June 1st, 2009
09:49 AM GMT
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HONG KONG, China – If Rip Van Winkle awoke today from his 20-year slumber, imagine his take on this week’s events.

 He went to bed watching the bloody crackdown on democracy advocates in Tiananmen Square. He woke up to see U.S. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, hat in hand, assuring Beijing the U.S. dollar remains strong and China’s more than $750 billion investment in U.S. treasuries is safe.

 Other eye-openers as he drank his coffee and flipped through channels:

  •  General Motors, the largest corporation in the world in 1989, filing for bankruptcy.
  • In Germany – that’s right, Germany (“East” and “West” no longer apply) – the financial savior of car maker Opel, a piece of the GM empire, is a Canadian auto parts maker and Sberbank, the largest bank in Russia. Not to be confused with the Soviet Union.
  • The shocking second-place finish of YouTube sensation Susan Boyle on "Britain’s Got Talent."

 "What happened to all the Commies?" might be Van Winkle’s first comment. His second: "What’s YouTube?"

 Van Winkle would be most surprised by what passes as global threats these days. Sure, global warming, terrorism and "rogue states" with nuclear arms are bad. But for Mr. Winkle, what an improvement it must seem over the Cold War and the policy of Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) between the U.S. and the Soviet Union.

 Now a Russian bank is buying a piece of GM. China bankrolls a large part of U.S. debt. The credit crisis must seem like a campfire chorus of "Kumbaya" to Van Winkle, as one-time adversaries snuggle together and trade assets.

 Twenty years ago, the chorus of "We Are the World" would still be fresh in Van Winkle’s mind. Better than any 80s pop song, the credit crisis reveals how true that has now become.



soundoff (11 Responses)
  1. steve seaton

    I saw the interview with the mayor of Lansing Michigan. Interviewer took the typical antagonistic view of GM that seems to be so prevalent in most media accounts. The mayor of Lansing however, was spot on. GM and other NA manufacturers were always on an uneven playing field while foreign manufacturers. GM had to bear costs the others never had while foreign manufacturers got unparalleled support from their governments. All of this while the media, buff magazines et al doted on the foreign models and poisened the consumers, in many cases unjustifiably, against American cars.

    June 1, 2009 at 4:16 pm |
  2. Omar Youssef

    Here comes the unexpected worldwide economical twist.
    The apart are together, and the wolves are still hungry.
    I wonder, how would life be without the world's human rulers.
    Amazingly, the highly ranked countries are now balanced with the lowest societies. Unemployment is everywhere now, with no exceptions.
    I believe all what those rulers have been doing for the past century, was singing Kumbaya, but none of them knew its real meaning.
    What has to be done now, is to restructure the whole political strategies, switch to a reality show instead of all the non-ethical stage performances they're doing faking even their dignities to cherish their greed.

    Highly appreciating your original article.
    Will be looking forward for more stimulating ones.

    Regards,
    Omar Youssef

    June 2, 2009 at 12:01 pm |
  3. Oscar V.

    For 40 long years the Detroit Big Three stood by while foreign car companies invaded our roads and chipped away at their market share. They did nothing but compete against each other instead of focusing on matching and/or trying to surpass the foreigners in quality, value or reliability. Meanwhile, all the foreigners targeted them and quickly overtook them in these crucial areas. You would think that the Detroit Three would at least try to fight back, but you would be wrong. It took them nearly 40 years of subpar offerings, dwindling market share and finally bankruptcy for them to wake up. And the UAW is not free of blame either. They should have foreseen that non unionized foreign assembly plants that were leaner and more cost effective threatened their unionized jobs' very existence. Yet, they refused to give ground for the sake of survival and instead focused on milking a dying cow. Excuse me for not shedding any tears for any of them. Quite frankly, they all deserve the problems they now face.

