It's Not The Government's Money To Loan

For those of us with a grain of self-respect, it’s embarrassing to watch Chrysler’s Bob Nardelli, Ford’s Alan Mulally, and GM’s Rick Wagoner pleading with Congress for a bailout. And while these grown men grovel at the feet of Representatives and Senators in a manner befitting slaves, the beggary isn’t the worst of it.

No, the worst of it is the fact that the money for which they’re pleading isn’t even the government’s money to begin with: it’s our money.

With the shamelessness of an incumbent running for re-election on a “reform” ticket, Nardelli, Mulally, and Wagoner appeared before the Senate Banking Committee and the House Financial Services Committee for a second time last week, seeking approximately $34 billion to keep their companies solvent.

To justify Chrysler’s share in the overall take, I mean share in the $34 billion of “emergency funds,” Nardelli reminded members of both committees that he represented “one million people who depend on Chrysler for their jobs.” And he promised that Chrysler was “asking [for] ‘the least costly alternative considering the depth of the economic crisis.’”

Mulally testified that Ford would use its billions in bailout cash to manufacture “more high-quality, safe and fuel-efficient vehicles — including a broader range of hybrid-electric vehicles [including] advanced plug-in hybrids and full electric vehicles.” To prove it, he invited Representatives and Senators alike “to visit [Ford headquarters] in Dearborn and kick the tires.”

Wagoner just took the (comparatively) high road, and justified his overall request for $12 billion (which includes $4 billion by the end of this month) with contrition: “We [at GM] tried to learn from our contributions and our successes and also from our mistakes.” Wagoner made the point that part of learning from mistakes included being sorry for not being eco-friendly enough: “[We’ve] a blueprint for creating a new General Motors,” Wagoner said as he took part in the hearings. To prove it he drove a hybrid Chevrolet Malibu all the way from his Michigan office to Washington D.C. the day before he testified. How special.

When the three “men” had finished begging from the anointed few, and had said everything except “yes, sir, yes, sir, three bags full, sir” to demonstrate they knew their place, one of the Senators or Representatives should have simply asked: “Why should companies that can’t make a profit be propped up?” But instead, Representative Barney Frank raised his voice and gesticulated about how our economy itself is doomed if we do not give these men the money they’re requesting.

At another point during the hearings, while Rep. Shelly Moore Caputo (R-Wv) was asking a “Bidenesque” hour-long question of one of the carmaker CEOs, she recounted how her father referred to his favorite car as a “chick magnet.” This opened the door for Frank, an avowed homosexual, to speak again. And he piped up with, “that’s not something I’d ever want to drive.” This is your Congress, folks.

Why can’t we deal with this through common sense? Why won’t our Representatives and Senators look at these three beggars and ask: “And where do you suppose the $34 billion is to come from gentlemen? Do you think we have a money tree out back that’s sprouting hundreds right now?” Or maybe they could take a line from the great Vincent Gambini, of My Cousin Vinny, and ask if they’re supposed to get the money “from the same guy who sold Jack his magic beanstalk beans?”

Narkelli, Mulally, and Wagoner aren’t really asking the government to give them government money — for the government has no money — rather, they are asking the government to confiscate $34 billion of the people’s money and transfer it to Chrysler, Ford, and GM. And to sweeten the deal, carmakers are promising the government that the big three will go green if they get some green.

What a deal! All the government has to do is confiscate a little more of your salary and a little more of mine and not only will these failing companies get handouts, but the government will have guaranteed that if the companies somehow survive they’ll build the kind of cars effeminate Frenchmen drive instead of the roomy (and extremely safe) SUVs that Americans love to buy and to drive.

The hearings are over, and Congress is about to vote on the bailout this week. So we’ve got to burn up the phone lines to our Representatives and Senators. We’ve got to let them know two things, the first of which is that companies come and go; it’s the nature of a free market driven by consumer choice. Whether the companies in view are iconic ones such Chrysler, Ford, and GM or the mom and pop corner diner, when people choose to shop elsewhere the business they don’t choose loses profit and may have to shut it’s doors. It’s as simple as that.

Secondly, we have to impress upon our Representatives and Senators the cold, hard truth: the money the three whiny C.E.O.’s are seeking isn’t the government’s money to loan: it’s our money. And for the record, I’ll use my money as I darn well please.

When Chrysler, Ford, or GM, produce a bigger SUV than I currently own I’ll support them by using my money to buy it. Until then, I’ll wish ‘em the best and keep my eye on the new line of Nissan trucks that are coming out next year. Not only will Nissan’s trucks be extremely large and roomy vehicles with gasoline powered V-8 engines, they’ll also be built without the added overhead (and headaches) of union labor. Thus I, the consumer, will get a better price.

And isn’t concern for the consumer just one more thing that’s missing from this ghastly sideshow in D.C. right now anyway?