Saturday, December 13, 2008

World, except the United States, bails out auto industry

Yesterday Republicans in the Senate blocked a measure to bail out the "Big Three" domestic automakers. They took this action even after Republicans in the House of Representatives joined the Democrats in approving a version of the bailout package and despite calls from the White House, and dire warnings from Vice President Dick Cheney. Even Cheney realized that having one (or more) of the three companies go under would dump potentially over a million people onto the unemployment rolls at a time when the country is already mired in a deep recession.

And while it's true that the Big Three (Ford, Chrysler, and GM) have done a fairly poor job of running themselves for years now, they, like every other car builder, are also suffering from a huge downturn in the global economy - something that everyone in the world, save for a group of Senate Republicans from the South realizes. Governments from South Korea, to China, to Germany have stepped in to prop up their domestic auto industries. On Friday alone Canada and Sweden each pledged over $3 billion to keep their car builders afloat.

So why did the Senate Republicans fail to take the same sensible action as governments in Berlin, Beijing, Seoul, Stockholm and Ottawa? It seems to boil down to a desire to try to break the powerful United Auto Workers union and to potentially knock out the competition for foreign automakers that have assembly plants in their states (though even officials at Honda worry about the impact on the industry as a whole of having even one of the Big Three fold). Pretty petty reasons when the country is teetering on the edge of an economic depression.

The Senate Republicans apparently didn't get the message from the November elections: that the people want to move beyond partisanship and want solutions to the country's problems, not more inter-party bickering. Somehow I don't think it's a coincidence that also on Friday Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal (the closest thing the Republicans have to a Barack Obama) all but ruled out a run for President in 2012 - why take up the banner for a party that so far seems committed to the same formula that worked so poorly for them in 2008?

Hopefully President Bush will step in and salvage something of his legacy by releasing the $15 billion in funds the Big Three need to stay afloat.
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