Letter to a friend

Here’s an item from today’s Washington Post that might interest you.

Sorry to hear you have to lay off people — that’s a hellish amount of stress on all sides. On the other hand, I’m glad it’s you and not some heartless bastard who will make the situation even worse and possibly cause the other party to go postal.

I look around me when I’m out running errands and I see lots of people whose faces are frozen masks of pain, anger and resentment. A reporter on a news program recently said how the people he interviews on the street are incensed at what’s been going on — and that the anger is beginning to turn to fear. Not good.

Entering “multiple robberies” on Google News returns pages and pages of results.

So, yes, you’re quite right about the possibility of a severe recession and that would be bad enough — add in all the effects of economic distress and … Well, you get the picture. Not to add to your troubles, but … forewarned is forearmed, right?

On the other hand, I’m mindful of the danger of self-fulfilling prophecies and of the fact that what happens tomorrow depends on what we do today.

As for me, I try to do everything I can to buck people up — including myself, ‘cuz it’s hard to be around people who are stressed out without absorbing some of their distress. Humor and kindness can work wonders, of course, as can helping people vent so that they can move past their anger toward problem-solving.

Do you know about all the networking sites like ecademy and LinkedIn? They’re among the oldest and the best of their kind — like Facebook, for adults, they can go a long way toward helping the unemployed find new opportunities and also alleviate social isolation, with all the problems that brings.

Anyway, those are my thoughts for the day. Please take good care of yourself, OK?

Rev up the auto industry

Fisker Karma Plug-in Hybrid Sedan

Detroit 2008: Fisker Karma Plug-in Hybrid Sedan

Dear PJ,

I hope you didn’t think I was trying to get your goat in re: Obama and the auto industry. Being a banker and financial wizard, I somehow suspect your sympathies lay with McCain — for whom I have a lot of respect — but I strongly feel as though his fatalism regarding our auto industry was precisely the wrong tack to take.

Because our entire economy runs on wheels, as it were. Perhaps more importantly, our cars are a great source of pride to Americans and to simply give up in the face of foreign competition seems a singularly un-American, dispiriting prospect.

On the other hand, reviving the industry and going on to lead the world with cool, clean-running cars — that is something millions of us could get on board with and could go a long way toward providing the kind of leadership and momentum we clearly crave at this uncertain hour.

Anyway, those are my considered thoughts on the issue, for what they’re worth.

From today’s WP :

A Friend in Need

Mr. Obama needs to show the auto industry some tough love in helping it weather its troubles.

BARACK OBAMA made clear yesterday that the American automobile industry will have a friend in theWhite House starting Jan. 20. At his first post-election news conference, Mr. Obama, who had supported more federal aid for Detroit during the campaign, echoed talking points the industry has been using to seek more aid from Congress. He described carmaking as “the backbone of American manufacturing,” and noted that its current “hardship” extends to “countless suppliers, small businesses and communities throughout our nation who depend on a vibrant American auto industry.” Mr . Obama wants his aides to come up with new ideas “to help the auto industry adjust, weather the financial crisis, and succeed in producing fuel-efficient cars here in the United States.”

Hemorrhaging cash, Detroit wants an acceleration of an already approved $25 billion government loan to retool for greater fuel efficiency, plus $25 billion more to help the automakers ride out the financial crisis. This would, indeed, be a bad time for a sudden shutdown of the industry; including related businesses, that could eliminate hundreds of thousands of jobs, with tragic effects for communities across the Midwest. Still, the industry is no longer quite as pivotal to the American economy as it once was; and many other businesses are also hurting, including many whose workers make less than Detroit’s unionized workforce. Even with a bailout, U.S. carmakers will have to shed workers by the thousands. As for improving the fuel efficiency of the U.S.-made fleet, the best way to do that would be to permanently raise federal gas taxes. Alas, higher gas taxes seem to be politically impossible at the moment.