Fashion Update: Green Is the New Red


The news has been full of Democratic plans to "jump start" and "stimulate" the economy. Dissatisfied with trillions of Republican string-pushing stimuli directed to Wall Street, the Democrats want to push their own strings. Both President-elect Obama and Speaker of the House Pelosi announced this past week that they would like the government to bail out the US auto industry. Their rhetoric, however, sounds more like a takeover than a bailout. In her remarks, Pelosi indicated that a bailout would allow the government to exert more influence and control over the auto industry and that such a bailout will lead to the manufacturing of more "green" cars. The true goal of the Democrats’ takeover is not to make the industry green, but rather to make it red by employing government to seize private property and private manufacturing capacity.

The Democrats’ political goal is transparent — they want to use the government to provide make-work employment for hundreds of thousands of overpaid and Democrat-voting union workers for at least four years and, if everything goes according to plan, eight. That this is a foolish idea from an economic standpoint is beyond dispute. Remember all of those great Soviet cars from 1917 to 1989? Remember Soviet bread lines? Government takeover of the US auto industry will be no different than other socialist forays into the free market. It will necessarily lead to a very large supply of cars for which there is little demand and very large demand for cars for which there is little supply. This is because the goal of the owners of the business (the government) will not be to make marketable cars, but to engineer society. The cars produced will not be what people want but what the social planners think people "should" want. If the bailout goes through it will therefore be the beginning of the end of the US auto industry. The classic cars of the next decade will more than likely come from nations that stay out of the private manufacturing process — China, Russia, South Korea and Japan.

The Democrats’ rhetoric highlights an all-too familiar rhetorical device. When the average person (IQ between 95 and 105) hears the term "green" they think happy thoughts. They think conservation, frugality and non-wastefulness. When politicians use the term green, however, Machiavellian thoughts dance through their heads. They think government control, subsidization of political constituencies and punishment of political opponents. Do not think that the Democrats do not know what they are doing and do not know the harm that it will cause. In four, eight or 12 years, when the Democrats are about to lose political control, look for the need to "privatize" the industry by selling its assets to monied Democrats. And it is not just the Democrats who play this game. The Republican-sponsored infusion of $850 billion in "capital" to the nine biggest banks in the country is no different in its motivation or its uneconomic effect.

It is a pity that real greens do not see through the ruse. A real green person is someone who is actually frugal and non-wasteful and does not expect or use the government to pass a law mandating his behavior.

A neighbor of mine who just passed away exemplifies a real green person. 85-year old Willie Stang was 5 years old when his father was killed in a farm accident. Willie’s family was forced to sell the farm and move into a small town where his mother remarried. He graduated from high school and went to trade school to become a machinist. He married, raised seven children, put them all through private school, and became a very successful contractor and real estate developer. Willie was a big-game hunter, outdoorsman and an avid bicyclist and motorcyclist. He traveled the entire world and had he not passed away would right now be on a bicycle trip with his daughter in South Africa. Up to the day he died he could hop on his 1970’s era 30-pound Schwinn and ride for more the 50 miles. Willie was also very, very green. At the same time he was building a successful business, he and his bride Barb minimized their "carbon footprint" by raising their 9-person family in a duplex in South Minneapolis. When the children were gone, Willie built his dream home — a 2400-square-foot south-facing split-level rambler with skylights, no furnace, a wood-burning stove, and 16-inch super-insulated concrete walls. One day while at the local dump, Willi joyously spotted a stainless steel hot water heater that someone had impudently abandoned. He brought it home and used it as a "tempering tank." To save the cost of heating city water from 45 degrees to the 130-or-so degrees necessary for hot water, he routed the city water to pass first into the stainless steel tempering tank inside the house where the ambient air temperature naturally heated the water to 60 to 70 degrees before it flowed into the hot water heater. As a self-employed developer and self-made man, Willie had little time for the social planners who wanted only to confiscate the fruits of his labor. While hunting Moose with his son Tim in Montana, Willie told Tim that he wanted to die like Hatchet Jack, the character in Jeremiah Johnson, alone in the wilderness frozen under a tree with his gun clutched in his frozen hands. Willie Stang was green. Nancy Pelosi is red.

Bill Butler Archives