While Washington and the media fixates on Iraq, here in the midwest many people are so hopelessly myopic as to be more concerned about such rank mundanities as paying the mortgage and saving money for their childrens’ college expenses.
But before liberal elitists pause from writing checks to build schools in Africa to disparge such self-centeredness, they should consider the following: Over the last decade hundreds of thousands of well-paying jobs have been wiped out as the U.S. domestic automotive companies continue to lose market share. The practical economic consequences have yet to fully play themselves out–e.g. declining property values in Michigan have left thousands of home owners holding properties of less value than their mortages.
The standard-issue explanation for the fall of GM and Ford and Chrysler is one of pure Darwinian economics–the Toyotas of the world simply build better cars. Certainly there have been blunders, the main one being giving the union the keys to bank during auto boom days of the 70s and 80s. Yet reports coming out of the currently running International Automotive Show in Detroit (where General Motors won both the car- and truck-of-the-year awards) question the validity of ascribing the loss of domestic automakers’ market share solely to the forces of free-market purism. Indeed, the perception that Japanese- and European-built cars are better is at odds with the objective crtieria used to measure quality. In one study conducted by J.D. Powers and Associates, 70% of consumers said they would avoid buying an American built car because of lower perceived quality, compared to only 14% who would avoid buying a Japanese brand car, and only 3% who would avoid buying a European car brand. Yet according to vehicle quality studies measuring problems per vehicle in the first 90 days of ownership, American-built cars and trucks are better than European brands, and very comparable to Japanese brands. GM has 8 of the top 10 assembly plants for quality in the U.S.; whereas the highest ranked Toyota plant is 16th. GM has five models that get similar gas mileage to Toyota’s much acclaimed Prius hybrid (about 36 miles per gallon in practice) and carry no price premium.
If American auto companys’ declining market share, and the subsequent loss of thousands of well-paying jobs, is at least partly a result of faulty perception, the question is, how did that perception get created? We have to look no further than the bashing the domestics have received by mainstream and trade-press media over the years. In Europe and Japan, domestic corporations are sources of pride. In America, on the other hand, where journalitic integrity is equated with anti-corporate views, trashing American business is de rigueur and blood sport–it doesn’t matter if the company is GM or Microsoft or ExxonMobil.
In psychology, self-hatred is taken as a sign of severe mental malfunction. In America, through the leftist lenses of hollywood and the media, it is promoted as moral virtue. This self-contempt is a product of the invention and selling of simplified story lines demonizing and mocking American values, power, workmanship by selective, biased means. The sellers of these story lines have learned it is the quickest way to secure their own self-esteem and prestige. It is, sadly, the new American way.
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