrary?

    Europe lagged the US in the 1970s and 80s visa-vis safety and emissions regulations. Guess what, European market vehicles during that time were more polluting and less crash worthy than were their US market counterparts. Europe did, however, get better headlights back then thanks to regulatory differences.

    US market cars today would probably be more like current Chinese market cars were it not for stricter regulation of pollution and crash worthiness.

  • avatar
    menno

    Always amused me to listen to Euro-trash trash-talk America with lines like “you Americans are so polluting!”

    Oh, you mean like your fancy Euro-spec car without any emission equipment on it?

    American cars have had catalytic convertors which removed about 95% or more of the air pollution since the autumn of 1974 – and 3-way catalysts and fuel injection enabling about 98% of the air pollution to be removed by 1984.

    It was quite literally when the German’s beloved green forests were dying off, that the EU finally was pushed into catalysts, which were phased in by about 1992 or so. I think luxury cars first, cars under 1.4 litres next then the mainstream 1.5 to 2.0 litre cars were last.

    I also recall being insulted while working in the UK (this was a regular occurrence, despite working for supposedly highly educated scientists). Comments like “you Americans would be smarter if you hadn’t been raised around all that leaded petrol.”

    I’d reply “ah, like the leaded petrol you can still get down at the station here in England, slowly being replaced by no-lead petrol – which happened in the states 18 years ago, you mean, that kind of petrol?”

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    The idea that the government is the consumer’s best friend—a protection against amoral capitalism—needs to be examined very closely.

    Yes, it does.

    What it shouldn’t be is dismissed out of hand because it there’s been a number of occasions where intervention was the better choice.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    I am also a little sick of hearing the Reagan line quoted ad nauseum as some sort of philosopher king’s last absolute missive to his true believers.

    Reagan also said that that the “Scriptures are on our side” in regards to economic, social and military spending. I’m by no means an atheist, but that’s one scary-ass statement and it should make you think very, very hard about the other things Reagan says and the lens through which you should view them.

    That’s actually good advice, in general. When someone like Bob Lutz starts going off about currency manipulation or health care or government intervention or “crocks of shit”, it’s important to think about who he is and why he’s saying it. If nothing else, the hypocrisy can be pretty funny to witness.

  • avatar
    probert

    It’s nice to see right wing rants surface again, after the ban on political statements things were getting a bit dull.

    First: Anyone who quotes Jonas Goldberg loses all credibilty. His stuff is a fantasy.

    Since Reagan, the Republicans have been promulgating the idea that government is the enemy – you versus them. The irony is that they did this to gain power in – wait for it – government. They have crippled its agencies and when they fail because of this – they say:”See, it doesn’t work.” (See New Orleans)

    They leveraged this manufactured fear after 9-11 (which happened on their watch) to: start a war for political reasons that has led to the deaths of thousands of our youth – illegally tap the phones of every American – pass laws that put 90% of the wealth in about 5% of the population – and , in the process, bankrupt the country.

    Why does no-one complain about these trifles. Liberal Fascism indeed.

    Regarding car safety: The fed had to mandate such things as rear view mirrors, tires that could support the vehicle in it’s intended use etc.. Just basic stuff like that. People were dying from fenderbenders because radio knobs penetrated their skulls.

    We get spoiled by the benefits we get from the hard work and sacrifice of others and assume it was just “all there”.

    Nader may be an object of ridicule but you may thank him for many things in cars that have saved millions of lives. And many that have prolonged and helped quality of life such as clean air and clean water.

    He paid a large price for this and eventually one a lawsuit against GM for harassment.

    So when you’re hunting with your buddies and walking amongst trees not killed by acid rain – and drinking from a stream not chemically poisoned – you may want to thank him and other such fascists for giving you a lovely environment in which to revile him and other such fascists.

    It’s the least you can do.

  • avatar
    windswords

    “I’ve never understood how U.S. regulations harmed Detroit’s competitive position. They had to engineer cars to satisfy one set of regulations. The foreign companies had to engineer cars to satisfy multiple sets of regulations.”

    I remember during the 70′s when pollution (and global cooling) were the big fear that the feds started mandating all kinds of regulations which of course all automakers had to meet. This was before mieage became the big Holy Grail. For the US automakers this was difficult enough that they had to put the majority of their engineers on it, to the detriment of others things (like quality/relaibility). In the beginning each one was allowed to come up with their own methodology to control pollution (competition). At Chrysler the engineers were working on the Lean Burn system, the belief being that if you burned more of the fuel as efficiently as possible you would pollute less. They thought they were on the right track, although their first attempts (and cars) were not that good. But then the Feds decide they would pick a winner, the catalytic converter. Maybe that’s well and good, but it would have been better IMO if other methodologies had been developed further, even if they proved unfeasible in the end.

