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AMM COMMENT:  You’ve got to ask yourself one question

Keywords: Tags  AMM Comment, John Ambrosia

Other than the cowboy, there may not be a symbol that more powerfully evokes the American ideals of autonomy and individualism than the automobile. Those icons came together at halftime during the Super Bowl, when Chrysler aired an ad featuring Clint Eastwood. Before delving further into the ad, its fallout and what it says about the short-term fortunes of the automotive metals sector, some context is needed.

What became the auto bailout began in September 2008 with $25 billion in loans from a bipartisan Congress and then spread into a roughly $80-billion investment started by President Bush in December 2008 and completed by President Obama in 2009. We all know the results: Chrysler and General Motors are back on their feet, profitable and successful; millions of jobs were saved; and the rescue of the auto sector greatly helped steel, aluminum and other metal sectors.

Here is where Eastwood and the ad come in, a TV spot that still has some people upset. What caused all the fuss? Well, in part, this: “The people of Detroit . . . almost lost everything. But we all pulled together, now Motor City is fighting again,” Eastwood said in the ad. “We all rallied around what was right, and acted as one. Because that’s what we do. We find a way through tough times, and if we can’t find a way then we’ll make one. All that matters now is what’s ahead. How do we come from behind? How do we come together. And how do we win? Detroit’s showing us it can be done. And what’s true about them is true about all of us.”

This sounds like good old non-partisan American optimism and resilience, right? Well some took the ad as a ringing endorsement of the auto bailout and, by extension, Obama. The auto bailout, even though bipartisan and successful, still troubles many politicians and their supporters, who openly say they would rather have let auto companies fail and shut down than be saved by public intervention. This voices the ultimate sacrifice of the general welfare on the altar of a “we’re all on our own” ideology.

There may be many businesses that benefit from a retrenchment into such an approach, but not the metals industry. In this month’s issue, we focus on automotive metals, galvanized products and scrap. The things that these metals go into need commonality: roads, bridges, buildings, pipelines, etc.

When Eastwood spoke during that ad, he spoke of an America that can still make good on its common promise. When we as a nation—whether the private sector, the government or some combination of the two—act upon the sentiments of the Chrysler ad, jobs are created and the metals sector becomes more profitable. To paraphrase Eastwood’s defense of his work in the ad, if steel or any other industry wants to run with the spirit of that TV spot, “Go for it.”

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