Santa came early to Detroit — in the unlikely guise of George W. Bush. The president decided to make a bridge loan of $17.4 billion to GM and Chrysler, tapping the $700 billion Wall Street rescue fund for most of it.
The decision is another astounding turnaround for an administration that implemented the large-scale deregulation of markets. Now, the Chief Deregulator has become the Chief Regulator, ushering in two giant interventions in the market.
“If we were to allow the free market to take its course now,” Bush said, “it would almost certainly lead to disorderly bankruptcy and liquidation for the automakers.” (See a short video of his remarks here.)
But wait! Maybe Bush isn’t playing Santa after all. Maybe he’s Ebenezer Scrooge, after Scrooge meets his trio of ghosts and eventually changes his ways. Maybe we’re watching a 2008 version of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.
GM’s CEO Rick Wagoner held a press conference to thank President Bush. Let’s hope he doesn’t celebrate by flying the corporate jet on a holiday excursion. We wrote about that big mistake earlier. (And, here’s a video of Wagner’s fresh remarks.)
These aren’t the only actors on this particular stage, though! Did you catch what Senator John McCain said? These are his words: “I find it unacceptable that we would leave the American taxpayer with a tab of tens of billions of dollars while failing to receive any serious concessions from the industry.”
That strikes me as one of the funniest and most ironic lines of the year, given that the $700 billion Wall Street rescue fund came with virtually NO concessions and NO accountability, as we’ve talked about here at OurValues.org.
Can you envision this? Just as Bush is trying out for new roles – McCain apparently is making a bid to appear on Saturday Night Live. I’m sure he and Tina Fey (who lampooned Sarah Palin during the political campaigns) would be a great comedy team.
Seriously, though: The new loan does come with conditions, among them the requirement that labor unions cut wages and benefits to the same level as foreign car makers with plants in the U.S.
Democratic leaders and the United Auto Workers union called this requirement unfair. It could even break the labor unions. Hmmm … maybe Bush is the unrepentant Scrooge, after all.
Where do you stand on the auto bailout?
Do you think it’s a good thing? Will it really help?
And what roles would you assign to the players on stage right now?
Tell us what you think about any of these questions.
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