09 December 2008

The Auto Industry and Those Wacky Michiganders

With the Big Three auto executives begging Congress for the government cheese like paupers in $1500 suits, they're probably about as popular right now as the seal-clubbing industry. Also, the above scene from a Detroit church of worshipping the SUV altar may seem creepy if you aren't religious, and downright blashpemous if you are religious. From the NY Times:

Pentecostal Bishop Charles H. Ellis III, who shared the sanctuary’s wide altar with three gleaming sport utility vehicles, closed his sermon by leading the choir and congregants in a boisterous rendition of the gospel singer Myrna Summers’s “We’re Gonna Make It” as hundreds of worshipers who work in the automotive industry — union assemblers, executives, car salesmen — gathered six deep around the altar to have their foreheads anointed with consecrated oil.
It's really difficult to overstate how important the auto industry is to Michigan. It's not like the Ivory Tower banks of Wall Street, pretty much everyone in southeastern Michigan works in the auto industry or is directly related to someone who is. Growing up in Michigan meant buying American was the ultimate form of patriotism and Japanese cars might as well have had "I heart Hitler" vanity plates. They were frequently keyed during UAW strikes, and you still can't park a foreign car in the lot of many assembly plants. The once great cities of Flint and Detroit starting looking like mini-Mogadishus during the downfall of the auto industry in the 70s.

So, if Paul Krugman is correct in saying that the U.S. auto industry is doomed, then Michigan is going to be in for some even tougher times. People do weird shit when they're faced with economic desperation. The Okies had Tom Joad, and now Detroiters have this Pentecostal preacher.