Wonderful story for an old Detroit homeboy in today's New York Times chronicling the incredible comeback and stunning success of Chrysler. Since emerging from bankruptcy and repaying all of its government loans, Chrysler Group LLC has leaped ahead of global competitors, according to the Times:
"On Thursday, Chrysler reported that it earned $473 million in the first quarter, more than quadruple its $116 million profit in the period a year earlier and topping its entire net income for 2011."
This, only three years after Obama bailed them out.
It's hard to imagine a more pointed or powerful endorsement of the auto bailouts or of the president's basic view of the country. Do you have to be from Detroit to get it? Certainly not, but it helps.
The Times story points to car design and engineering -- both look and performance, especially on gas mileage -- as big reasons people are snapping up Chrysler products again. If you're from there, you know in your heart it all goes back to the cars, and the cars go back to the people who make them.
In its best times, from the days before Henry Ford to the '60s and muscle cars, Detroit has always been about engineering and flash. The auto industry didn't emerge from the farm equipment sector. It came out of racing. Well into the 1920s Detroit car-makers were covered only in the sports sections of American newspapers. Cars were interesting because they were faster than bicycles.
The bailout put hope and heart back into an incredibly valuable national asset -- the women and men of the American car business. Now they're kicking ass again.
Economist/columnist Paul Krugman also has a piece in today's Times about what he calls the myth of the "Confidence Fairy." He's talking about the notion, dearly held by conservatives here and in Europe, that confidence will return to world economic systems if our nations will just cut back some more on government programs, allow more industries to die and put more people into poverty.
It was a core belief of Herbert Hoover, 31st president of the United States (1929-1933) , now remembered chiefly for adding "Great" to the name of the 1930s depression.
Krugman points out that this notion of success through punishment has been demonstrated again and again to be not merely a nonstarter but enormously destructive. And yet the devotees of austerity, whom he calls "the austerians," cling to it for reasons that can only be Jungian. Maybe they just like watching stuff die.
That's wrong. They're sick. We should celebrate life and exuberant productivity. Confidence comes from confidence, not punishment.
The proof is Chrysler. Obama's right. This is a great country. People here are tough, creative and hard-working. We need to get past the slander and believe in ourselves again.
I'm not a wide-eyed believer in all things governmental any more than you are, but anything government can do to help crank things up again is money in the bank for all of us.
Imported from Detroit. So cool. I'm going to put that on my business cards. No. I'm going to get a marker pen and write it on my forehead.
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