So Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the House’s Government Oversight Committee, wants Ford Motor Co. to tell whether somebody in the White House pressured it to kill a commercial that touted Ford not taking a U.S. bailout.
Is it a Republican political stunt aimed at embarrassing President Obama? Of course it’s political.
Just as much as Obama taking credit for the Democratic-sponsored 2009 rescue of General Motors and Chrysler while downplaying the 2008 bailout role of his Republican predecessor, George W. Bush.
I could get worked up at yet again in another round of partisan politics over an ailing auto industry. But I’m not a cynical man and I won’t do it.
I could get worked up over the quick-dip bankruptcy of General Motors and Chrysler and the long list of lumps that investors, employees, retirees and creditors took to save the automakers. But I’m not a cynical man and I won’t do it.
I could get worked up about the gratuitous scolding, grand-standing and second-guessing so many politicians lined up to deliver to U.S. auto executives when they were down and out. But I’m not a cynical man and I won’t do it.
I could get worked up about all the suppliers, dealers and smaller automakers that didn’t get rescued and had to watch their life’s work wither and die. But I’m not a cynical man and I won’t do it.
I could get worked up about all the extraordinary assistance governments all over the globe extended to save their local automakers. But I’m not a cynical man and I won’t do it.
Because, on the whole and with reservations, I’m grateful the rescues worked as well as they did. A painful, very painful, and ugly process it was. But it worked. The restructuring could have been so much worse.
Want examples? Try Europe. Countries with auto production pumped tons of dough into auto sales incentives. So yeah, fewer layoffs and a smaller 2008-2009 sales dip. But now less reform, lots more tax money spent, and a lingering malaise for an auto industry still not fully restructured.
Sure the North American bailout process left the U.S. and Canadian governments and the UAW owning big chunks of GM and Chrysler. But the governments are largely out and the UAW will follow as soon as practical (for the same reason employees shouldn’t tie their pensions to their employers’ stock).
Frankly, compared to the survival of the North American auto industry -- a very real concern less than three years ago -- whether somebody asked Ford to stop running an ad is, well, a lesser issue.
And if that’s the biggest question about U.S. government interference in the auto industry, we should all be grateful.
I remember different approaches elsewhere. All those Soviet-bloc auto plants fully owned by the government? Dead, limping or sold to western automakers.
Renault’s successful Dacia plant in Pitesti, Romania? The assembly plant had 25,000 employees when the government sold it to Daewoo. Renault got the legacy employee count down to 11,000 when it took over, but that’s why the plant re-opened with only one robot.
Six decades after nationalization in 1945, France still owns enough of Renault to protect national interests. The German state of Lower Saxony still owns enough of Volkswagen AG to ensure local employment levels.
So Congressman Issa, investigate away. Any political points scored in an election cycle only reinforce the government’s goal to exit the auto biz.
And after years in Europe, that’s another thing I’m grateful for.