Read a Pacific Northwest, liberal perspective on world, national, and local politics. From majestic Redmond, Washington - the Northwest Progressive Institute Advocate.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Auto industry aid package falls apart thanks to Republican obstruction

Thanks, Republicans:
The Senate on Thursday night abandoned efforts to fashion a government rescue of the American automobile industry, as Senate Republicans refused to support a bill endorsed by the White House and Congressional Democrats.

The failure to reach agreement on Capitol Hill raised a specter of financial collapse for General Motors and Chrysler, which say they may not be able to survive through this month.
The sticking point with the deal was - surprise, surprise - Republican insistence that members of the United Auto Workers agree to steep cuts in pay and benefits. Republicans apparently don't want UAW members to be making a penny more than non-union workers employed by foreign manufacturers.

Perhaps that's because they would like nothing more than to weaken the union and shake Democratic resolve to stand behind a livable wage for American workers.

So what now? It looks like part of that enormous pie of Wall Street bailout money may get sent to the Big Three after all. Democrats had insisted on using some of that $700 billion blank check to help Detroit, but Speaker Pelosi, Leader Reid and crew rolled over on command when the Bush administration said no.

Now it looks like BushCo will have to use the Wall Street bailout money anyway, courtesy of Senate Republicans, who didn't have any problem okaying a big bailout for Wall Street a few weeks ago, but couldn't bring themselves to support loans to the Big Three for a fraction of that amount.
Bush officials warned wavering GOP senators that if they didn't support the legislation, the White House will likely be forced to tap the Wall Street bailout to lend them money, two Republican congressional officials told CNN earlier.

This is a noteworthy change since the White House and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson have previously refused to use bank bailout funds to help General Motors (GM, Fortune 500), Ford Motor (F, Fortune 500) and Chrysler LLC.
Congressional Republicans seem to be really good at sticking to their guns. Meanwhile, Democrats appear to be really good at throwing up their hands, folding up their tents, and calling it quits when they run into trouble.

There's an old maxim about getting things done that's really simple, yet it seems to be completely unappreciated by congressional Democrats. And it's this: When the going gets tough, the tough get going.

What is preventing Harry Reid from dragging this out and demanding that Republicans give in? A misguided belief that he's powerless without sixty votes? Some misplaced fear that the American people will judge him harshly for having tried to force the GOP to buckle and stop obstructing the passage of economic aid?

We are in the midst of what has been called worst recession since the Great Depression. General Motors and Chrysler are on the verge of collapse. The implosion of those companies would be devastating to the American economy. It would be a travesty if Washington, D.C. simply allowed Detroit to fall apart.

Providing specific and targeted help to General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler is economic relief we at NPI can get behind - unlike the vague, gigantic $700 billion blank check Congress wrote a few months ago with few limitations. Ironically, Senate Republicans were for that, but they're against this. Come again?

Automakers certainly aren't guiltless. They've created much of their own mess by relying on gas guzzling sport utility vehicles and trucks for profits. When times were good, Detroit did not innovate, nor did it look ahead. General Motors had the chance years ago to dramatically reshape the industry by continuing development of its EV1 electric car. Instead, the company forced Americans who were leasing EV1s to return them, and sent many of the cars to be crushed and destroyed.

Nevertheless, Congress has, or had, an opportunity to force Detroit to change its ways as a condition of accepting federal aid. Senate Republicans, instead of bargaining a deal in good faith, have torched the legislation because the United Auto Workers naturally balked at the scale of their unreasonable demands.

(UAW, at least, appears to have more of a spine than Congressional Democrats).

Consequently, we're back to Square One.

Perhaps now our One Man Congress, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, can act decisively and help stave off disaster for the future of American automaking by lending some of that Wall Street bailout money to Detroit.

UPDATE: Kudos to Barbara Boxer for pointing out Republican hypocrisy:
One of the Detroit's Big Three defenders was Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., a regular critic of the automakers. She urged members on the floor to pass the emergency funds, noting that southern states like Tennessee and Mississippi have offered hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks to woo foreign auto plants. "Why don't I hear my colleagues from Tennessee or Mississippi out here saying 'Whoa that was a bad mistake. Taxpayers shouldn't be on the hook.'" Boxer said.

"Something's wrong. Is this about the workers because they are tough and they joined a union? What is this? It doesn't smell right."
One last point: Allowing any of our automakers to fail wouldn't just mean havoc in Detroit, it would set off a chain reaction that would force many parts suppliers into bankruptcy, crippling the entire auto industry and causing economic calamity worldwide. So even if you have zero sympathy for the Big Three, please realize that you're begging for this recession to get much, much worse if you argue government should do nothing.


Blogger spock said...

The damage to the economy has already been done: the economy has become habituated to excessive debt-financed consumption. The government does not have the power to prevent the popping of this debt bubble.

Taxpayer resources should be reserved for public purposes and a social safety net, rather than corporate welfare designed to put more gas guzzlers on the road, which is just another way of passing on to future generations the costs of our unsustainable lifestyle.

December 12, 2008 12:40 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home