Sunday

Detroit Needs Help

When Congress threw billions of dollars at Wall Street's minions and the Bankers boardrooms, there were few everyday people who like the idea and we were with them. Perhaps it was because Wall Street and Bankers do not produce anything "real" to most of us. They play with our money and make money off of it in ways that the rest of us don't understand. All we know is we work for a living and they live off of us. But then there's Detroit, and that's different.

In a country that invented the automobile industry, it is inconceivable that the industry could go down the drain or bought up by foreigners, never mind the fact that we're really practically all foreigners anyway at least at our roots. It's just wrong.

Out of all brands of motor vehicles, only 5 had higher sales in October than the same time last year and not one of them was American made. There's something wrong with an industry that is so out of touch that they are losing money hand over fist while Audi, Ferrari, Mini Cooper, Rolls Royce and Smart are making it.

At a time when the overall US sales are down 31.9%, Min sales were up 56%, Ferrari sales were up 44% and Rolls was up 76%.

It's certainly true that Detroit needs help. GM's prediction that at the present rate it will run out of money in the middle of 2009 had to convince any skeptic that remained. But what to do, oh what to do.

The simple fact is that this society can not let Detroit fail. Why? Because every small town in America has a local auto parts store and that's just the obvious tip of the iceberg. Too many jobs in our economy depend on the auto industry. Washington has to step in and help out. After all, at least in Detroit they actually make things and that's a lot better than just juggling dollar bills and stock certificates.

However, if the industry is to survive it must evolve. Gasoline engines are marvelous but outdated and about as "ungreen" as one can get. Washington ought to make loans to Detroit and tie them to new technologies that can revolutionize the industry and put it on the best path for long-term dominance of the very industry which it created. That means fossil fuel burning engines have to go.

Whether it's electric power or what, who knows, but it's time for Detroit to tighten its belt even more, invent something new, invest heavily in places it has not gone. In short, to evolve.

Sure, we'e okay with giving Detroit loans, but tie it to planning for the future and not to paying for past mistakes.