Anyone not getting enough misery and disgust in their lives really ought to turn on C-SPAN right now and watch the Senate Banking Committee hearings on whether to bail-out the Big Three automakers. A month ago Ford CEO Alan Mulally, GM CEO Rick Wagoner and Chrysler CEO Robert Nardelli flew to Washington in private jets and warned lawmakers that unless they immediately got $25 billion they’d go out of business and make our unhappy economy a whole lot worse. Shut down completely by the skeptical senators, they slipped away (still apparently on their corporate jets) but then experienced an epiphany: they’d return in hybrid cars (which they are loathe to build unless the Fed subsidizes them), beg forgiveness and, while they’re at it, up their request to $34 billion.
“If the federal government can provide a blank check to Wall Street, it should be able to provide a temporary bridge loan to General Motors, Ford and Chrysler,” United Auto Workers President Ron Gettelfinger told senators today. And, with all the “free market” logic I learned in high school and college turned on its head these days, Gettelfinger is right. Other countries give money to their domestic auto-makers, we’re told, which is also right. Of course, “other countries” also pay for their citizens’ health care, but I doubt we’ll hear that argument in the Dirksen Office Building anytime soon.
Wait–did I just write “argument”? What possibly constitutes an argument here? Three publicly traded firms–represented by three executives beholden to boards of directors, which are themselves beholden to something called “shareholder interest”–that have consistently failed to compete in an ostensibly free market are now calling themselves victims of our recent global credit collapse and begging for taxpayer dollars when they should have long been paying more attention to consumers (who, for some strange reason, really would like to buy cars that use little or no petroleum-based fuel). In fact, the Bush Administration, which could easily instruct the Fed or the U.S. Treasury to give the auto-makers money, instead wants Congress (beneficiary of $1.5 million in auto-maker campaign contributions in 2008 alone) to allow the Big Three use a $25 billion alt-energy subsidy for the bailout.
But I digress… The Great American Giveaway is still underway! And we get to watch it live! On TV! Is this a great country or what?