Why They Don’t Care

  • February 14, 2024

People ask why the CEOs of major automakers go along with what’s going on; can’t they see it’s killing their business?

Of course. They are not stupid people. But they are extremely wealthy people. So wealthy they don’t have to care – about anything. Certainly not whether the company they head goes under at some point in the future.

It won’t affect them, you see.

Consider GM’s Mary Barra as a case in point. She is paid around $29-30 million every year. It is difficult for the average middle class person who earns a “good living” to appreciate just how much money Barra is paid (I am careful to not say earns) in just one year.

In just one month, for that matter. 

She takes in more in just a couple of weeks than probably 98 percent of the people working for a living will earn in a year, as most working people – including middle class people who earn a “good living” – do not earn seven figures after a year of working.

And Barra is paid that much after just a couple of weeks.

She has been the CEO of GM since 2014, so for the past ten years. Multiply that roughly $30 million times ten and let that percolate for a moment.

Do you suppose Mary Barra has any worries about paying her bills in retirement? Do you suppose Mary Barra gives a damn whether she’s riding GM into the wrecking yard? What personal skin does she have in the game?

The answer, of course, is none.   

For Mary, it does not matter whether car ownership becomes what it was at the dawn of the car age – i.e., a luxury indulgence of the affluent. She is extremely affluent. For Mary, a $50,000 battery powered device is something like what a Snicker’s bar is to people who earn a “good living.” The latter can easily afford a Snicker’s bar; they might buy a whole box just for the heck of it.

A $50,000 battery powered device is another thing.

Assuming the person earning a “good living” wanted one, he’d probably have to finance it. He’d be paying for it each month for the next six-to-seven years (by which time, of course, it would be time to replace the device with a new device). He most definitely would not be able to afford to buy something like a brand-new 1966 Mustang GT just like they used to make ’em, with hairy V8 engines – and without air bags or “advanced driver assistance technology.”

People – working class people – used to be able to buy cars like that. But that was back in ’66.

If you are in Mary’s position, on the other hand, buying a brand-new 1966 Mustang GT or something similar in 2024 is as easy as writing a check for it. Because – for Mary – it as easy to write a check for $266,0095 (the cost of a brand-new ’66 Mustang) as it is for someone who earns a “good living” to buy a Snicker’s bar on a whim while waiting in line to check out at the Dollar General Store.

The point being that people in Mary’s position are utterly disconnected from economic cause and effect. The fact that she is paid what she’d paid to preside over a GM that has less market share today than GM’s Chevrolet division had all by itself 50 years ago is merely an affront.

In 1970, GM’s then CEO – James Roche – was paid about $820,000 annually. Which is – and was – a great deal of money. But it is a pittance compared with Mary’s pay.  It amounts to about $6.6 million in today’s devalued money. Roche was rich. But he was less able to afford to be indifferent.

This is a problem that goes beyond the people running major car companies. It is a characteristic problem of the system that the car companies are now, for the most part, as thoroughly enmeshed with as the government regulatory apparat is enmeshed with the industries it supposedly regulates, the most egregious example being the FDA – which might as well be the marketing division of the pharmaceutical industry. 

The people within this matrix no longer care about economic cause and effect – because they are (or believe themselves to be) immune from the effects they cause. A case in point is the current secretary of transportation, Pete Buttigieg – who is all-in with Mary as regards the pushing of battery powered devices most people who earn a “good living” cannot afford. Because he can afford it. He is paid – by you, if you pay income taxes – about $20,000 per month. Thus, for him, a $50,000 battery powered device requires just shy of three month’s pay to pay for.

Pete also gets perks, such as having ready use of vehicles he doesn’t have to pay for – including V8-powered SUVs, which you get to pay for via the taxes you’re forced to pay.

Pete does not care whether you can afford it. He may not even realize you can’t, just as (per the story) Marie Antoinette, the wife of the French King Louis XVI, could not understand why the French peasants who were starving due to lack of bread didn’t just eat cake.

The times are different. But the attitude is exactly the same.

. . .

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