This Administration’s statements become inoperative in record time. Either that, or Congress needs to clean its ears, because it is beginning its micromanagement of General Motors, in direct contradiction to what Obama said yesterday. Can a government of politicians keep politics out of GM?
The federal government, in a nearly unprecedented move, now has a stake in running General Motors, and that means politics is likely to creep into a lot of big decisions, despite President Barack Obama’s vow that Washington won’t get heavily involved.
Congress, however, with most members facing re-election next year, has veto power over almost any decision, either by pressuring policymakers at hearings or by pushing legislation. Members have shown in recent months they’re willing to do both….
… On Wednesday, the Senate Commerce Committee plans a hearing featuring the heads of GM and Chrysler, as well as car dealers from the home states of the panel’s two leading members. The dealers are expected to urge lawmakers to provide government help to dispose of thousands of unsold cars and trucks.
That hearing is only the opening gun because dealers are just one of the powerful players in this complex political drama.
Politicians are hearing from union and non-union workers frightened of losing theirs jobs, health care and pensions. Congress wants to reassure consumers concerned about their warranties, and hopes to ensure that taxpayers don’t get socked for billions more in corporate rescue dollars.
What was it the President said, just yesterday?
Obama said Monday that he wants the government to be a muted partner in helping the bankrupt GM restructure itself.
“The federal government will refrain from exercising its rights as a shareholder in all but the most fundamental corporate decisions,” he said. “When a difficult decision has to be made on matters like where to open a new plant or what type of new car to make, the new GM, not the United States government, will make that decision.”
No, it will just intimidate GM’s leadership into following a politically-advantageous path. Congress sees the possibilities already:
Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., urged a recommitment to “a strong manufacturing strategy that will rebuild the middle class.” Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, warned, “If taxpayers commit more resources to GM, they deserve to know those funds will be used to build cars at home rather than abroad.”
Also, he said, communities in Ohio “deserve to know why certain plants are being closed while others will remain open. . . . We need a coordinated federal response that invests in these workers and their communities.
Mixing business and politics worked out so well the last time, in the case of Fannie Mae, that the entire financial industry went on life support. The President said he wants the government to get out of the car business quickly. He needs to make a few phone calls.