[Grandpa Hecker explaining easy financing to 19th century speculators.]
Alas, I had to listen to MPR's high-profile panhandling this morning. They devoted a prime-time Kerri Miller slot to a "debate" over the social worth of the super-rich. (The title, and I'm not making this up, was "How the Super-Rich serve society". Think: Tad Piper: Great Minnesotan or Greatest Minnesotan... Call now to donate to MPR's Legacy Fund!) When even our 'public' radio can't take class politics seriously, it made me think again about how far from the left this country really is. And it made me think again of Denny Hecker.
Almost a year ago, I vented some frustrations about a Denny Hecker ad that caught my eye. It was a big picture pasted on the side of city buses with Hecker's smiling mug that said "Nobody Walks". It wasn't much of a post, and though I still think it was a slanderous anti-pedestrian taunt, it certainly didn't amount to much.
What's interesting, though, is what's happened since then. For quite a long time, that post rose to become one of the top-10 hits for Google searches relating to Denny Hecker. And it has accounted for a huge percentage of this blog's traffic ever since Denny's suburban empire has fallen like a house of casino cards. The post has received over 8,000 hits, and dozens of vituperative comments. It's like a great anti-Hecker graffiti wall, a public shackles filled with rotten tomato condemnation. Judging by the comments that appeared on this blog, many from ex-Hecker employees, Denny was a singularly repulsive human being.
The rise and fall of Hecker reminds me about how central suburban greenfield development, home construction, and auto sales have become to the US economy. It's depressing to think that so much of the US GDP depends on the mindless-construction of planned obsolescence homes in empty farmland, and selling new homeowners the broken dream of remote country living. Hecker honed this to a fine art, attaching his name to a package of car loans, home loans, and easy financing. It turns out, it was all a sham. Now he's up to his neck in law suits, while the US auto companies, parts suppliers, mortgage brokers, investment banks, and construction firms go belly up one by one.
Suburban growth seems like a terribly wasteful way to operate a national economy. Much of the time, it means constructing brand new homes, shopping centers, schools, and sewers at the outskirts of town while simultaneously depopulating and tearing down homes, shopping centers, and schools in the middle of the city or in the first-ring suburbs. The network of real estate developers, banks, home construction firms, food corporations, big boxes, and auto dealers line US freeways in an endless loop of new construction and obsolescence, peddling giant homes and an endless stream of shiny products that nobody really needs... Is this really all we have to offer? Shouldn't there be another way to make money? Isn't new retail development just vulturing away the old retail development? Does economic growth have to come at the expense of our cities?
The depressing thing about Hecker is that I know that when and if the economy turns around, someone exactly like him will rise up to take his place.
[Denny Hecker thinks you're getting a good deal on that TrueCoat.]