Swans Commentary » swans.com July 16, 2012  



Blips #127
 From The Martian Desk


by Gilles d'Aymery





"She sang a heavenly lullaby,
The song of renunciation
By which the people, that giant clown,
Is lulled from its lamentation."

—Heinrich Heine


(Swans - July 16, 2012)   BROKEN SYSTEM: Remember when Barack Obama took office in January 2009 and the economy was getting close to the edge of the proverbial cliff? He, and his administration, kept blaming Bush & Co. Four years later, the economy remains near the edge of the cliff, but it's getting harder to blame the last administration. In France, with a public debt close to 90% of GDP, an unemployment rate of over 10%, and a trade deficit of about €70 billion, the new administration of President Hollande is left with -- what else? -- blaming Sarkozy & Co. Never mind that in both countries (and others) the socioeconomic system was made and broken by all political parties in unison for over 30 years.

LETTER WRITER Alouette Arouet mentions that PSA Peugeot-Citroën, may lay off 10,000 workers and close a manufacturing plant. Actually, since she wrote her letter, PSA has officially announced that the group was going to lay off 8,000 people and shut down its plant in Aulney-sous-Bois, near Paris, which will cause an additional 24,000 jobs to be lost (parts suppliers). The government has found the PSA decision "unacceptable" and has directed an "expert" to examine the financial situation of the car company.

THERE IS SOMETHING fishy about all this. The government holds a substantial stake in Renault, which produces only 23% of its vehicles in France. PSA, a private group still controlled by the Peugeot family, produces almost 45% of its vehicles in France. PSA has focused its marketing efforts in Europe. It also has a major foreign market in Iran. However, the government, trying to squeeze Iran through economic sanctions, forbade PSA to export almost 200,000 vehicles to the country. Further more, PSA was asked by the previous administration to develop small cars (for ecological reasons), and the group complied. But the government never told (or educated) the French consumers that they ought to buy small cars and, especially, French-made cars. Consumers who wanted more powerful and luxurious cars abandoned the brand in favor of German manufacturers like Audi, BMW, Mercedes, and VW. To add insult to injury, cheap South Korean cars began to compete with those produced by PSA (the EU does not allow tariffs on foreign cars, while South Korea imposes heavy ones, thus not allowing PSA to sell its cars in that market). It became a no-win situation for PSA. The consequences should be of no surprise to anyone. Yet the government is whining and pointing its finger without understanding its relentless failings.

CATCH-22: Governments want fewer cars produced but want more cars sold. They want smaller cars but are glad to see bigger cars out there. The bigger the better: more taxes in the states' coffers, more profits for the manufacturers. There is absolutely no rational policy. The broken system keeps going on with whatever different rhetorical flourishes. No one cares (among the "leaders") but the unemployed and those soon to be. Life goes on and the media are careful not to address the topic critically as they could lose advertising revenues (car manufacturers are a major source).

THIS IS A SITUATION that repeats itself in all manufacturing sectors. According to PSA CEO, Philippe Varin, a French worker costs €50,000 per year to the company, compared to €8,000 a year for a worker in Turkey or €3,000 in Morocco. Mr. Varin only costs over €3 million (plus many benefits) to the company. Greed, globalization, and that buzz word, competitiveness, as well as widespread corruption and political cowardice (pick and choose) are taking us all down to hell.

BUT, EH, POLITICIANS are strange animals. They always criticize and blame their predecessors for the policies they enacted and then they proceed to pursue the same policies. They call it "change." Recall Obama's campaign slogan, "change you can believe in." With Hollande it was "change is now." See the results... Time, perhaps, to hear again the murmurings of the little harp-girl's song in Heinrich Heine's 1844 poem, Germany, A Winter's Tale (which I noted once in "2001 in Perspective: The Nebulous Middle Mind"):

She sang of love and the pain of love,
Of sacrifice on earth,
And meetings in that better world
Where sorrows change to mirth.

She sang of this earthly vale of tears,
Of pleasures that soon run dry;
How the soul will feast on eternal joy
—Transfigured in the sky.

She sang a heavenly lullaby,
The song of renunciation
By which the people, that giant clown,
Is lulled from its lamentation.

I know the authors, I know the tune,
I know it line for line—
In public, water is all they preach;
While in secret they guzzle wine.

 . . . . .

C'est la vie...

And so it goes...


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Swans -- ISSN: 1554-4915
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Published July 16, 2012