Toyoda vs. Torquemada

Ilana Mercer, February 26, 2010

Toyoda might have reminded the overweening House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform that his bosses are Toyota’s customers, and that it is to them alone that he’d be answering ~ilana

Mr. Akio Toyoda, the president of Toyota, could have achieved the brevity much-admired in his culture (and mine) had he responded thus to the invitation to appear before the congressional committee investigating the recall of eight million of his vehicles:

House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform’s invitation to Mr. Toyoda: “Dear Mr. Toyoda, we will be sitting between 11:00 AM and 5:00PM on February the 24th.”

Toyoda’s putative Reply: “Akio Toyoda likewise.”

To complete the one-two punch, Mr. Toyoda’s second in command, Yoshimi Inaba, president of Toyota Motors North America, ought to have sent each of his would-be Democrat and Republican inquisitors a short note, in large typeface, preferably with pop-up pictures.

In it, he ought to have reminded them that his company employs over 170,000 of their countrymen; has invested billions in capitalizing its factories, and is philanthropic at a time when Americans are desperate for charity. Add a word about the Toyota U.S.A. Foundation and its support for math and science education in the math and science wilderness that is the K-12 system.

Mention the unseemly specter of a government ─ the owner de jure of General Motors and Chrysler ─ strong-arming the competition, his own Free-Market Motors. A well-worded barb about the embarrassing, timely FBI raid on a Toyota auto parts operation in Detroit would have been apropos as well. Tell them, Mr. Toyoda, that you are doing business in a country where the competition is backed by the power of the police.

In closing, Toyoda might have reminded the overweening House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform that his bosses are Toyota’s customers, and that it is to them alone that he’d be answering.

Back on terra firma, a diminutive but dignified Akio Toyoda apologized for the casualties allegedly caused by the self-propelled accelerator pedals reported in his vehicles. In return, he was lambasted. Toyoda was regal; his political tormentors rude.

One of the pygmies to surround Toyoda (like Gulliver) complained about the secrecy of Toyota and Japan’s government, no less. Democrat “Marcy” Kaptur was speaking from the bowels of the Obama administration. Like Kaptur, Eleanor Holmes Norton, the Delegate from the District of Dirty Secrets (Columbia), echoed the secrecy accusation. “Where is the remorse?” She cried out theatrically.

Another Democrat, Paul Kanjorski, invoked crude cultural stereotypes in attempting to tie the problems the company has experienced to its Japanese “culture” or “psychology.” Fail to fulminate in public and you don’t quite cut it as a human being in America (don’t I know it!). Toyoda was quoted as saying in an interview that, “We do not seek the spotlight; we try always to be low-key, not to be outspoken.” In sentimental, sensation-driven America, that certainly makes you a lesser being. On the other hand, the slushy show of helplessness, put on by Rhonda Smith of Sevierville, Tenn., won the pygmies over.

I do not for a moment believe Smith’s fantastical tale.

Her ride in a run-away “Herbie” ─ a Lexus 350 ES sedan ─ included a dramatic call to her husband and an intervention by the Almighty. Neither did the National Center for Dispute Settlement buy her account: It denied Smith’s claim against Toyota. One minute the brakes on the run-away Lexus were not working and the car was speeding up spontaneously; the next minute it had suddenly slowed down.

Only in a country in which dumbness is elevated to an art would a machine with an ignition key turn into a self-propelled lethal weapon.

In the event that the gas pedal on this writer’s 2006, 200-horsepower, 2.0-liter turbocharged, six-speed manual transmission Volkswagen GTI took on a life of its own ─ she would not be calling the spouse to say sayonara. It would be, brake, clutch, shift gear into neutral, indicate, safely steer to the side of the road, and turn the ignition off.

Back to the pygmies. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY14) looked down at Mr. Toyoda and demanded to know what the little foreigner had learned today under the tutelage of her peers, The Pygmies. Pay no attention to Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin and Ann Coulter when they swear that the party they do battle for is better than the one they do battle against.

The most repugnant performance was that of a Floridian Republican, John Mica. In florid language, Mica blasted Yoshimi Inaba for, gasp, containing the glut of recalls with which Toyota was inundated. “I’m embarrassed for you, sir,” Mica shrieked, clutching his smoldering toupee. Not much better was Jason Chaffetz. This Republican admonished Mr. Inaba for an internal Toyota brief that called “the American government safety agency under the Obama administration less ‘industry friendly.'”

This revelatory reality ─ at least to Republicans ─ had pushed the Toyota team into a dalliance with the regulators. Any serious student of economics knows that regulation forces an entrepreneur to substitute viable, voluntary trades and transactions with politicized decision making. But what does Chaffetz know?

Ayn Rand, on the other hand, perfectly described the political ritual we’ve just witnessed:

When you see that trading is done, not by consent, but by compulsion─ when you see that in order to produce, you need to obtain permission from men who produce nothing─when you see money flowing to those who deal, not in goods, but in favors─when you see that men get richer by graft and pull than by work, and your laws don’t protect you against them, but protect them against you─when you see corruption being rewarded and honesty becoming a self-sacrifice─you may know that your society is doomed.

February 26

CATEGORIES: Business, Fascism, Political Economy, Regulation, Republicans, Science & Junk Science, Technology