The first coming of Obama is near. Praise the One!
For he is bringing miracles to pass: I watched "Meet the Press" this morning and agreed much more with Sen. Richard Shelby, a dyed-in-the-right Alabama Republican, than with Sen. Carl Levin, Michigan Democrat.
Maybe this is a sign that the country is getting past red state vs. blue state stuff. When the policy rubber hits the road, what matters much more is whether something makes sense.
And Shelby had the edge here. Why should taxpayers fork out $25 billion or more to give to the clueless Detroit auto industry?
First of all, I think that we would have to see conditions that would fundamentally change the way Detroit does business. They're not building the right products. They did at one time. They've got good workers. But I don't believe they've got good management. They don't innovate. They're a dinosaur, in a sense, and I hate to see this because I would like to see them become lean and, and hungry and innovative. And if they did and put out the right product, they could survive. But I don't believe the $25 billion they're talking about will, will make them survive. It's just postponing the inevitable.
Amen to that. I haven't owned an American car since the 1970s, when some insane impulse led me to buy a crappy Ford Fairmont. After that, never again.
We're a happy two-Toyota family at the moment, both of them hybrids (a Prius and a Highlander). Detroit chose to keep on making giant SUVs and pickups because they were more profitable than smaller cars. Until people stopped buying them.
And now the Big Three, who have shrunk a lot, want the federal government to reward them for making bad business decisions.
Not surprisingly, Rust Belt Democrats like Levin are on board with that. Republicans like Shelby aren't. This is one of those rather rare times I tilt toward the "R's" rather than the "D's."
In an LA Times opinion piece, "Earn the bailout, Detroit," Douglas Olin explains why lavishing cash on the auto industry won't work without getting a lot in return.
Maybe it's time for America to buy some broad-based social benefits in return for public investment in these companies. If the U.S. government -- on behalf of the people -- is going to spend considerable sums of public money and incur public debt to keep these institutions alive, let's insist on returns that benefit society as a whole, not merely Big Three shareholders, management and employees.
What might these public benefits be? Well, for one, isn't it time for Detroit to turn out a car that gets at least 100 miles per gallon -- and to do it in three years? Couldn't we demand, in return for public money, that management deliver dramatic new fuel economy standards, with appropriate rewards for success and sanctions for failure?
Since transportation (mostly autos) generates one-third of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, can't we demand auto fleets that systematically reduce carbon dioxide emissions, perhaps the 30% by 2016 proposed by California?
The Vice Chairman of General Motors in charge of product development has called global warming a "crock." Yet this know-nothing expects taxpayers to ignore his astounding ignorance about a fundamental factor affecting car design and sales, and throw billions down a GM black hole.
I'm confident that Obama won't fall for this, though he'll face pressure from auto industry-friendly Democrats like Levin to write the Big Three a blank check. He's said that he won't do that.
And these statements sound pretty good to me.
Allowing the U.S. auto industry to fail is not an option, President-elect Barack Obama said in an interview on CBS' 60 Minutes that aired Sunday night.
"For the auto industry to completely collapse would be a disaster in this kind of environment," Obama said. "So my hope is that over the course of the next week, between the White House and Congress, the discussions are shaped around providing assistance but making sure that that assistance is conditioned on labor, management, suppliers, lenders, all of the stakeholders coming together with a plan — what does a sustainable U.S. auto industry look like?"
Not like it does now, that's for sure.