Monday, February 27, 2012

Halftime in America...or 2-Minute Warning?

You'd be forgiven if you weren't too inspired by the Chrysler sponsored Super Bowl piece delivered by unlikely pitchman, Clint Eastwood.

The halftime message featured the gravelly-voiced film icon declaring that Detroit is back up off its back and "Motor City is fighting again" because "we all pulled together" and America too must now "come together" and "rally around what's right" because "our second half is about to begin."

Apart from getting union flag wavers and jingoistic types all full of goose bumps, the bit did little for the rest of us.  Yes, you could argue that Detroit is on a bit of a "comeback" after being knocked down, but let's not forget who knocked them down in the first place. The US automotive industry limped to halftime, aided by the taxpayer and there would not have been a halftime without the bailout. What's more is that Chrysler was bailed out once before in 1979 only to return to the familiar government teat, so you could say that this go-round is more like the 2-minute warning, rather than halftime. It's late in the game and inefficient management, overly generous union contracts, inferior products, and unsustainable retiree benefits have made the chances of a comeback next to impossible.

So Clint, what saved Chrysler will also save America? Well, before anyone starts waving their flag, remember that Italy's Fiat owns nearly 60% of Chrysler, many of its lines are manufactured in Canada and Mexico, and its engines are only roaring because of a huge pile of cash that the American taxpayer could ill afford to provide.

If the second half in America is truly about to begin, we'd be wise not to forget Ben Franklin's definition of insanity, "...doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."