    The Japanese did not have as much a problem with this as their American counterparts. Why? I don’t know, but I surmise some of the reasons were their cars did not polute at much due to their smaller footprint and homegrown technologies of their own (CVCC for example). Some of it may have been that they were just better than us. The bottom line is that our own government is very good at issuing edicts but not very good at figuring out if those edicts can be met without causing some unintended consequences.

  • avatar
    windswords

    probert:

    “Since Reagan, the Republicans have been promulgating the idea that government is the enemy – you versus them.”

    No, it’s out-of-control (and sometimes unconstitutional) government that is the enemy, and needs to be opposed. But to a big government elitist more is well, more (but NEVER enough).

    “The irony is that they did this to gain power in – wait for it – government.”

    Yes, we the people voted them in, because of their position on such issues – and then voted them out when they failed to live up to their (our) standards. It’s called the electoral process. Some would like to do away with it – many try to circumvent it (like ACORN) but it’s a fact of life (for now).

    “They have crippled its agencies and when they fail because of this – they say:”See, it doesn’t work.” (See New Orleans)”

    BS. New Orleans was the fault of local and state government (notice who is the governor of LA now?). The only agency that was really crippled during the last few years was the one who was to watchdog Fanny and Freddy. Maybe you should ask Dodd and Frank about that.

    “They leveraged this manufactured fear after 9-11 (which happened on their watch)…”

    …which was precipitated by what the previous administration did (among them the “wall of separation” (thanks Jaimie!), but most of the time it was by their inaction).

    “…to: start a war for political reasons…”

    That was voted for by most prominent Democrats, including our current Vice President and Secretary of State.

    “…that has led to the deaths of thousands of our youth”

    …and created two democracies in the middle east stradling a theocracy that wnats to develop nuclear weapns – and furthermore has killed tens of thousands of terrorists who would not think twice of killing YOU (and your family) – If this so terrible WHY is Obama still in Iraq and Afghanistan? Why is he sending MORE troops to Afghanistan? Is he fighting the same war for political reasons?

    ” – illegally tap the phones of every American -”

    Major BS. IF you making or receiving calls outside the US and IF you those calls were coming/going from known terrorists and terrorist regions then yes you might be listened to. You think Nancy Pelosi would be opposed to this idea? Think again, she and other Democrat leaders were all for it when she was briefed by the executive branch. Of course after it became public knowledge she was shocked, shocked I tell you that such a program was going on. She shouldn’t have been. It’s a long Democrat tradition. FDR did the same thing in WWII, only the communication medium then was mail coming and going from overseas.

    “pass laws that put 90% of the wealth in about 5% of the population -”

    I want to know what law allowed Franklin Raines, head of Fanny and an Obama supporter to make 96 million in just a few short years.

    “…and, in the process, bankrupt the country.”

    We were not bankrupt then. But we are heading there now on the express train. Tarp, auto bailouts, porkulous bill, with a $ trillion plus more coming for healthcare. But no worries! When it blows up in their faces they can blame Republicans, or conservatives, or Glen Beck. At least we will be able to burn our money for heat. That may be all it’ll be good for.

  • avatar
    geeber

    John Horner: Yes, I believe exactly that. Do you have any evidence to the contrary?

    Ford installed deep-dish steering wheels, stronger door locks and inside rear view mirrors designed to “give way” in a crash on its 1956 models. It also offered safety belts and a padded dash as optional equipment that year – all without government intervention. Check out Ford ads from that year – they prominently mention the “Lifeguard” safety features.

    As a reward for its efforts, Ford was promptly whipped by Chevrolet in the sales race that year, which advertised that “The Hot One is Even Hotter.” Chevrolet even installed a neat little pointed nob in the center of its steering wheels.

    Your real beef is with the paying customers. If they were really concerned about safety, Ford would have been the best-selling brand in 1956. It didn’t work out that way.

    probert: Since Reagan, the Republicans have been promulgating the idea that government is the enemy – you versus them. The irony is that they did this to gain power in – wait for it – government. They have crippled its agencies and when they fail because of this – they say:”See, it doesn’t work.” (See New Orleans)

    The failure in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina was rooted in the actions of the state and local governments. Both levels of government failed to properly respond to a disaster that they had been warned about for years.

    Disaster recovery is primarily the responsibility of STATE and LOCAL governments. The Governor of Louisiana at that time – Kathleen Blanco – is a Democrat, as is current New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin.

    Remember that it was the hated Wal-Mart that first got supplies to the devastated city.

    probert: They leveraged this manufactured fear after 9-11 (which happened on their watch) to: start a war for political reasons that has led to the deaths of thousands of our youth – illegally tap the phones of every American – pass laws that put 90% of the wealth in about 5% of the population – and , in the process, bankrupt the country.

