The Addicts Speak

As I will explain in my forthcoming book, Automobiles Über Alles: Capitalism and Transportation in the United States, no topic is more forbidden to public utterance than corporate capitalists’ intractable collective addiction to selling cars. Despite the increasingly obvious suicidal insanity of permitting this addiction to continue, even its mere existence still cannot be mentioned in public.

If you doubt this, check out the latest dog-and-pony show conducted in the U.S. Congress: the June 23, 2008 House Committee on Energy and Commerce hearing called “Energy Speculation: Is Greater Regulation Necessary to Stop Price Manipulation? – Part II.”

What did the two wings of the Business Party have to say in this bit of theater?

The R wing, mostly unabashed about its service to the overclass (major exception: its “social conservative” marketing operations targeting scared white commoners), admits “America [exactly what part of “America” we don’t say, of course] is addicted to oil” while seeking to lay hands on more of the substance of choice: “We” need to drill more and prod “our” allies, like the gang-rape-victim-jailing Saudi “royal” family, to pump us more of the good stuff.

Then we’ll be OK, we’ll be OK, we’ll be OK…


More interesting and, as always, much less honest is the D faction of the Business Party. What is its way of avoiding the Carmageddon issue on behalf of the choosing class?

Well, for starters, where would you guess, if the D Team really were an opposition party, the Chair of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce might come from? California? Seattle? Portland or Eugene, Oregon? Madison, Wisconsin? Or some other hotbed of ecology, right?

But from whence does the actually existing Energy Chair arise? Why, Detroit, of course!

And what does the Honorable Motor City representative have to say about why “America is addicted to oil”? It’s not really a problem of demand, of course:

The environmental community says the answer is to conserve energy, to change the way we live, work, and play.

Well, that’s:

a valid point.

But it isn’t any part of the business of Congress, since the structure of demand is just one of many:

long-term solutions that will likely take at least 10 years; they will do little to solve the immediate problem we face.

In reality, the urgent business of Congress, this fine D-bot Chair says, is not to raise the issue of why we’re addicts. No, it is to start by observing:

The Saudis note that oil supply-and-demand seem to be in balance and that there is no substantive basis for current prices.

Got that? “There is no substantive basis for current prices” of petroleum! We have no underlying problem!

So what is the trouble we face?

Even the Department of Energy’s own Energy Information Administration says that “the flow of investment money” has contributed to the spike in oil prices. Yet the Secretary of Energy dismisses speculation as a cause of spiking oil prices and the Treasury Secretary agrees, shrugging it off as a “tough period.” In short, real solutions from this Administration are harder to find than a $3 gallon of gas.

See? See? It’s just the dealers, man! They’re gouging us, man — totally harshing our buzz, man! We just need to get some new dealers, see! Help us rough up our dealers, OK, man?

Then we’ll be OK, we’ll be OK, we’ll be OK…


Can you say “Carmageddon?”

Michael Dawson is author of The Consumer Trap: Big Business Marketing in American Life (2004). He is the publisher of the blog The Consumer Trap, which aims to expose capitalism, marketing and market totalitarianism. Read other articles by Michael, or visit Michael's website.

12 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Edwin Pell said on June 24th, 2008 at 5:04pm #

    What price will an owner charge? The highest price he or she can get. So as the price of gas goes up and no one stops buying what is the seller to do but keep raising the price until the point where people just begin to stop buying. At what price will people start car pooling to work? At what price will people start car pooling to the grocery? I have not seen it happen yet ($4.15 per gallon). The English are paying $9 per gallon why would the Americans not do the same?

  2. Michael Dawson said on June 24th, 2008 at 7:52pm #

    There’s a huge difference between England and the USA: cars are luxuries there and necessities here. Haven’t you noticed? Maybe you live in Manhattan…

  3. Michael Dawson said on June 24th, 2008 at 7:55pm #

    P.S. How would YOU carpool to work? How many of your co-workers live near you and have tolerably similar schedules? I’d wager very heavily the answer = zero. Carpooling is not just a fiction, but also one that always only sounds good for other people, not oneself.

