Big Three Big Wheels Go Flat On Capitol Hill

Arriving in the most expensive carpool in history, the CEOs of the Big Three U.S. automakers returned to Capitol Hill yesterday to ask for taxpayer money to bail out their sinking companies. The amount they requested — a total of $34 billion — added $9 billion to the request they’d made last month when they blew into town on separate private jets only to be rebuked by hypocritical senators for their extravagance.

The news they and other witnesses delivered was grim. But the Democrat-led committee could not find one single person who opposed the bailout to testify on either of the two panels. (They didn’t look very hard. A large majority of American voters still oppose the bailout).

Government Accountability Office Acting Comptroller General Gene Dodardo recommended in his testimony the authorization of “immediate, but temporary, financial assistance.” Dodardo issued dire predictions in oral testimony, yet when asked about the implications of an alternative Chapter 11 restructuring, Dodardo said, “We were called in at the last minute, so we have no idea what the ramifications are for a pre-packaged bankruptcy.”

In testimony as ostentatious as his title might suggest, Ron Gettlefinger, President of the International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace & Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW), spoke about the urgent need for the Senate to appoint an advisory board to oversee operations of the auto companies. What was left unsaid is that these boards would no doubt be comprised of people the union recommends for these Senate-created appointments. If that’s not yet sounding Soviet Politburo enough for you, Gettlefinger promised in his written testimony that the Senate can count on the UAW to hold the automakers accountable for the loans. After listing their wish-list for accountability measures that should be required of the automakers, Gettlefinger promised, “We are prepared to work with Members of this Committee to incorporate other accountability requirements that may be appropriate.”

In a scene that could have come from Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged,” questioning of the Big Three CEOs began. First up on the hot seat was Ford Chairman Alan Mulally. Mulally told senators, “Since the last hearing, I have thought a great deal about the concerns you expressed. I want you to know I heard your message loud and clear.” Mulally then set the stage as one by one, he and his peers positioned themselves for a big, fat, green, labor and senatorial butt kiss.

Mulally promised to “… build a greener future using advanced technology.” Chrysler Chairman Robert Nardelli touted their future as an electric vehicle company, assuring the committee that “Chrysler’s long-range product plan is robust, realistic and green.” GM Chairman Richard Wagoner guaranteed in his testimony that one of the key elements of the GM plan includes, “Increased production of hybrid, flex-fuel and other fuel-efficient vehicles…” All three lauded the so-called concessions made by big labor.

You almost felt sorry for these guys as they stared the big government source of the majority of the auto industry’s problems square in the face and could say absolutely nothing about that truth — not if they wanted the loans and guarantees to bail their companies out of the mess.

One moment in the hearing stood out as typically representative of the arrogance of the members the United States Senate. Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) haughtily pointed out that three of their witnesses drove a long way to testify at these committee hearings. Minority Ranking Member Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) then quipped, “I’d be interested in finding out if they were going to drive back.” When Shelby got his turn, he actually did grill each of the three CEOs about their return travel plans.

With all due respect, Sen. Shelby, what has that got to do with any part of the fact that the American auto industry is being systematically wiped out? Government tampering and Big Labor are destroying this major manufacturing industry and not one word about it from the Republican Ranking Member on the committee?

The pièce de résistance of my day at the hearing was the disruption of proceedings by a group of about 20 protesters demanding a bailout for the homeless. Why not? As Karl Marx put it, “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.”