    The current president – a Democrat – voted in favor of the hated amendments to Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) last summer, so he must have liked what they did, too.

    And no one “passed a law” that affects wealth distribution. The wealthy pay a HIGHER percentage of total federal income taxes paid than they did when the top rates were set at much higer levels in the 1950s and 1960s. This has been documented by numerous researchers.

    Why? Because there were more loopholes in those days, and most people who could use them did.

    probert: Nader may be an object of ridicule but you may thank him for many things in cars that have saved millions of lives. And many that have prolonged and helped quality of life such as clean air and clean water.

    The death rate per 100 million vehicle miles traveled had been dropping since the 1920s – or long before Ralph Nader was born (in 1934), or before the federal government began mandating vehicle safety items (beginning with the 1967 model year).

    Part of that was because of better roads and stricter licensing requirements, but the only logical conclusion is that cars were also becoming safer during that time, too. Cars were getting safer before Ralph Nader began his crusade.

    He was also wrong on certain subjects, too. He advocated the installation of air bags as the PRIMARY safety restraint, to be used instead of safety belts. The auto makers were correct in asserting that air bags WITHOUT safety belts are quite dangerous, and that states needed to first pass mandatory seat belt laws to make the bags really effective. He berated them for this stance in the 1970s.

    And he was completely wrong in advocating the retention of first, the 55 mph and then, later, the 65 mph national speed limit. He ran around squawking that the repeal of the national speed limit in late 1994 would result in 6,000 extra deaths. Turns out that he was off by a huge amount – the total only increased by less than 100, and it was explained largely by a booming economy (more people on the road, and much more pleasure driving, which tends to be when accidents occur).

    The real measure of highway safety – fatalities per 100 million miles driven – actually DECLINED in 1995, or the first full year without the national speed limit, and continued to decline, even as more states raised their limits, and people drove faster than ever.

    Driving 80 mph instead of 55 mph on limited access highway doesn’t “kill”; it isn’t dangerous; and, quite frankly, only the terminally clueless would assert otherwise.

    I don’t ridicule Mr. Nader. It would be nice, however, if he would learn to utter the words “I was wrong” once in awhile, instead of believing in his own infallibility. And his equation of speed=death did a real disservice to car design in this country. When you only have to design a car that can handle 55 mph on a limited access highway…well, you get gems like the 1977 “downsized” Thunderbird, or 1980 Cadillac Seville, or the 1976 Dodge Aspen/Plymouth Volare.

    probert: So when you’re hunting with your buddies and walking amongst trees not killed by acid rain – and drinking from a stream not chemically poisoned – you may want to thank him and other such fascists for giving you a lovely environment in which to revile him and other such fascists.

    Many companies had begun cleaning up their emissions before the 1960s. Donora, Pa., for example, was blanketed in a killer smog in October 1948. Over 20 people died within a five-day period, and another 50 died soon afterward. (This was in a town of about 14,000 people.)

    The town was blanketed in a smog that was a mixture of auto emissions and smoke from the Donora Zinc Works and the American Steel and Wire plant. There wasn’t another killer smog in Donora in the 1950s or 1960s.

    Pittsburgh also launched clean-up and revitalization efforts in the 1950s.

    The Cuyahoga River in Ohio caught fire in 1969, but it attracted attention because it was a rare event by then. Rivers catching on fire had been MORE common in prior decades.

    Federal regulations are an attempt to make sure that standards are uniformly applied, and that all areas enjoy the same level of environmental protection. Prior to the 1960s, the level of concern about the environment tended to be very localized, with some areas benefiting from government and/or company action, and other areas not caring at all.

    The environmental movement of the 1960s also benefited from a booming economy, which brought the issue to the forefront. Why? Because with a rise in total income comes increased environmental awareness (this has been documented, and not just in the United States).

    When people are not worried about food, clothing and shelter (i.e., survival), they turn their attention to quality-of-life matters. Talk to some elderly Pittsburgh residents – in the 1920s and 1930s, smoke belching from the steel mills meant that they were working at full blast. As many working class Pittsburghers said, “Smoke meant jobs.” A completely different attitude…

  • avatar
    windswords

    “Remember that it was the hated Wal-Mart that first got supplies to the devastated city.”

    And the hated religious groups were distributing them.

  • avatar
    Geotpf

    windswords :
    September 8th, 2009 at 1:15 pm

    I remember during the 70’s when pollution (and global cooling) were the big fear that the feds started mandating all kinds of regulations which of course all automakers had to meet.

    Global cooling was never a scientific accepted fact, or anything close to such, in the 1970′s. Time magazine wrote an article on it; that was about it. Stop reposting right-wing propoganda.

