How now Uncle Detroit?

Democrats are pushing ahead with a bailout of Detroit’s failing automobile industry. Apparently, they and their suppliers are too big to fail. I don’t want to see all those workers lose their jobs. I don’t want to see all those who invested in a proud, American company lose their money. And, I don’t want to see the American automobile industry dominated by foreign corporations, who play by different rules.

But, I want to see some questions answered before taxpayer money is used to bail them out.

For instance, what happens if the taxpayer investment isn’t enough to turn around this juggernaut? If other investors don’t think these companies are a good bet, then why should the government think any differently? Will the government end up owning all the pieces of a failed enterprise? Will the government join the line of creditors owed money? Are we just putting good money after bad?

But, let’s say that the CEO’s of the Detroit 3 are right and all they need is a little rescue from the government. Is a ‘restructuring’ in the forecast? Because, of course, we all know what a restructuring or downsizing or reorganization is – a laying of off the workforce! So, in effect, you and I would be paying for workers to lose their jobs! Wait. Isn’t that we’re trying avoid in the first place?

What I worry about is that the CEO’s and corporate investors will make the claim that it is the ‘uncompetitiveness’ of the Detroit 3 that must be tackled. More code words. I fear that this means getting rid of comfortable union pay scales, worker pensions, and safe workplace conditions. Forget that it was management miscues that got them into this mess in the first place, and forget that senior management isn’t likely to lose much in the long-term. They still need to cut expenses in order to compete against ‘leaner’ competitors!

Perhaps, then, we should get rid of the senior management? Predictably, GM Chairman and Chief Executive Rick Wagoner has “rejected the idea that he might have to step down as part of a federal rescue.” And, I know, we would have to pay “market rates” in salaries for senior management, even though the companies clearly aren’t being priced by those same “market” forces. So, how much should we pay to run companies that aren’t considered “viable”?

What about dividends? Traditionally, shareholders have expected a return on their investment. Will the government receive dividends too? Or, will government be exempt from benefiting from their influx of capital? Maybe, we’ll just see a siphoning off of government money over into dividends?!

Lastly, I wonder what makes AIG (an insurance company) different from, say, GM or Ford? Why shouldn’t we nationalize the automobile companies? After all, this country still needs cars and trucks, so there should be a way to keep everyone employed, provide a more fuel efficient vehicle, and maintain American leadership in the industry. And, if the current CEO’s can’t do it, then why should we think that government sponsorship would be any worse?

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One Response

  1. The problem, it seems like, is that the automobile industry is slowly bleeding out. It’s like giving a blood transfusion to a patient with a gaping sharkbite.

    If they don’t get their acts together it will be the same end result–just delayed.

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