It's becoming common knowledge that the Republican push for 'personal responsibility' is an odd duck. It may look like one, and act like one, but it ain't no duck. No, the 'personal responsibility' of the modern Republican Party is a far more specialized creature. What they mean by that phrase is that people should be punished for any form of uppity behavior. See, the reality is actually the inverse of what they advertise. By using the old-fashioned phrase 'personal responsibility', they encourage us to picture images of The Andy Griffith Show and heroic soldiers signing up for military service right after the attack on Pearl Harbor. You know . . . personal responsibility, the kind our grandparents would have recognized. Standing up and paying for your crime, or for the privilege of living in this culture, by openly admitting the situation and doing the time, or the service, whatever it takes.
'Uppity behavior' on the other hand (my term for what the Republicans REALLY mean by 'personal responsibility') has absolutely nothing to do with the community. Uppity behavior means disobeying the father figure. It means daring to have sex before the permission to marry is granted. It means daring to vote in a way other than that prescribed by the leader of your party. It means questioning the wisdom of the king. And it means explaining the universe in ways that don't agree with the official word of the Father (yeah, THAT one) or even the word of some 'visionaries' who supposedly wrote in his name at some point in the past millennium.
Now, it would be common in this forum for me to start listing all of the lapses of 'personal responsibility' (our version of the term) that have occurred and illustrated the hypocrisy of the Republican political class, but that's not my point. My point here, instead, is to point out the failure of personal responsibility out here in the rest of the country. And I'm not talking about poor people who commit crimes, go to jail, and fail to provide for their families. No, those are the poster children for the Republican version. Those are the people who had it hard, and screwed up, and got in trouble with the community, and are paying the price. Actually, they aren't the crisis in personal responsibilty for which the Republicans need to be held accountable. We seem to be highly efficient at punishing those who are guilty of being poor and unloved.
What I'm talking about, as I did in my diary last month about the gathering storm of bad news facing the common man (and woman) of our society, is the failure of personal responsibility of leadership by our corporations. GM is going to lay off 30,000 employees next year. And yet more again of those precious jobs that pay living wages to those with only a high school education disappear. When was it that we decided that only having a high school education meant that you had to be poor? I want to know when that memo was passed around. Because we seem to be living under that rule of thumb these days.
The failure I see in our culture is one of corporate leadership. The plants being shut down are those that make those big SUVs that no one is suddenly buying. We pay our corporate executives hundreds of times the salaries of those on the assembly line. That's supposed to buy us good leadership. What it buys us instead is a United States auto industry that has mortgaged its soul to the profits brought about by selling gas-guzzlers to a world of dwindling resources. These are leaders who have all the necessary facts, but who have willfully decided to ignore them thanks to their goose-stepping march to the Republican drumbeat. Progress means bigger, more, higher, faster, . . .but mostly just MORE. It certainly doesn't mean 'more efficient' or 'better'. When a company like Apple is beating the tuchus off of Sony in a market that that Japanese powerhouse formerly dominated with an iron grip bordering on the Stalinistic, namely portable music players, why can't the U.S. auto industry respond to the world with something other than flumoxed incomprehension?? Hell, Apple is even beating Sony IN JAPAN! I'll grant that many of the products that Apple makes are manufactured overseas, but the leadership and the vision, the design and the infrastructure, are built here in the United States. But Apple is the exception. Just about the only one. (I don't know if Apple's success has anything to do with Al Gore being on the Board of Directors, but I have my suspicions that these two truths are linked.)
I look to the just-released Honda Civic line of cars, the entire range of which were just granted the Motor Trend 'Car of the Year' award, and I glance at the offerings of Detroit and I can only grimace. Honda and Toyota had the vision to spend the last 10 years building the technology for the world that is not the world that Republican politicians wish it were. They are justifiably proud of what they've done, and they should be. This is a world in which energy will be expensive and in which efficiency matters. No wonder GM is losing market share. Honda and Toyota have a right to be proud of their leadership in this area.
Scott Shields over at MyDD has a great write-up about the link between the failure of GM and the political predilections of its leaders. I do believe that there's a link.
The warped world view of the Republican-leaning leaders of U.S. corporations is leading our economy down a rat-hole. And it's killing our working class. Or as the professor of my business school's executive leadership class said to us last week: "GM has serious problems and a lot of people are going to get hurt, but not you. You guys have been smart and are getting your MBAs. You'll be above that whole mess." The funny thing is, they really believe that blather. Right. The economy collapses. Do they really think they'll be able to get multi-million dollar salaries when they've driven all of their multi-billion dollar companies into the ditch? I really think they do. They have, after all, proven they lack any vision that's attached to reality. You know, the reality out here, connected to the real world where George W. Bush is not alway correct and in which the U.S. isn't always inherently in the right and in which oil is somehow an infinite resource.
The personal responsibility I'd like to see is that the leadership at GM take an across the board pay cut of 75 percent, and they all, collectively call for universal healthcare. It would help to cut the costs inside their company, and it would level the playing field somewhat in the international automotive industry. Those leaders, and the people in the Republican party who give them their
marching orders, need to give up their lame duck definition of personal responsibility and come back to the real world definition. Come on, GM! Time to get a bit uppity with the Republican politicians who have been giving you orders for the last 40 years. You are all losing your fatted calf. Time to step up, admit it, take your lumps, and help the greater community.
Do I think they will? No, or course not. So it's time for the rest of us in the U.S. community to replace that
leadership as well. We replace the political leaders in Washington in 2006 and 2008. But we also need to replace the corporate leadership out here in the rest of the country as soon as we possibly can.
They are failing us all. And they need to be held personally responsible for it.