  4. evie said on June 24th, 2008 at 8:38pm #

    We carpooled quite a bit in the ’70s when we lived in the mountains and commuted to Denver to work. The one way 1-1/2 hour drive was a pain in the ass but we wanted the tradeoff of living outside the city.

    I think the difference today is most folks simply don’t want to be bothered with the social interaction necessary for successful carpooling.

  5. Michael Dawson said on June 24th, 2008 at 8:46pm #

    I agree, Evie. The culture is more broken into my-household-only consciousness than ever. But I say some of that (not all by any means) is actually due to cars-and-burbs itself. And I also think that white people are the main ones who are so small-focused.

    I also think it would be pretty easy to politicize this issue. I think the great majority of Americans want to renew a spirit of community and restore our democracy.

    Do you agree?

  6. Michael Dawson said on June 24th, 2008 at 8:50pm #

    P.S. to Evie: Where were you coming down to Denver from? Aurora maybe? Boulder? My whole maternal side is from Denver, and we have a little cabin up in Evergreen. Did you like CO?

  7. evie said on June 24th, 2008 at 9:14pm #

    I agree wholeheartedly. I think people want to renew community but the media steers us the other direction.

    We lived about 10 miles from Central City/Blackhawk, in Gilpin County.

    I loved Colorado and missed it for years after we left – but about 5 years ago returned for the funeral of a friend and was appalled at the changes that had taken place in the past 10 years. Denver, which I had always thought was a clean city, was dirtier, more crowded, neighborhoods I remembered as nice were seedy.

    But for the longest time I missed being able to ski, hike, trout fish on a minute’s notice in the mountains.

    Aurora is more southeast of the city and flatland – back then we called it Saudi Aurora.

  8. Michael Dawson said on June 24th, 2008 at 9:24pm #

    Yeah, I think I meant Lakewood, not Aurora, Evie. But I did picture you driving down from range, meaning coming east, right? And Lakewood is on that side, in my mind at least.

    Denver is indeed quite polluted and sprawling and disconnected now, as you say. And it’s so dry and flat, you see all the smog in one big view, too, so I wonder if it’s any worse than any other place.

    Sad what “civilization” has done to this wonderful continent, and planet…

  9. evie said on June 24th, 2008 at 9:37pm #

    Yes Lakewood. Right picture, driving down from the Rockies going east. We had friends in Evergreen and Indian Hills. I knew (name dropping here) Wellington Webb back then – a really nice man who had to take over Pena’s DIA mess. I’ve gradually lost contact with all but a couple of old friends from Colorado, my loss.

    We would see the “brown cloud” over Denver every morning when we reached a certain hill that looked out over the east and the city. I can imagine it is worse now.

  10. Michael Dawson said on June 24th, 2008 at 9:53pm #

    Did you ever know about Tony Mazzocchi? He was the prez of the Oil, Chemical, and Atomic Workers, which had its HQ there in Lakewood. I met him a couple times, and he was one of those real people who stood and spoke for the good side in this country, but never made it onto TV (of course).

  11. evie said on June 24th, 2008 at 10:08pm #

    I knew of him but didn’t know him. Hubby just said he met him a few times, during some union activities way back when. Legit truthsayers rarely, if ever, make it to the boob tube – unless it’s to discredit or ridicule them.

  12. DiamondDog said on June 25th, 2008 at 1:48am #

    @ Michael Dawson – I think you’ll find cars are a necessity in the UK too you know. It’s a luxury to own are car if you live in a city or close to a reliable public transport network. The only reason we pay so much at the pump is because the govt take over 2/3 in tax. Edwin makes a good point. The US has had a finite resource too cheap for too long. It’s gonna sting but you’d might as well get used it.