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ICONIC PHOTOGRAPHS, PUBLIC CULTURE, AND LIBERAL DEMOCRACY

No Caption Needed is a book and a blog, each dedicated to discussion of the role that photojournalism and other visual practices play in a vital democratic society. No caption needed, but many are provided. . . .

December 12th, 2008

Abandoning the U.S. Auto Industry

Posted by Hariman in economic optics

Yesterday Senate Republicans refused to support a bill to aid ailing U.S. auto makers. The New York Times report was accompanied by a photo of concerned pols, but I think this image gets to the heart of the matter.

This car dealership in Fort Wayne, Indiana had been vacated when the dealer moved to a new location. The photograph captures far more than the local news. A large, empty shell of building, surrounded by vacant space and cracked asphalt, reflecting pale light and a dull sky–the scene is an allegory of inertia, mismanagement, vanishing markets, and lack of vision.

Don’t expect to see it re-opened any time soon. The empty desolation of the photo captures the impact that shuttering the auto industry has on the economy. Each affected community is left with a big hole to fill and no obvious replacement.

I have no doubt that the bill, despite being endorsed by both the White House and Congressional Democrats, was not the best solution. I also doubt that the best solution was actually available at this time. Let’s hope a viable agreement can be crafted soon. No industry has ever deserved help less, but the Republicans shouldn’t blow up three states and put a hole in the side of the U.S. economy just because this is a good time to lean on the unions.

If there is a teachable moment here, it certainly includes several lessons about bad management. It also is yet another demonstration of the danger of minority rule. The Senate requirement of 60 votes for significant legislation seriously hampers the ability of the U.S. government to respond to important problems. The Senate Republicans can lecture the unions all the want, but their use of the supermajority rule exemplifies an inability to respond effectively to change–exactly the attitude that led the auto industry to their sorry state.

Photograph by Noah Gage/Flicker.

3 Responses to ' Abandoning the U.S. Auto Industry '

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  1. lucaites said,

    on December 12th, 2008 at 9:10 am

    This is an incredible picture. I don’t quite have a handle on it, but the building has something of a an ominous, “living” quality to it. Notice how the lights emitting from inside the building pulse outward … if eyes are the widow to the soul what do we have here? It seems like the beginning of a Stephen King novel … and it might come to something of the same outcome.

  2. Michael said,

    on December 12th, 2008 at 4:25 pm

    It’s the numinous quality of the bright rays reaching out from the building. I’d go for something more like an angel, though who can say why, or to what effect, angels visit so unpromising a scene.

  3. Meagan Chapman said,

    on December 14th, 2008 at 8:46 pm

    I’d say this is something similar to public memory and also the twilight zone. Public memory because while (as Hariman said) it’s nothing but an empty shell now, the walls and space inside that empty shell are filled with memories of what was once a booming industry. The rays of light and the “living quality” mentioned above are representative of those memories showing themselves, wanting to be remembered for something that was very much filled with life at one point in time even though it is now empty.
    The Twilight Zone suggestion relates to the memories, or maybe it’s more of a spiritual aspect as this image is rather ghostly. The glowing effect that the building has seems to hint that when walking through those doors one would be walking into a completely different time despite the broken darkness that the industry has become (as shown in the dark, cracked pavement).
    The memories live on and the spirit of the industry dwells within these walls, even if the industry itself is dying.

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