Tuesday, February 07, 2012

The myth of us all pulling together

Rich Lowry exposes the bad history behind Chrysler's Clint Eastwood ad.
Eastwood says that Americans are hurting and that “the people of Detroit know a little something about this. They almost lost everything. But we all pulled together. Now, Motor City is fighting again.”

We all pulled together? As euphemism, this is clever; as history, it is false. Congress never approved the bailouts. Given the option to do so explicitly, it declined. The Bush and Obama administrations acted on their own, diverting TARP funds to Detroit regardless of the letter of the law. In Eastwood’s telling, a legally dubious act of executive highhandedness qualifies as patriotic collective action.

By this standard, any initiative of government must be a stirring exercise in people’s power. Remember when we all pulled together to back the solar-panel maker Solyndra to the tune of $500 million? Right now, we are all pulling together to try to force Catholic institutions to pay for contraceptives and morning-after abortifacients for their employees.

See? There’s nothing we can’t do — together.
This is the liberals' current defense of big government programs. Barney Frank started it by saying that "Government is the name that we give for the things we choose to do together." As Jim Geraghty wrote,
While the phrase may sound good to Frank and laid off Hallmark card copywriters, it’s meaningless and stupid. Apparently the things we choose to do together include IRS audits, seizing privately-held land under Kelo v. City of New London, building Bridges to Nowhere, giving subsidies to sugar producers and foreign aid to the Egyptian government, bans on the use of private land because endangered species may be present at times, and the line at the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Having said that, it’s nice to see Patrick, Frank, and the Democrats recognizing that the Iraq War, the interrogation of detainees, eavesdropping on suspected terrorists, esearch and development on advanced weapons systems, and capital punishment are “things we do together.”
It sounds rather different put that way, doesn't it?

Mollie Hemingway has another list.
So, they say, government's just a word for things we choose to do together. I like thinking about this phrase when I look at some of the asinine things we choose to do together, such as:

Fine 11-year-old girls $535 for saving a baby woodpecker.

Other things we've chosen to do together?

Fine a Minnesota man $275 for volunteering without a license.

Arrest people for feeding the homeless.

Fine people $90K for letting their kid sell more than $500 in bunnies.

Charge people with misdemeanors for growing vegetable gardens.

Force a 95-year-old woman in a wheelchair to remove her adult diaper.

Shut down kids' lemonade stands.

Fine churches $100 per branch for unauthorized tree pruning. (links in original)
You can fill in the blank for all sorts of asinine government programs whether you're a liberal or conservative. That's the danger of having a political policy based on a platitude. Just remember how we're doing it all together every time you read of the government doing something stupid.

Back to the platitudes of the Eastwood ad:
What Chrysler and GM desperately needed in their extremity was to go through Chapter 11 reorganization to pare down wages and benefits, shed uneconomical dealerships and ditch unnecessary brands.

When the government got its hooks in them, it politicized this process and threw some $80 billion at the companies. Since we’ll never get an estimated $23 billion back, we all must be “pulling together” behind Detroit still.

Amid all the patriotic piety, Eastwood neglects to mention that Chrysler is now 58.5 percent owned by Fiat, an Italian company. The heart-tugging images of Turin, Italy, apparently were left on the cutting-room floor.

Walking near the end of his tunnel, Eastwood assures us of our hoped-for national comeback: “Detroit’s showing us it can be done. And what’s true about them is true about all of us.” Yet if Detroit is the model for our future, we should prepare for national collapse.

Yes, it’s getting a boost from resurgent auto sales. Otherwise, it remains a byword for urban apocalypse. More than anything, the city is a standing warning of the perils of social disorder and unaffordable, dysfunctional government.

The entire tone of the Eastwood ad is martial. We must resist “discord” and “come together,” we have to take a “punch” and “win.”

Understandably, Obama politicos David Axelrod and Dan Pfeiffer immediately tweeted their approval. The ad echoes President Obama’s rhetoric of militarylike national unity from his State of the Union address. This message is profoundly at odds with the messy competition and self-interested individual effort necessarily attendant to a true free-market economy.

It is good that Chrysler and GM are now off life-support, but they took a lot of money we’ll never recover. A simple apology would be nice. Surely, Clint Eastwood could be hired to deliver an impressively sincere-sounding one.
No wonder Eastwood is trying to back away from the political nuances of his ad. After all, he says he opposed the auto bailout and denies that there was any political endorsement implied in the ad. Well, that is one of the problems when the government gets involved in private business. Henceforth, every action by that company will have political overtones. Suddenly, the car you choose to purchase carries with it a political statement with heated responses on both sides.

But hey, that's just one of the things we choose to do together.