John Key takes office as Prime Minister - 19 Nov 2008 - New Zealand election 2008 - news commentary and views - NZ Herald
Thanksgiving ahead - but food shortages increase in US towns

Dropping a clanger in space - as non-recoverable as the US CEOs' Congress blunder

My heart went out to the astronaut who dropped her toolbag during a spacewalk earlier this week - see it drift away here. Definitely a non-recoverable position for anyone, but a genuine mistake nonetheless.

The same cannot be said for the CEOs who turned up in their corporate jets in order to beg for cash from an already over-committed US government. What were they thinking?  The Star, among many others, calls it a 'PR storm' and undertaking a rough count up, I unearthed from the last fifteen hours  around 9000 mainstream media articles condemning their rather shortsighted and dim actions - and that is without counting any blog discussions.

Good public relations starts with appropriate action tempered with an understanding of the situation and operating environment. It is also underpinned by a willingness to change behaviour and do the right thing for the communities and publics that provide you with your licence to operate. Fail to do so and that licence to operate, the trust in the organisation, is withdrawn.

You would imagine that these three autocrats would have the wit - or at least the advisors - to enable them realise that what you do has to come before the things you say. These are clever people after all, who hold the fate of millions in their hands.  Yet when they were quizzed as to whether they would sell their jets and take an economy flight home all the hands which should have been immediately visible were nowhere to be seen - instead an embarrassed silence ensued.

Realistically, the money 'saved' by such an action would probably be a drop in the ocean, given that General Motors Corp. CEO Rick Wagoner informed the committee that they were burning through "$5 billion each month."  But - and as always, it is a big but - the CEOs looked like the other CEOs trotted before committees last month; eager to protect their own positions as demonstrated by their actions, rather than the industries and communities they say they are keen to protect.  The US needs its auto industry right now and all is not lost. It has its eye firmly on the emerging markets - Brazil, India, China to name but a few - places where new car ownership has far more potential than existing markets which are saturated and in decline.

Sadly, I suspect the car workers in Detroit will be scraping around for bus fare long before the CEOs in question tumble from the top and hand in their executive gate pass. 

The disgruntled question I am hearing time and again at worker level is why should our tax dollars bail out the corporates who will be axing our jobs and leaving us with nothing anytime soon, while those who make the decision to send us to the streets walk away with enough money to keep a town full of families comfortable over several years?

Pundits suggest that the best route for the carmakers to take would be a Chapter 11 arrangement - think of it as a kind of organised bankruptcy that allows continuance of trade.  Such a continuance of trade that would allow the manufacturers to buy time and buy into the markets that could save their collective futures. A purchase of time in which they might also consider rethinking their business model, the impact on the environment and the ethics of sustainable automotive development allowing the tax dollars to go elsewhere. However, Chapter 11 is resisted apparently because 'it doesn't look good' and 'affects the brand'. 

But probably not as much as a corporate jet fiasco or three million unemployed workers and their families.