I was able to fix this problem by booting into the Recover disk and performing the following operations:
1) Disk Utility: repair permissions (only a few permissions related to printing were off and fixed)
2) Terminal: resetpassword and then reset my personal ACLs and permissions
3) Attempted to startup in "safe" mode twice but that process took way longer than it should have so I powered down.
After restarting normally, all was well again. Not only did Automator launch properly but services that had previously failed (silently) were now operative.