U.S. job cuts (lead by auto sector) on track to pass a million in 2005: (Toronto Globe and Mail) But bicycle sales are doing it without their mammy

Three stories of note fell from the business pages of “Canada’s paper of record” the other day. They seemed to speak to each other, although it’s taken the ALLDERBLOB some time and labour to piece together the veil of connection.

1) According to the Globe and Mail‘s Tavia Grant, “If job cuts continue at their current pace, the year-end total [in the U.S.] will surpass last year’s 1,039,935 level and mark the fifth consecutive year that one million job cuts were announced.”

Is this bad news? Or are these figures, reported on August 4 2005 simply, “as some economists say” (Grant quotes exactly two) masking “robust job creation?” The fact is, every year the U.S. loses jobs, and it creates jobs. Somehow, “unemployment numbers” are actually “falling” down there.

From folks losing heart and giving up the job search entirely? From folks finding new McCrappy jobs in the service sector?

Actually, Tavia has a theory.

According to her story, job creation has averaged 180,ooo per month in the past year, as opposed to a monthly loss of some 200,ooo. And while (contrary to what one might expect) it’s in “health care and construction” where jobs are being created, it’s the automobile industry that is really feeling the pinch. “Since the start of the year… the auto industry [has announced] 72,598 job cuts.” The Ford Motor Co. is typical of the basket cases that comprise America’s biggest employer. It’s just announced plans to “make deeper cuts to its North American salaried work force than it had previously disclosed.”

In a perfect world, the auto industry would continue to slump, shedding jobs and political influence like those limbs of ancient saguaro hit by David Grundman, the original (Darwin award-winning) cactus plugging cowboy. Just hope they don’t fall on you.

2) Elsewhere in the same newspaper we see sorry news from Canada: “Big Three’s Canadian auto sales surge,” according to the Glob’s Greg Keenan, “auto industry reporter” [talk about yer reasons to shoot yourself --ed.] The story is, in response to the so-called “red flag” event (discussed here some weeks back) of Ford, GM and Chrysler, vehicle sales by the “Big Three” were up an average of 25% in July, compared with the year previous.

So the advertised deep price cuts paid off?

Well, maybe. But maybe not.

Turns out vehicle sales at BMW were up 43%, while at Mercedes Benz it was 57%. No one saw either of those companies advertising “employee prices” (although no doubt they did something just as condescending).

Nonetheless, according to Keenan, “[a] key question is what will happen to the Big Three sales when they drop their employee discount programs… .” He turns to a carhead spokesmodel [that's "consulting firm J.D. Power and Associates" to you --ed.] for the last word: “It will take a month or two of heavy marketing [our emphasis] to convince buyers that they’re still getting good deals” (after the red flag is pulled down).

More heavy marketing. Well, ain’t that peachy. And quelle surprise. The position of the Allderblob is well known: there ought to be a law against heavy marketing in public places. At least for the automobile.

3) Meanwhile, almost lost in the shuffle, the same issue of the Glum and Bale(ful) reports in a Reuters story, “Armstrong’s success filters down to U.S. bicycle industry,” that

“The struggling U.S. automobile industry may do well to take some lessons from its non-motorized brethren because bicycles are selling like hotcakes.

“Americans purchased more bicycles than new cars and trucks combined in the past year — and all without employee discounts or zero-per-cent financing.”

Lance Armstrong? Or Peak Oil?

Fact is, the 19 million bicycles sold inthe U.S. last year is just one point shy of the 20 million sold yearly “during the oil embargo of the early 1970s,” according to Tim Blumenthal of “Bikes Belong,” a “national [bicycle] industry association” (J.D. Power, sit down!).

Ah, the oil embargo of the early 1970s. The glory days. The Allderblob’s formative years, when Scientific American could proudly tell us of the marvelous efficiency (unrivalled in nature) of the bicycle (March, 1973). When Ivan Illich could write in a national newspaper (Yeah, I know, it was a French one) of the “social necessity” of the bicycle: “High speed is the critical factor which makes transportation socially destructive. A true choice among practical policies and of desirable social relations is possible only where speed is restrained. Participatory democracy demands low-energy technology, and free people must travel the road to productive social relations at the speed of a bicycle.”

Are we coming back to our senses? Or does the crisis of crisis have to deepen?

To Australia’s Tony Fry, author of Defuturing, we turn for the last word (we will let you make sense of it): “Consider this: unsustainability has a psychology. Two examples: on the one hand unsustainability is manifested in the technocentric and instrumentalised lives of many millions of people who have ever diminishing agency over their workplace circumstances, but are compensated by ‘the freedom to consume’ (one could again cite Henry Ford’s 1913 policy of high wages for dumb work as one of the key designing moments of this trajectory). On the other hand, and more crassly, unsustainability is evident in the continued abandonment to abject poverty of ever more of the world’s population as numbers grow, as humanism fails and in, for instance, many parts of Africa the structure of the State and the social fabric of society completely breaks down. Here is the psychology of the abandoned in an inoperative community of total dysfunction, but equally here is the psychology of lack of concern, of oversight, of assumed unconnectedness that is one confirmation of the inoperative community at large. ”

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