And today's word is ...

December 10, 2008

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Ass-backwards: a slang term that means of or in a way that is particularly contrary to the usual way, confusing—sometimes referred to as putting the cart before the horse.

No, I didn't just pull this term out of my & hat. It's plastered across news sites today and being broadcast on television and radio as media report Sen. David Vitter's reaction to the news that Majority Democrats and the Bush White House have finalized a deal that would put billions of dollars in emergency loans in the hands of U.S. automakers.

What exactly did Vitter (R-La.) mean when he labeled the plan as ass-backwards?


An msnbc.com report expounded upon Vitter's view. Vitter complained that it's wrong to give the automakers $15 billion worth of short-term loans and then expect them to come up with restructuring plans.

Speaking on the floor of the U.S. Senate, Vitter said, "Well, our reaction to that is pretty simple. I think the average American would say, 'What? Isn't that putting the cart before the horse? Isn't that, to use a common phrase, 'Ass backwards?' Fifteen billion dollars and then later, after that's out the door, we'll see a detailed restructuring plan?"

The Associated Press reported that the measure could see a House vote later today and be enacted by week's end. Then, money could be disbursed within days to cash-starved General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC.

Not if Vitter has his way. He reportedly plans to "use every procedural tool available to demand amendment process on the floor of the senate and to delay and block the measure as it presently stands."

People all over the country are watching the U.S. auto industry drama unfold. Many are concerned about the impact of an industry collapse to the rest of the economy, some are concerned about losing their jobs, and all of us who pay taxes are hoping that any tax dollars spent to bailout the industry are well spent, with a decidedly forward-thinking, well-thought-out, well-executed plan.

Some watchers are concerned about the future of their favorite brand. Such is the case with Saturn owners profiled today on cnn.com. There are Saturn owners out there who love their vehicles, want to continue to buy Saturns, and worry about what will happen to service for their current models if the brand disappears (which is a possibility with GM concentrating on Chevrolet, Cadillac, Buick, and GMC). These Saturn devotees believe they became part of a family when they bought their cars. As the brand goes, so goes the family.

My family has experience with Saturn. One of my sons and my daughter owned a 1996 and a 1997 Saturn, respectively. At the time they bought them, Saturn had a great safety rating. The sales experience at the dealership in Rockford, Ill., was outstanding. I should know; I was there. The cars were roomy, economical, safe, and they had—according to my children—great sound systems. Each subsequently was driven more than 100,000 miles. Each was wrecked at least once, and neither the drivers nor passengers were injured. I'd have to say that the Saturns were among our better vehicle choices over the years (the worst were a 1976 Plymouth Duster (stalled at almost every turn), a 1979 Ford Bronco (bounced all over the road), and an 80s-something Mazda (a piece of tin; very forgettable).

I have to ask—where were the media reports of car owners singing the praises of their favorite domestic brands and possibly influencing other Americans to buy them before the auto industry found itself in such a fix? Could positive press have improved the industry's lot? Certainly not on its own, but it might have helped. Why pull out the praise and poignancy now? To me, that's just bass-ackwards (the polite, more-refined, Southern term).



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Vicki Bell

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