    June 2, 2009 at 12:13 pm |
  4. bob

    The comment about an uneven playing field doesn't wash because NA automakers have been unresponsive to both consumer and environmental needs for DECADES! As far as doting media and buff mags, there has been a lot to love about Japanese engineering. I owned a Toyota for 10 years, and my 97 Honda still runs great.

    GM should suck on a tailpipe – at least try to innovate and learn to compete, or suffer the fate of failed companies in other sectors.

    June 2, 2009 at 12:46 pm |
  5. IRON MIKE

    NO ONE CRIED WHEN THE STEEL INDUSTRY WENT DOWN SO I DON'T CRY NOW. WE NEED TO START MAKING PRODUCTS TO SELL AGAIN OR WE WILL GO DOWN AS A COUNTRY. IF YOU DON'T LEARN FROM THE PAST YOU ARE DOOMED IN THE FUTURE.
    IF ALL WE DO IS PRINT MONEY AND EVERYONE WORKS FOR THE GOVERNMENT(WHICH PRODUCES NOTHING) WE WILL NOT BE NUMBER 1 FOR VERY LONG IN FACT IT MAYBE TOO LATE ALREADY.

    June 2, 2009 at 2:47 pm |
  6. bugalugs

    NA car manufacturers are a disaster. They produce cars which are terrible quality and could only sustain some share with gas guzzling trucks due to import duties. And like most single product firms when the market changes (gas prices escalate) you find yourself without anything anyone wants.

    Yes, they were saddled with an uncompetitive issue – the UAW! These guys turned the US based car manufacturers into health and pension vehicles to the detriment of the bond holders, the shareholders and the customers. Now Obama wants to remove secret ballots from union votes and mandate employers recognize unions who force more than 50% of the workers to sign a petition for a union.

    The Mayor of Lansing is clearly demonstrating the same sort of hubris and willful ignorance the bankers had when they paid bonuses so as not to "lose" their good people – to where?!?!

    Until people like this moron WAKE UP the US industry is doomed!

    June 3, 2009 at 12:10 am |
  7. Michael Jordan

    For years we let cheap foreign cars come into this country. Now they cost as much or more than our U S made cars if we really do have any U S made cars. the imports that come into this country is overwhelming, and our exports don't make a dent. We let our congress and policy makers cater to China Japan and others, while they laugh at us. Look at China buying up as much real estate as it can, buying up bad loans and etc. We will become a republic of that country in the near future. This New Government doesn't have the courage to stand up against what China has been doing for years manipulating their currency to devaluate ours. Geithner is a puppet and has no backbone, He works for the United States, not China. People speak out no more soft watered down rhetoric. Tell China and all other countries imports and exports must be the same, And if you can't make something without it being harmful to people then stop making it. Geithner show some backbone will you.

    June 4, 2009 at 2:54 pm |
  8. Watchdog

    GM should have learned long ago that the bloated, executive heavy, union loving company was in trouble. Why they maintained so much mid-level management positions and signed those ridiculous contracts with the unions is baffling to even the most junior business graduate!! Now, the company is taken away from the investors and given to the union...one of the very groups that brought the giant down!! Obama and Geithner are just satisfying the thoughtless masses with this move. Those few masses will soon learn what its going to take to make the company survive, the guess is whether they will do what needs to be done to make the company profitable again.

    June 11, 2009 at 1:55 am |
  9. Manuel Vilhena

    Excellent article.

    The world has changed dramatically.

    Regards,

    Manuel

    June 11, 2009 at 7:42 pm |
  10. A.M. Deist, Fort Walton Beach, FL

    IRON MIKE is right on. We need to stop whining about banks not loaning money and get back to a time when you had to wait until you had the money to buy anything, or put it on layaway until it was paid for, and a time when Americans took care of their own instead of being more concerned about people in other countries. We need to stop consuming and start being fiscally responsible. We are going to experience some pain, but remember what JFK said years ago: "And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country."

    June 30, 2009 at 2:33 am |

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