Friday, May 1, 2009

We're In The Auto Business, Like It Or Not

We tax all the others and pass the revenue on to you

The NYTimes led yesterday's story "Barack Obama forced Chrysler into federal bankruptcy protection yesterday so that it could pursue a lifesaving alliance with the Italian automaker Fiat, in yet another extraordinary intervention into private industry by the federal government."

That one should immediately go into the Spin Hall of Fame. The president forced Chrysler? Not a decades-long series of bad decisions and crummy cars? Not the UAW, hoping to perpetuate its existence via taxpayer dollars? Not the fact that none of the auto task force kingpins drives an American car? Not the fact that the marketplace can't stomach any more lousy Chrysler products? A life-saving alliance with Fiat when being part of Mercedes couldn't help?

The prez fired the president of GM and now he's "forced" Chrysler into bankruptcy in order to save it. (See "destroy the village" remark downblog.) These are, indeed, extraordinary times, when a novice president with zero business experience (except for that drug-selling gig) tells us he knows how to fix the auto industry and invests $25 bil or so of our money in his rash confidence.

If you've ever had to do business with the IRS, Social Security, Medicare or the VA, just imagine how warmly you'll be welcomed when you present a warranty claim to the federal auto task force.

Watch for the prez to "force" GM into bankruptcy in a month.

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You'd think there's not much going on in Congress, judging by the current hearing on whether or not a collegiate championship should mandate a playoff system. This is one of those "I couldn't make that up" head-slappers.

This meaningless debate is driven Rep. Joe Barton, R-Tex. It's no wonder that the GOP is leaderless if this is what they think we send our representatives to DC for. According to USA Today Sports, Barton "told a House hearing that the BCS is like communism and can't be fixed." Communism? Joe Barton is to NCAA sports (not to mention modern political theory) as the prez is to the auto industry. "There's nothing wrong that the government can't fix."

OTOH, the commissioner of the ACC testified regarding the BCS "I think it's fair. This represents the marketplace." Oh right, the marketplace, the same place that already rejected Chrysler. This just in: The marketplace is impotent if the government chooses to manipulate it.

Orrin Hatch has the BCS issue on the Senate agenda for later this year. Dems, you don't have a thing to worry about in 2010. The GOP has already been reduced to firing blanks on the sidelines.

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Meanwhile, you aren't going to get the balance of your mortgage reduced by a bankruptcy judge. The administration is unhappy because the Gummint won't have nearly as much say in altering debt loads in bankruptcy court, despite what they promised.

Here's a general rule: Your creditors expect to be repaid what they loaned you, plus interest, not have your loan contract altered by a judge. The prez chastised those Chrysler creditors who wanted to get paid what they loaned or for the loans they bought. It's hard to blame them. They've pretty much given up on getting White House Christmas cards this year, though.

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Bob Herbert is a whiney NYTimes columnist who is wrong a lot more than he's right. That's why it's all the more painful when he gets it even partly right. His MayDay story is full of name-calling and shameful posturing but he nails one thing: The GOP has nothing to offer these days. Until that changes, until a leader comes forward with an agenda that resonates with America, we're going to remain a one-party nation, Bob's party. Would that he was wrong.

He's angry that the Dems have to shoulder the burden of the financial crisis. That doesn't bother me and it smacks of post-Bush blame for everything. The prez and Nancy Pelosi's Congress have to take a full share of the blame for that and all the blame for the crisis they are creating for our kids. Hey Bob, you're getting it all your way. Time to shut up about that.

What is troubling is the silence. Where did you go, GOP? What ideas do you have to make things better for all of us, Dems and Repubs alike? Where is your charisma, your leader, your next Contract With America? You'd better find something and someone, and quick, and it better be more than just carping about what the prez is doing. And BTW, Richard Steele ain't it. Like it or not, and many do like it, the prez is out front and he's doing something. He's not hiding. He's bold, or reckless if you prefer. We know what he thinks and we see what he's doing. We don't have a clue what the GOP is doing unless it's just the obvious: nothing.

Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?
Our nation turns its lonely eyes to you.

What's that you say, Mrs. Robinson?
Joltin' Joe has left and gone away.

From the song "Mrs. Robinson" by Paul Simon
From the movie The Graduate

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