Friday, December 05, 2008

Auto Hearings Day 2

House hearings are underway. I just got back from a wild ride on the lake-effect snow covered roads of West Michigan, where salting will be a luxury this year, and I'm not sure if my nerves can take watching the critters debate whether or not they should throw America into a depression. Fortunately Comcast has spared me the decision - the C-SPAN reception is currently being crossed with a local radio station, and I can't hear the testimony over the Xmas music. Yes, I could watch the live stream from C-SPAN on the computer, but I think I'll wait and get the round-up later. Maybe they will surprise me.

Today's "dramatic, grim and shocking" news that employers shed "533,000 jobs in November, the most in 34 years, catapulting the unemployment rate to 6.7 percent" underscores the need for Congress to DO SOMETHING about this, but according to Barney Frank, they lack the will (courage) to agree to a plan.

Despite the urgency of the automakers' appeals and the prodding of congressional Democratic leaders, bailout fatigue was widespread on Capitol Hill and many lawmakers remained unconvinced they should support yet another rescue by taxpayers.

"We're looking at a death sentence" for the auto companies, Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., the Senate Banking Committee chairman, said Thursday. And while he pledged to try to help the Big Three, he added: "I'm not a miracle worker and no one here is."

No, Senator, you are not, but you are there to make the tough decisions. The "American people" might not like the idea of loaning money to the Big Three, but you can bet they would like another Great Depression even less. And you can threaten the Bush administration all you want...

Auto state lawmakers are threatening to block the administration from accessing the second half of the financial rescue fund unless it comes to the aid of the Big Three.

... but they have already shown that they don't give a damn what happens. Quite frankly, if you deny the opportunity to save millions of jobs, and then turn around and hand the banking industry the other $350 billion of a bailout that so far has had no oversight at all, well, makes you wonder what the American people will say to that after the economy totally collapses around them.

The Freep has a great editorial today that they addressed and sent to Congress. While the News has taken this opportunity to once again complain about their pet issues of "labor and taxes" and point the finger at state government, in reality there isn't much state government can do about this one this time. The Free Press correctly puts this on a national scale, where it should be. Three million jobs are at stake, and this will affect every state in the nation.

You don't want all this blood on your hands. No one could.

Because the losses from an auto industry failure are about more than dry statistics. Every job associated with the industry is a family, a home, a college education, a cancer treatment or a secure retirement. Every one of those jobs is about someone making a living doing work that's vital to the nation's economic interests.

No one knows more than the people of Michigan how precious those jobs are, or how fragile they've become in a cutthroat global economy where so many countries prop up their own auto industries.

Know that the people of Michigan, and especially those who toil for the automakers, are as angry as anyone over the string of misjudgments, failures and bad decisions that contributed to the industry's woes. No one here is enthused about the idea of extending government money to a private industry with so many self-inflicted wounds. But the automakers deserve credit for real gains, including products on par with their world rivals and plants that operate among the best in the business.

The credit crunch has brought about the current crisis. It would be a shame if Congress chose to do nothing to alleviate it, letting the country slide further down this dark economic hole while destroying our manufacturing capability for good measure.

Check out the live blog at the News (they are good for something), or the live blog at the Freep for blow-by-blow commentary - or add your comments below.

I've got to go salt the sidewalk before I end up with another broken arm. ;-)