EconoMatters, Rethinking America

No Buicks! Janis Joplin’s Message to Donald Trump

Vanity and materialism — not cheating — drive German luxury car sales in the US.

Takeaways


  • Trump whines that Europeans are cheating because they are not buying more Buicks. Ironic given that he would not be caught dead in one.
  • Trump is all about extreme vanity, to put it charitably. In his world of golden toilets and shiny objects, material status symbols are all-decisive .
  • Janis Joplin’s song “Mercedes Benz” is a paean to high-end materialism and a deliberately ironic, but realistic take on the games that the rich and mighty play to underscore their special status on life’s stage.

Janis Joplin, the American rock singer, died at a very young age. Born in 1943, just three years before Donald Trump, she nevertheless has a powerful message to the man who, in 2016, rose to become the 45th President of the United States.

As the world knows, Trump is all about extreme vanity, to put it charitably. In his world, material status symbols are all-decisive – not least to make a powerful impression on the ladies.

In that context, it is instructive to recall the words of one of Janis Joplin’s most famous songs, Mercedes Benz; audio here. Recorded in October 1970, the same month she died, the lyrics are as follows:

Mercedes Benz

Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz?
My friends all drive Porsches, I must make amends.
Worked hard all my lifetime, no help from my friends,
So Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz?

I’m counting on you, Lord, please don’t let me down.

Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz?
My friends all drive Porsches, I must make amends,
Worked hard all my lifetime, no help from my friends,
So oh Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz?
That’s it!

Her song certainly isn’t intended as an ode to Germany (although it implies a high quality of German craftsmanship). Nor does it imply any cheating (or “raping”) of America’s material overlords by German car manufacturers.

It is a paean to high-end materialism and a deliberately ironic, but realistic take on the games that the rich and mighty play to underscore their special status on life’s stage.

Note as well that rock stars definitely have one thing in common with real estate honchos – they all love to flaunt the gadgets that display their material status.

Joplin herself actually drove a Porsche. Donald Trump, in his own life, is known to have been enamored with his fair share of foreign-made, high-end luxury vehicles — Lamborghinis, Ferraris and Rolls Royces. For his taste and wallet, it appears as if German car makers are not luxury enough.

Notice one thing? Very few Buicks on that list!

When Trump now suggests to the Europeans that they are cheating because they are not buying more Buicks, there is doubly bad news. It is very unlikely that, even at a zero tariff, Europeans would fall in love with Buicks.

Plus, even the people that make up Trump’s own industry, real estate, would usually not be caught dead in such an – American – car. It conveys no status. It’s for granddads.

Proof positive of the truthfulness of Janis Joplin’s message to Donald Trump is that the U.S. sales of Daimler Benz, BMW and Porsche are traditionally very aligned to boom times in the real estate and investment banking sectors.

Real estate boom, sales are up (because everybody wants a bimmer), real estate bust and sales are down.

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About Stephan Richter

Stephan Richter is the publisher and editor-in-chief of The Globalist. [Berlin/Germany]

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