    As for the theory of this post-if you don’t like government regulation, move to some place without such. You know, a paradise like Somalia.

  • avatar
    geeber

    Geotpf: Global cooling was never a scientific accepted fact, or anything close to such, in the 1970’s. Time magazine wrote an article on it; that was about it. Stop reposting right-wing propoganda.

    I doubt that Time didn’t include quotations and theories from scientists. The article wasn’t just several pages of musings by Time staffers on what would happen if the earth cooled.

    Geotpf: As for the theory of this post-if you don’t like government regulation, move to some place without such. You know, a paradise like Somalia.

    A false choice. The implication is that if we didn’t have the EPA or OSHA, or if Ralph Nader were just another Ivy League lawyer peddling around on his bicycle, we’d be ruled by gun-toting warlords.

    That completely ignores the differences in culture, geography and attitudes towards business and profit in both countries, as well as the importance of the family unit versus the respect accorded a central government in the U.S. and Somalia.

    We didn’t have those things in the 1890s, and while I certainly wouldn’t want to go back to that era, I note that life in the U.S. then was nothing like life in Somalia today.

  • avatar
    probert

    Author: windswords
    Comment:
    “Remember that it was the hated Wal-Mart that first got supplies to the devastated city.”

    I don’t know how this popped up – or whether anyone said they hated religion. Many people, including Jews,Muslims, Christians, atheists – were there to help – religion had nothing to do with it – rather basic humanity.

    I don’t know how Walmart got in here – was it in the old testament or the new? Regardless – Indeed they did send supplies and more power to them. Unfortunately – Fema held up the delivery as the city was cordoned off by the military.

    The head of Fema was a former (failed) horse show judge. This was who Bush appointed as he decimated federal agencies.

    As for the rest let’s say it with song

  • avatar
    probert

    Geeber makes some interesting points on pollution. And I agree on the role of federal regulations. I also agree that in some cases the left can be elitist in their attempts to help others lead a better life. This is implied here: “When people are not worried about food, clothing and shelter (i.e., survival), they turn their attention to quality-of-life matters. Talk to some elderly Pittsburgh residents – in the 1920s and 1930s, smoke belching from the steel mills meant that they were working at full blast. As many working class Pittsburghers said, “Smoke meant jobs.” A completely different attitude…”

    and it’s very true.

    But this is the richest country in the history of mankind and this should no longer be the case. Reagan said:”Where’s the Beef?” and I say:”where’s the money?” 1% of the population has 25% of the wealth and that’s not by chance. The wealth distribution is worse than many of the former Latin American dictatorships.

    The wealthy pay less in taxes than they have since the days of Carnegie. This certainly was promulgated by increasingly less progressive taxes, coupled by the erosion of the public space. No longer is there a feeling that one should give something back for all the benefits one has gained.

    And no one “passed a law” that affects wealth distribution. The wealthy pay a HIGHER percentage of total federal income taxes paid than they did when the top rates were set at much higer levels in the 1950s and 1960s. This has been documented by numerous researchers.

    Why? Because there were more loopholes in those days, and most people who could used them did.

    Hey – I’m just a punk, here’s Warren Buffet – Also known as the 2nd richest man in the world:

    “Buffett told lawmakers that because of the cuts to the capital gains tax passed under former President George W. Bush, he pays taxes at a lower rate than some of his company’s employees.

    It is an argument the investor has made before. Buffett said he paid a 16.5 percent tax rate on all his income because the tax rate on investment dividends and long-term capital gains is only 15 percent.

    By contrast, a single employee at Buffet’s firm, Berkshire Hathaway, who earns between $33,000 and $83,000 must pay a 25 percent federal income tax rate.”

    And payroll tax on someone earning minimum wage is also 25%. On the spot – no chance to collect a little interest.

  • avatar
    97escort

    While I agree Ron Bloom is totally unqualified to save manufacturing, faith in unfettered free markets has proved time and again not to work. The latest failure being 30 years of Reaganism and the collapse of 2008.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ron_Bloom

    It has long been the Federal policy in banking, manufacturing and other areas to facilitate the amalgamation of smaller enterprises into ever larger units in the hopes of creating efficiencies of scale. That is why we have monster banks, corporate farming and GM. The problem is that when these large institutions reach a certain size they in effect become like the government itself and are too big to fail since failure is a threat to the economy and thus to politicians looking ahead to the next election.

    Small business failures are no problem since other successful small firms can take their place quickly, but not so with large firms. The policy failure in banking and other areas is that when small firms get in trouble they are not bailed out but are encouraged to combine into larger, hopefully more viable, entities. But when these larger entities get in trouble, then they are bailed out.

    Then these large bailed out firms become economic zombies sucking blood from the rest of the economy.


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