While this isn’t an unprecedented move – Chrysler requested and received a $1 billion government bailout in 1979 – given the questions surrounding the efficacy of the Chrysler bailout, the state of the American economy as a whole, the fact that the taxpayers just bailed out a bunch of banks, GM CEO Richard Wagoner’s salary increase this year despite GM’s losses since 2005, the fact that Honda and Toyota have managed to keep their businesses going and maintain American plants that employ American auto workers, GM’s aggressive investment in China (thus giving thousands of auto industry jobs to Chinese citizens, while simultaneously claiming that America needs this bailout to save American jobs), and the fact that the American auto industry has spent the past decade proudly and churlishly churning out SUV’s and making no effort toward smaller, fuel-efficient vehicles in spite of a global oil shortage and a war in the Middle East…
Well, all of those things added up are a recipe for a collective sigh on behalf of the American people. Sure, there’s a credit crisis. But there’s something else, too.
A simple look at the SUV t-shirts on our site sums it up: these gas-guzzling beasts are bad for the environment, sure. But they’re also impractical, particularly in light of peak oil and the fact that we’re at war in the Gulf region. The content protesting the American move toward vehicles that have continued to get larger and more fuel inefficient in spite of so many inconvenient truths has continued to grow throughout the Bush presidency, the collective voice of an eco/socio/politically-conscious group that has watched in frustrated wonderment as the “bigger is better” mantra has been held up by the American auto industry as a symbol of our very patriotism. There was GM’s Hummer, Ford’s Expedition, Chevy’s mammoth Kodiak… heck, even Volkswagen got into the action by unleashing the massive Touareg to American markets (not available in Germany).
Whether the Big 3 will get its bailout has yet to be determined. What is certain is that, for a large number of t-shirt makers ’round these parts, bailing out the same people that proudly made Hummers a household name and urged soccer moms to trade in their minivans for V8 SUV’s is an even tougher sell than a 2009 Hummer.